This study explores the factors affecting rural landholders' adaptation to climate change from the perspectives of formal institutions and communities of practice. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with formal institutions (e.g. South Australian government agencies) and communities of practice (e.g. farm systems groups) within two natural resource management regions in South Australia. Both groups noted that rural landholders autonomously adapt to a variety of risks, including those induced by climate variability; however, the types and levels of adaptation varied among individuals as a result of variety of barriers to adaptation. The lack of communication and engagement processes established between formal institutions and communities of practice was one major barrier. The paper presents and discusses a model for transferring knowledge and information on climate change among formal institutions, communities of practice, trusted individual advisors and rural landholders, and for supporting the co-management of climate change across multiple groups in rural agricultural areas in Australia and elsewhere.