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Carbon Sequestration

Marty Update

This is the first policy update from our new Policy Director, Marty Dagoberto. Marty has been the Outreach Coordinator since January 2017 and now also wears the Policy Director hat (and sometimes a suit). While he’s still getting oriented on the policy work for NOFA, Marty does have significant experience in the State House, having served as the Campaign Coordinator for MA Right to Know GMOs. Want to get involved in policy work? Have a tip or suggestion? Marty can be reached at marty@nofamass.org

By the time you read this, the annual “Ag Day” will have just happened at the State House (check our Facebook for pictures!), and the state legislature will soon be focused on the budget (and nothing else). Now is the time to contact your state legislators to push for active legislation. NOFA’s current top priorities are broken down for you, below.

Jasmin Callahan

Jasmin Callahan

For this month’s edition of the newsletter I interviewed Jasmin Callahan, the Farm Manager at Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset, MA. Holly Hill is owned by Jean White, a long-time NOFA/Mass member. Jasmin shared with me some of her story.

“This will be my 4th season as head farmer at Holly Hill Farm,” according to Jasmin. “I started volunteering in 2001 and then worked as a seasonal farmer for two years. I took a long time off and did various other things. Then in the Fall of 2014, I was asked to undertake growing for our organic Plant Sale in spring of 2015 and I am still here now.

Cover crops

Cover crops

I’m just back from another fantastic Winter Conference where it was great seeing so many of you, learning so much and having fun.

I was fortunate to be able to present a well-attended workshop for gardeners on the topic of soil improvement and carbon sequestration. Folks were really enthusiastic about the topic, and many plan on implementing some of these techniques in their own gardens.

Do you ever wonder whether you are building your land’s best possible soil health? Have you thought about the relationship between your farm or garden soil and the excess carbon in Earth’s atmosphere?

Beyond the typical mineral analysis of soil there is the question of soil life and vitality – which is a very good “proxy” for soil carbon. In most cases if you have lots of soil carbon you are going to have lots of soil life, and vice versa.

Do you ever wonder whether you are building your land’s best possible soil health? Have you thought about the relationship between your farm or garden soil and the excess carbon in Earth’s atmosphere?

Beyond the typical mineral analysis of soil there is the question of soil life and vitality— which is a very good “proxy” for soil carbon. In most cases if you have lots of soil carbon you are going to have lots of soil life, and vice versa.

Do you ever wonder whether you are building your land’s best possible soil health? Have you thought about the relationship between your farm or garden soil and the excess carbon in Earth’s atmosphere? Beyond the typical mineral analysis of soil there is the question of soil life and vitality – which is a very good “proxy” for soil carbon. In most cases if you have lots of soil carbon you are going to have lots of soil life, and vice versa.

1) Young cover crop planted on 18” space at end of onion bed

It’s been a great growing year, so far, and we’ve had an abundant harvest of delicious vegetables. The apple and pear trees are loaded with fruit soon to be enjoyed. Every year our soil becomes richer and healthier, yielding more nutritious and delicious food while removing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering carbon in our soil. This is a continuous cycle of life creating and sustaining life.

I’ve been preparing a presentation about this biological growing technique (No-till and Cover Crops for us gardeners) for both a NOFA/Mass webinar and a workshop at the Summer Conference. If you are interested and missed these talks, you can view the YouTube video of the whole talk.

My most dominant takeaway from the conference is how precarious this moment is – before the mainstream adoption of the concepts of soil carbon sequestration and their codification into policy – for those in the world who have less power than the first-world policy makers and thought leaders. While there was consensus that practice must begin before the science is perfected, there was a divide on the meaning of “practice”. Does “practice” mean creating national or international subsidies or even carbon markets that incentivize carbon sequestration on agricultural lands? Or does “practice” refer to a global grassroots movement by farmers on the ground – supported by farmer organizations like NOFA –teaching each other to improve soil health (and thereby increase its carbon stocks) and educating their customers to value such practices?

Ray Archuleta speaks to crowd at July 2016 "Cocktail Cover Crops: Trials and Techniques" workshop

NOFA/Mass encourages me to do things that both feel good and are good.

Here are some examples:

  • Gathering with fun and interesting farmers, gardeners, homesteaders throughout the year to share and learn how I can grow better food on healthier soil
  • Considering my farming practices in terms of the larger ecosystem, seeing myself as an integral part of that global picture
  • Experimenting with my farming systems, trying new things
  • Being creative in the use of materials and resources on my land and in my home
  • Working with my neighbors to promote greater food security in my city

Jen Salinetti farms with her husband Pete in Tyringham, MA in the Berkshires. They have been farming for 16 years together, the four years spent on their almost 5-acre farm. In recent years they have not been using tillage to grow their vegetables. Jen feels that by not disturbing the soil they have a considerable positive impact on carbon sequestration on their land. They have experienced a significant increase in quality and yields which has enabled them to create a viable business on a small amount of land.

“Pete and I started experimenting with no-till 13 years ago, and we are now going into year 11. Our initial experimenting began when we were looking to increase greenhouse production. We started looking into ways to do prep without the tiller. We saw some really great results after the first season. And then we expanded it out to our market garden. Through the process, we were able to set up permanent beds and maximize our earnings and outputs through proper spacing of plants. It was right around when our son Diego was born. We wanted to commit to farming, to be available for family life and to be home.”

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