Carbon Farming is Agriculture’s Answer to Climate Change
Climate change is a universal global issue. The regenerative agricultural practice of carbon farming on organic dairy farms is helping move carbon from the atmosphere and put it back into the soil. The environmental benefits include:
- Promoting soil health through rotational grazing: Cows are moved to different pastures every few days which improves pasture productivity, stimulates plant growth, allows the pastures time to regrow and produce more nourishing grasses.
- Building nutrient-rich soil: Applying compost on managed pastures improves soil organic matter, enabling more water retention in the soil and the farm’s ability to sequester carbon. Higher organic matter, better nutrition, and rotational grazing practices allow for healthier plants and more vegetative biodiversity.
- Restoring woodlands and streams: Through photosynthesis, trees and streamside plants protect riparian habitat and pull carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil creating cleaner waterways and root systems, which reduces erosion during floods.
- Reversing climate change: Implementing sustainable organic farming practices such as carbon farming helps reduce global warming emissions.
In 2013, the Straus Dairy Farm became the first dairy farm in California to implement a carbon farm plan, in conjunction with the Marin Carbon Project, a 20-year carbon farm plan that will reduce and sequester 2000 metric tons of CO2e every year. A large portion of the carbon farm plan (about 80% or 1650 metric tons of CO2e) is mitigated through methane destruction from the methane digester.
Around 320 metric tons of CO2e is sequestered from the atmosphere back into the soil each year through carbon farming practices. This is done by adding compost on pasture to increase soil health, planting wind breaks and hedge rows to reduce soil erosion, planned rotational grazing of animals to best manage pasture health, and planting perennial grasses to increase underground root systems.
In addition to combating global warming, carbon farming practices also work to improve the health of farm soils. When soils are healthier, they naturally increase the volume of pasture production; and with increased pasture production, cows have more nutritional-rich grasses and farmers can reduce outside feed costs.
Straus Family Creamery educates the importance of carbon farming and inspires its implementation to the certified organic dairies supplying milk to the Creamery, and other dairy farmers throughout the state and rest of the country. The hope is that other farmers will learn and adopt these sustainable practices — responsible approaches that offer feasible solutions and positively benefit the environment.
In the “greenhouse gas offset” industry, carbon farming is now a codified methodology for creating carbon offsets from rangeland composting (a primary practice of carbon farming). The American Climate Registry (ACR) developed the protocol “Compost Additions to Grazed Grasslands” allowing farmers to trade their carbon offsets on a voluntary carbon market through ACR. This means that farmers or ranchers are now potentially able to get paid for carbon farming through the sale of offsets — a significant step forward.
Adopting these practices can bring huge benefits. For example, if farmers spread a quarter inch of compost on just 50% of California’s rangelands, 42 million metric tons of CO2e would be offset, equivalent to all the energy use for commercial and residential sectors in California. (Source: Marin Carbon Project, 2013)
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that if compost were applied over 5% of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries, or the equivalent of removing 6 million cars from the road.