“A lot of farmers are being educated about the capacity of soil to sequester carbon. It gets them excited to think that they can contribute to a reversal of climate change.”
– Kate Duesterberg, Farm Manager, Cedar Circle Farm, Vermont
A new and growing movement is inspiring farmers to produce food in a manner that can mitigate and even help reverse global warming. We call this “climate farming, the agriculture of hope.”
At the core of this movement is the understanding that soil health and climate stability are closely linked. The condition of one impacts the other. In the atmosphere, carbon exists as carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas warming the planet. But in plants, carbon forms a sugary liquid (like maple sap) that is exuded through the roots and gobbled up by microscopic critters at the foundation of what soil scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham calls the “Soil Food Web.” This infusion of carbon and the microbial activity it supports gives structure to soil, improves the nutrient density of food, and, perhaps most importantly, increases soil’s capacity to hold water.
Working to put more carbon into the soil, the climate farmer is thereby enhancing the productivity of soil while contributing to the long- term welfare of the planet. Regenerative farmer Jesse McDougall, of Studio Hill Farm in Shaftsbury, Vermont, shares, “Carbon is the world’s best fertilizer. Our goal in farming is to pass on to the next generation land that is outrageously fertile.”
Photosynthesis is nature’s invention for pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and giving it to plants and soils. Respiration and decay then return the carbon to the air. In a natural state, this exchange is in balance. However, as soil is degraded through industrial farming practices, including plowing and the use of fossil fuel- intensive fertilizers, more carbon is released to the air than is absorbed in the soil. Fortunately, this process can be reversed. Soil can be a carbon sink. There are many methods to achieve soil carbon sequestration.