Carbon Farming: Agriculture’s Solution to Climate Change

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Climate change is one of the greatest threats that humanity has ever faced. Even in its early stages, we have seen its tragic consequences in New Orleans, Houston, Puerto Rico, the historic droughts and vast fires in California and catastrophic climate disasters in many other locales. Yet there seems to be a dearth of discussion about practical solutions.

Without question, the world must transition to renewable energy, but making that transition, even at the rate of the most optimistic projections, won’t be fast enough to stabilize the climate. In addition to renewable energy, we must draw down carbon from the atmosphere and replenish the depleted stores of carbon in the soil where it enhances fertility, boosts productivity, and creates drought resilience. Agriculture can be a driving force to mitigate climate change by adopting carbon farming practices.

“Carbon Farming: Agriculture’s Solution to Climate Change” presents the solutions, practices and latest research on how farmers and ranchers can play a preeminent role in addressing climate change and ensuring food security by stewarding working landscapes to sequester carbon.

Twice a month new media will be released to educate the public about, what may be, the most hopeful and practical news concerning climate change. Farmers, ranchers, scientists, food systems activists and ecologists, who are developing a deep understanding of how to use carbon as an organizing principle in their work, share how they are shifting the perception of carbon as a problem and designing systems that use carbon as a benefit and a solution.




Rebecca Burgess and Fibershed are building a regional economy that connects ranches producing wool with artisan clothing manufactures. Fibershed’s local economy network is based on carbon farming practices that capture atmospheric carbon and store in the soil. Soil carbon supports a regenerative fertility cycle and is the building block for a climate-friendly life-promoting economy.

Dr. Whendee Silver of UC Berkley is researching the bio-geochemical effects of climate change and human impacts on the environment, and the potential for mitigating these effects. Dr. Silver is working with the Marin Carbon Project to establish a scientific basis for carbon farming practices that if implemented globally could have a significant impact on mitigating climate change.

John Wick and the Marin Carbon Project are developing innovative carbon farming practices based on their research of the carbon cycle’s impact on soil. These practices draw down dangerous levels of atmospheric carbon and sequester that carbon in the soil where it becomes an agricultural asset. More carbon in the soil increases fertility and yields and make farms more resistant to droughts. If adopted on a global scale, carbon farming can make agriculture a driving force that will help solve the climate crisis and cool the planet.

This video features ranchers, farmers, scientists, and food system activists sharing solutions, practices and the latest research on how carbon farming can play a preeminent role in addressing climate change and ensure food security by stewarding working landscapes to sequester carbon.

Sequestering carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil is emerging as a top biological strategy to radically mitigate climate disruption on large scales. It’s also a rapidly growing movement among farmers across the country, including in conservative communities – because it IS conservative… of the land and soil. John and Calla Rose are visionary leaders of the Marin Carbon Project, a gold standard of carbon farming research demonstrations. John is co-owner (with his wife Peggy Rathmann) of the Nicasio Native Grass Ranch. Calla Rose, former Fellow with the Rocky Mountain Institute, has led policy and climate action programs with Aspen, CO, and San Francisco, CA, and is a leading advocate for and expert on agricultural carbon sequestration. Introduction by Nuna Teal, The Jena and Michael King Foundation. This speech was given at the 2017 National Bioneers Conference.





Creating a Carbon-based Local Economy

How do basic human needs – food, fuel, flora, fiber – get met within an economically and ecologically strategic geography?

There are 25 million hectares of rangelands in California and a key question is whether we can manage them to help lower Earth’s temperature. Most rangeland systems have very low amounts of carbon. California has lost around 40% of its carbon in its rangelands due to the loss of perennials. These soils are in a massive carbon debt.


Agriculture Can Help Meet Climate Action Targets in San Diego


Agriculture is one of the largest industries in San Diego County, a unique agricultural region with the highest number of organic farms of any county in the nation as well as a large number of conventional farms. The San Diego Food System Alliance (SDFSA) views Carbon Farming as an opportunity to support the small farms in the region because, like many other communities, development pressure, cost of water, cost of land and disconnected consumers are all driving small farmers out of business. The vision is to include the agricultural community as part of the climate change solution and to support the long-term sustainability of farming in San Diego County.


Mimicking Nature, Managing for Carbon


Mark Shepard is the CEO of Forest Agriculture Enterprises who has developed a 106-acre polyculture farm by combining Permaculture, agroforestry and biomimicry principles. He is the author of Restoration Agriculture, a book that shares his experience on how to create an agricultural system that imitates the form and function of nature.


Healthy Soil and Environmental Justice in California’s San Joaquin Valley

"Protecting the health and diversity of soil microbial communities is the first step to protecting the health and diversity of the human communities.

In California’s San Joaquin Valley — home to many of the nation’s largest fruit, nut and vegetable operations — agricultural soils have been sterilized and depleted of natural fertility. This trend in agricultural soil management is standard practice for industrial farming, and while it’s still possible to turn the trend around and begin managing soils to improve the health of the region, doing so will require us to examine the history of environmental justice (and injustice) in California.

"Putting Carbon at the Center of Agricultural Policy

Carbon farming—using agricultural practices to sequester carbon from the atmosphere—is among our best tools for mitigating the disastrous effects of climate change. In this week’s dive into carbon farming, we hear from leading expert Calla Rose Ostrander, an environmental consultant to the Marin Carbon Project, former Climate Change Coordinator for the city of Aspen and Climate Change Project Manager for San Francisco. Ostrander discusses the methods she’s used to successfully advance the carbon farming movement and related agricultural policy locally and federally, and how we can expand the model. She touches on the need for cohesive messaging, face-to-face conversations with government representatives, conservation plans for ranchers and farmers wanting to implement changes, and the monetary and technical support needed to continue moving forward.

More Layers of Life Per Acre: Creating a Rich Farm Ecology by Paul Muller

Paul Muller, a partner at Full Belly Farm in California’s Capay Valley, has been farming organically for 33 years. Full Belly Farm is designed to maximize the layers of life per acre–plant, soil microbes, insects, and animals–while harvesting as much sunlight as possible and growing over 70 different fruit and vegetable crops. Paul explains how Full Belly Farm is working to sequester soil carbon.

"Can Soil Carbon Sequestration Affect Global Temperatures
By Dr. Whendee Silver

“All carbon sequestration has the potential to contribute to climate change mitigation at a global scale. Compost application holds considerable promise as a carbon sequestration approach with many co-benefits. This is good management. This approach is scalable and increases resilience of ecosystems in the face of climate change.”

We All Rely on Soil, But We Treat It Like Dirt
by Sara Newmark

“The business community, especially those directly profiting from farmer’s labors and selling food products, has a responsibility to support our farmers, who provide us the nourishment for life, in a way that creates shared value. And because our food system depends upon the health of our environment and will be greatly impacted by the effects of climate change, the business community has a responsibility to protect the environment on which it relies.”

Carbon Farming: Building Soil to Radically Mitigate Climate Disruption
by Arty Mangan

“Agriculture and land management have been underestimated if not completely missing from the climate conversation. A deeper understanding of how the carbon cycle works and how that informs climate smart soil management practices may very well be the most realistically hopeful solution in solving our most intractable problem.”

California is a Leader in Climate Smart Agriculture
by Arty Mangan

Knowledge-intensive farmers like Adam Cline and Paul Muller, who are keenly observing the dynamics of their land, are experimenting and learning how to manage soil biology and carbon not just for the benefit of their production, but also for the health of the ecosystem and ultimately for the health of the planet. They deserve an enormous amount of respect and must be financially incentivized so that it’s not just the pioneering few who are climate smart farmers and ecosystem managers, but a whole system that culturally and economically supports all farmers to follow their lead.

Producing Food and Capturing Carbon: An Interview with Ariel Greenwood

An interview with Ariel Greenwood, a “feral agrarian” and grazer who manages a herd of cattle while restoring ecosystems. “What I like to tell people is the scale at which you’re participating in your food system really matters, and you can’t make intelligent decisions about especially meat, animal products, unless you understand the bioregion that you are living in.”



Vice To Virtue: From Carbon Crisis to Carbon Farming

How does a virtue become a vice? How does a basic building block of life turn into a threat to life? And how do you turn that vice back into a virtue? In this half-hour we visit with two unlikely pathfinders who are helping to revolutionize farming. Calla Rose Ostrander and John Wick of the Marin Carbon Project are taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it back where it belongs: in the soil. In so doing, they’re also revitalizing the soil, conserving water, and building agricultural resilience. Scaling up these revolutionary regenerative methods can offset climate destabilization, which threatens agriculture and endangers our food supply.


Regenerative Agriculture Can Help Solve Climate Chaos with Organic Farmer Will Allen

Organic agriculture is taking a lead in capturing atmospheric carbon and storing it in the soil, reaping on-farm fertility benefits and helping to mitigate climate change. Will Allen, an organic farming leader for over 40 years, is now at the forefront of the regenerative agricultural movement using his farm in Vermont as a carbon farming model, as well as influencing agricultural policy at the state level. In this podcast, Will talks about the powerful potential of regenerative agriculture.

Carbon, Climate, Food and Fiber with Rebecca Burgess, Guido Frosini, and Ariel Greenwood

“Our soils have a carbon debt. Our atmosphere is gushing with carbon. The carbon over our heads is literally in the wrong place.” (Rebecca Burgess) The solution to climate change is under our feet. Rebecca Burgess, of Fibershed explains how drawing carbon from the atmosphere and capturing it in the soil can reverse climate change. Rebecca, who is developing climate friendly local clothing production and carbon farming certification for her suppliers, is joined in this excerpt from a Bioneers workshop by holistic grazers Ariel Greenwood and Guido Frosini who are managing livestock while regenerating natural ecosystems.

Related Topics: Climate & Food, Regenerative Agriculture, Soil Health and More

Carbon Farming opportunities in San Diego

Building a Climate Friendly San Diego

Soil Tasting: The Pleasures and Benefits of Healthy Soil by Arty Mangan

Climate Cuisine: Food Choices Impact Climate Change by Arty Mangan

Biomimicry, Food and Climate Change: An Interview with Anna Lappé

Climate Change Affects Every Step of the Food Value Chain by Rocco Palin

Eating Plant-based Diets Can Play a Huge Role in Limiting the Effects of Climate Change by Paul Hawken

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