MALT is part of a community of scientists, ranchers, agencies and policymakers in and around Marin County that is working to develop and advance climate-friendly land use practices, known as carbon farming, that could help make food production part of the climate solution.
What is Carbon Farming?
Carbon farming is a set of practices that reduce or reverse a farm or ranch’s greenhouse gas emissions. Ranchers can actually improve their land’s ability to remove carbon from the air, where it contributes to climate change, and instead store it in the soil — where it’s not only harmless, it’s also beneficial to plants.
MALT farmers and ranchers practice carbon farming every day through practices like:
- Rotational grazing – Moving livestock from pasture to pasture allows the land to heal and grasses to regrow.
- Woodland and stream restoration – Through photosynthesis, trees and streamside plants absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. Their roots also help hold soil in place, reducing erosion and ensuring that stored carbon stays put.
- Methane capture – MALT-protected Giacomini Dairy and Straus Dairy operate methane digesters, which capture methane (a greenhouse gas) from their cows’ manure and transform it into energy that powers their operations.
- Spreading compost on rangeland – Three MALT-protected ranches – Stemple Creek Ranch, Straus Dairy and Corda Ranch – are participating in a Marin Carbon Project trial that has shown that adding compost to managed rangeland improves a farm's or ranch's ability to sequester carbon.
Marin Carbon Project
The Marin Carbon Project – a consortium of ranchers, scientists and nonprofits, including MALT – has shown that a one-time addition of compost to well-managed rangeland improves soil health and water retention, which nurtures better growth for pasture grasses. Healthier grasses are able to draw more carbon from the atmosphere and fix it in the soil, where it won’t contribute to global warming.
In 2014, the American Carbon Registry, a group that certifies carbon offsets, used results from the Marin Carbon Project to approve a protocol for adding compost to rangeland. Through the new protocol, ranchers who spread compost on their pastures can now sell carbon offset credits through voluntary carbon markets.
Ranching families in California have growing financial incentive to join the fight against global warming, while improving the health and productivity of their land.
Livestock grazing is the single largest land use on the plant, occupying about a quarter of Earth’s landscape. About half of the land in California supports livestock grazing in some way. If carbon farming practices and policies being researched and implemented here in Marin County gain traction, livestock grazing could become a significant means of sequestering carbon.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that if compost were applied over 5% of the state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries, or the equivalent of removing 6 million cars from the road.
More Benefits of Marin Farms
Local Food »
Habitat and Open Range »
Clean Water and Air »