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Carbon farming is a way to capture excess carbon from the atmosphere and instead store it in soil.

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. Any change in the cycle that shifts carbon out of one pool puts more carbon in another pool. 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 mechanism for removing carbon from the air is photosynthesis. Certain agricultural practices enhance photosynthesis. This is carbon farming – a natural solution to carbon sequestration.


Piloting Carbon Farming Implementation
CEC is leading the way on one of the most visible compost application research pilots in California, a part of  17 field trials currently being conducted by the National Resource Conservation Service and local Resource Conservation Districts. In November of 2016, ¼ inch of compost was applied to fields at the Ted Chamberlin Ranch, bringing carbon farming to Santa Barbara County. The pilot trial is testing for soil carbon sequestration, forage productivity, grassland species diversity, and numerous other variables.

Investigating Compost Supply in Our Region
One barrier to compost application is compost supply. CEC and Cachuma Resource Conservation District conducted a compost supply analysis. We investigated the sources, quantities, and quality of compost produced in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura County. The research is currently being peer-reviewed and will be released in Spring of 2017.

Scaling-Up Carbon Farming
CEC is working to develop new carbon farm plans for ranchers and farmers in our area. At the same time, we are creating pathways to increase public awareness about the potential for carbon farming as a climate change mitigation tool. This includes conducting stakeholder outreach, engaging with interested ranchers and farmers, and preparing to apply for Healthy Soils Program funding for more implementation of carbon farming practices in our region.

Read the report by CEC and the Cachuma Resource Conservation District (CRCD), Scaling Up Carbon Farming : Opportunities & Barriers In Santa Barbara County.


General Public

  • 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. 
  • 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

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