Carbon Conversations: Regenerative Agriculture:  A Natural Climate Solution

Notes from the workshop held at the Grange on 15 January 2020

The website, drawdown.org, is where Project Drawdown has compiled the top 80 solutions to climate change.  Regenerative Agriculture is their #11 solution.

Speaker: Lauren Lum—California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN)

Lauren comes from a background of farming in Vacaville with large scale conventional agriculture.  She reflected on both the joy of growing up in the farming lifestyle, but also the hardship for her family to make a living.

Impacts of Climate change

Agronomic impacts:

  • Drought/flood cycles
  • Erratic and extreme weather
  • New pests & diseases
  • Decreased chill hours
  • Subsidence

Economic, health and social

  • Reduced yields
  • Job losses
  • Farmworker health
  • Public health

CalCAN is a coalition working on policy for sustainable agriculture.

Current Greenhouse Gas Targets for California

Reduce 40% below 1990 levels by 2030

Carbon Neutral by 2045

Agriculture’s Climate Solutions:

  • Create the farm as a whole system.
  • Healthy soil—build up the nutrients, feed microbes.
  • Keep soil covered and minimize disruption.
  • Year-round planting—keep more roots in the ground.
  • Biodiversity & Conservation Planting– Example: Owl boxes to minimize rodents.
  • Water & Energy—water is contained better when there is better soil/irrigation is more efficient.
  • Farmland Conservation—1 acre of urban land emits 70x the greenhouse gases as an acre of farmed land.

Climate Smart Ag Programs

4 programs where farmers can get money to support regenerative practices:

  • Sustainable Ag Lands Conservation Program
  • Healthy Soils Programs
  • State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program
  • Alternative Manure Management Program

These programs are Cap-and-Trade funded.  California is the only state with a Cap-and-Trade program.

Governor Newsom is proposing different options for future funding for climate work and resilience, so we need to continue to exert political pressure to make sure that funding continues for ag programs.

Ways to get involved

  • Vote
  • Support your local farmer
  • Work with your local Resource conservation District. Sonoma Resource Conservation District.  (707) 569-1448/ Gold Ridge Conservation District (707) 823-5244
  • Work with Daily Acts to convert your landscape.

Speaker: Elizabeth Kaiser from Singing Frogs Farm

Elizabeth and her family have been doing no till farming for about 10 years. They farm 2.5 acres of fields on an 8-acre parcel at Ferguson and Mill Station Rd. in the Atascadero valley bottom where it is quite cool.  They have been farming for 14 years.  They grow food for CSA members and farmers markets.  98% sold locally.

Soil Organic Matter

Soil is made of minerals, air and water (95%).  What is alive is the 5% consisting of organisms, roots, and humus.  It is important because that is where the biology is in the soil.

Tillage is one of the major practices that reduces the organic matter level in the soil. Tillage increases surface area and the organic matter is blown off.

At their farm they have increased the soil health by increasing the percentage of soil organic matter to 9 or 10 %.

Managing for soil health

  1. Disturb the soil as little as possible.
  2. Keep living plants in the soil as often as possible. (photosynthesis, re-synthesis, exudation, humification). They get 3-8 sequential economic crops per year per bed.
  3. Grow many different species—crop diversity (flowers/perennials.)
  4. Keep the soil covered all the time.
  5. Incorporate animals and think outside the livestock box! (wild animals)

Go from one photosynthesizing plant to another photosynthesizing plant.

Three Principles of their farm: No Till– Be Intensive—Be Ecological

Healthy soils give the resilience to all of the disasters be it flooding, drought, fire because of the ability of the soil to retain water and air.  Recovery is quicker in healthy soils.

She referenced the ETC Group or Action group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration and a report they put out called, “Who will feed us?” (etcgroup.org) and the result of their findings is that small scale agriculture is what is needed, so we need to do everything we can to support small farmers.

 

Respectfully submitted by Carol Henderson

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