Carbon Farming for Climate Change Mitigation: It’s Simply Getting Back to Basics. We don’t need fancy policies and hours of meetings. If we are involved in agriculture, we need to become farmers again: dirty finger nails, and time to take in the contentment of livestock (so we catch it early, when they are not).
And it came about that the owners no longer worked their farms. They farmed on paper; and they forgot the land, the smell, the feel of it, and remembered only that they owned it, remembered only what they gained and lost by it.
~John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath (1939)
“My job as a farmer is not to produce; my job is to care for the land. And when I do this properly, this provides for all of us,” say Iowa farmer Seth Watkins.
“The reality is we’re using natural resources on the planet at a rate of 20% faster than they can be restored. It’s a dead-end game.”
The following is adapted from an article by Marie Gewirtz, who represents wine and food clients with marketing and communications in Sonoma County and throughout the world (email@example.com). She speaks to Paul Dolan who believes in the restorative paradigm – that everything is available to us without having to introduce foreign matter onto the farm. He explains the distinction between what nature provides, like the natural cycle of plants taking in carbon from photosynthesis and moving it through the plant into the roots, complemented by restorative practices like building compost, grazing animals, planting cover crops and paying attention to the ecosystem not only below the ground, but also above the ground.
Dolan said, “We can restore 80% of the needs of the plant by using these free natural resources. Merely 1% increase of organic matter in the soil enhances the water holding capacity of the soil by 20,000 gallons per acre.
“Maintaining a healthy balance of flora and fauna on the farm is essential. Hedgerows and insectaries expand the number of plants to appeal to bees and beneficial bugs, which ensure vibrant life energy throughout the property.”
The first step toward regenerative farming is to grow plants that are climate-appropriate for the property. “Grow what belongs here. Be patient. This simple premise guides us in everything we do — how we care for our land, how we farm, how we make wine and olive oil and the myriad other products from this magical place,” explains Evers in defining his philosophy of farming.
“Over the past 30 years with both olives and winegrapes, we have found that Italian varieties are ideally suited to our Mediterranean climate, and facilitate regenerative farming.” Dolan and Evers agree that a farm is a living organism and successful farming requires a balanced give and take relationship with the land. Their farming is guided by the wisdom of this American Indian quote: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
Healthy agriculture depends on plant photosynthesis to move carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and into plants. Carbon farming implements practices that improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to soils and plant material. Since regenerative agriculture is one contributor to a solution to climate change, it needs to become mainstream throughout the world.
REFRESHER: Key principles of regenerative agriculture include:
• Spreading compost increases soil vitality by capturing significant amounts of CO2. This builds up microorganisms in the soil and reduces the necessity for synthetic fertilizers. It also minimizes the need for irrigation by increasing the capacity of the soil to hold water.
• Cover crops, legumes and grasses planted between vine or plant rows, naturally build soil health. They help create habitat for beneficial insects, which reduces the need for pesticides. Erosion is reduced because cover crops hold the soils in place. As plants photosynthesize, they produce oxygen for cleaner air.
• No or reduced till. Tilling (or turning over) the soil releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. By not tilling, carbon dioxide is locked into the soil.
Tending earth’s soil, plants, animals and landscapes is sacred work, … by knowing (once again) the life force that is in our food, farms and communities. Farmers who work on the land recognize that a spiritual practice is integral to the task of growing real food. This is when agriculture becomes a sacred act.” (Deffenbaugh, D.G. 2012. Learning the Language of the Fields: Tilling and Keeping as Christian Vocation. Cowley Publications, Cambridge, MA, USA)