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.
- Mitigating climate change: Implementing sustainable organic farming practices such as carbon farming helps reduce global warming.
In 2013, the Straus Dairy Farm became the first dairy farm in California to develop a carbon farm plan, in conjunction with the Marin Carbon Project. This is a 20-year carbon farm plan that was updated in 2020 with experts from the Marin Resource Conservation District and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.
The 20-year carbon farm plan outlines how the Straus Dairy Farm has the potential to reduce its carbon footprint by 1,380 metric tons of CO2e every year. There is potential to sequester up to 680 metric tons of CO2e every year through regenerative land practices and the elimination of manure methane through the methane digester with greenhouse gas reductions of more than 700 metric tons CO2e annually.
As of 2020, the Straus Dairy Farm is sequestering 137 metric tons of CO2e from the atmosphere back into the soil each year through implemented carbon farming practices. These regenerative practices include 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 the network of underground root systems and biology.
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.
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.