EDUCATION: FARMING, SUSTAINABILITY & HEALTHY FOOD
Soil is the second biggest reservoir of carbon on the planet, next to the oceans. It holds four times more carbon than all the plants and trees in the world. But human activity like deforestation and industrial farming – with its intensive plowing, monoculture and heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides – is ruining our soils at breakneck speed, killing the organic materials that they contain. Now 40% of agricultural soil is classed as “degraded” or “seriously degraded.” In fact, industrial farming has so damaged our soils that a third of the world’s farmland has been destroyed in the past four decades.
As our soils degrade, they are losing their ability to hold carbon, releasing enormous plumes of C02 into the atmosphere. There is, however, a solution. Scientists and farmers around the world are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods – not just organic fertilizer, but also no-tillage, composting, and crop rotation. Here’s the brilliant part: as the soils recover, they not only regain their capacity to hold C02, they begin to actively pull additional C02 out of the atmosphere.
And new research from the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, although not yet peer-reviewed, says sequestration rates could be as high as 40%. The same report argues that if we apply regenerative techniques to the world’s pastureland as well, we could capture more than 100% of global emissions. In other words, regenerative farming may be our best shot at actually cooling the planet.
In any case, it can be argued that regenerative farming actually increases crop yields over the long term by enhancing soil fertility and improving resilience against drought and flooding. So as climate changes makes farming more difficult, this may be our best bet for food security.
The Key to the Environmental Crisis Is Beneath Our Feet, Ellen Brown, resilence.org, 1/2/20. (The $20 billion yearly taxpayer subsidies that mainly go to giant agribusinesses could be used to compensate small farmers who transition to regenerative practices.)
https://youtu.be/QfTZ0rnowcc Regeneration of Our Lands, Gabe Brown, 16 minutes, 3/29/16
“Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use is unique among the sectors considered in this volume, since the mitigation potential is derived from both an enhancement of removals of green gases, as well as reduction of emissions through management of land and livestock…Leveraging the mitigation potential in the sector is extremely important in meeting emission reduction targets.”
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Chapter 11: Agriculture, Forestry & Other Land Use, 2016, Cambridge University Press. Chapter 11 of the IPCC report
Happenings open to the public
Monthly Community Gatherings: third Saturday of every month from January through October, North Branch Library –
January 18, 3 to 5 p.m., with topic “Small local farmers share how they are creating a local food market in this time of climate crisis.”
February 15, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Farm-to-School community event, Friday, March 27, 8 a.m. – noon, Chisago Lakes High School
Chisago Lakes Middle School Health Fair: February 18, 2020
Chisago County Master Gardener Classes: North Branch Senior Center, January – May: www.local.extension.umn.edu/local/chisago/master-gardeners
Chisago County Master Gardener Spring Garden Expo: Saturday, March 7, North Branch High School.
Isanti County Master Gardeners “Burst Into Spring” Garden Expo
WEI’s Organic Farming, Food & Sustainability classes: Women’s Environmental Institute in North Branch, Amador Township – www.w-e-i.org
Farmer-led conversations on the changing climate
Land Stewardship Project: https://www.landstewardshipproject.org
Minnesota Farmers Union: https://www.mfu.org
Institute for Trade & Agricultural Policy: https://www.iatp.org
Solutions from the Land: https://www.sfldialogue.net