WHY REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE & CARBON FARMING MATTERS
Carbon farming is a way to transfer excess carbon out of the atmosphere (where it is causing a lot of harm) and store it in the soil, where it has a lot of benefits.
Earth’s carbon is stored in five main pools: soils, ocean, atmosphere, biosphere, and fossils. Carbon flows between these pools in an exchange called the carbon cycle. Currently, the carbon pools are far from balanced. There is too much carbon in the atmosphere, and not enough in our soils.
Even as we replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, the excess carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere. To mitigate the worst effects of climate change, we must also rapidly decrease, or sequester, the amount of carbon already in the atmosphere. The most effective and beneficial mechanism for removing carbon from the air is photosynthesis. Certain agricultural practices enhance photosynthesis. This is carbon farming – a land-based, natural solution to climate change.
WHAT CEC IS DOING
Piloting Carbon Farming Implementation
CEC is collaborating on two large scale Carbon Farming pilots in the California, one in Santa Barbara County and one in Ventura County. Both projects incorporate on-the-ground implementation of soil-building practices (including mulch and compost application), along with research, education and demonstration of the climate resilience benefits of investing in soil health. These benefits include reduced water demand and harmful runoff, improved yield and plant health, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. These projects are collaborative by nature, and CEC partners with regional Resource Conservation Districts, the UC Cooperative Extension and other non-profits to engage the community in this work. Both of these demonstration pilots are funded through the California Healthy Soils Program, that has funded dozens of carbon farming projects throughout the State.
Supporting De-Centralized On-Farm Composting
One barrier to large-scale compost application is a lack of high-quality affordable compost. Though the County of Santa Barbara is currently pursuing a large-scale municipal system to manage organic waste, CEC is interested in supporting farmers in making their own compost – with their feedstock, for their crops. We are currently supporting decentralized on-farm composting systems, including securing funding for a large-scale on-farm vermicompost (worm compost) system that would divert food waste from the landfill, reduce nitrogen fertilizer use, and sequester atmospheric carbon.
Stakeholder Engagement and Scaling Up
Since 2015, CEC has held a variety of stakeholder engagement meetings in Santa Barbara County to better understand barriers to carbon farming adoption, and identify opportunities to support farmers in becoming more resilient in the face of the climate crisis. Read the report by CEC and the Cachuma Resource Conservation District (CRCD), Scaling Up Carbon Farming : Opportunities & Barriers In Santa Barbara County.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Learn more about carbon farming and why it matters by reading our informational brochure here.
- Compost at home! Even applying compost to your garden plot sequesters carbon on a small-scale and diverts your food waste from the landfill, keeping methane emissions out of the atmosphere. See here for information on regional composting programs and subsidized worm bins for your home:
- Support policies and political leaders that advocate for sustainable agriculture, land conservation, and composting of organic waste.
- Practice carbon farming in your garden. Mow or trim weeds instead of pulling them out, and compost instead of landfilling yard waste and food waste.
Farmers & Ranchers
- Read about a Merced County Soil Health Case study here.
- Read about the co-benefits of soil health practices here.
- Contact your local Resource Conservation District to learn more about funding opportunities and options for grant and technical assistance:
- Santa Barbara County
- Ventura County
- Explore funding opportunities:
- California Healthy Soils Program: Funds for implementation of soil-building practices (cover cropping, mulching, and dozens more). $28 million allocated for 2019-2020 fiscal year. More info here.
- NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): EQIP provides financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers for projects and management practices that have environmental and agronomic benefits, such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, and improved or created wildlife habitat. Contact your local NRCS office (above) to learn more.