According to Eric Toensmeier, author of The Carbon Farming Solution, “carbon farming has the potential to bring our atmosphere back to the magic number of 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide.” Encompassing agricultural practices that return carbon to the soil, carbon farming, undertaken on any scale, is an effective approach for reducing atmospheric carbon and maintaining a healthy soil ecosystem for growing. While farmers can undertake carbon farming on a larger scale, individuals can also play an active role in sequestering carbon by becoming carbon gardeners in their own backyards. The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) provides an array of strategies for homeowners to policymakers on how to help restore carbon to the soil.
Jack Kittredge, policy director at NOFA Massachusetts, reports that minimizing tillage, planting cover crops, and practicing crop rotation are needed to build and keep soil carbon in the soil. “Probably the most important single lesson is that bare soil oxidizes carbon, while plants protect it,” writes Kittredge. “Green plants form a barrier between air and soil, slowing the process of carbon emission by microbes.”
For homeowners and gardeners, NOFA suggests diversifying the species in your yard to include deep-rooted grasses and nitrogen-fixing species. Additionally, mowing or trimming weeds instead of pulling them out and composting instead of burning yard waste reduces the quantity of carbon released into the atmosphere. Planting nitrogen-fixing cover crops and living row paths also aids in carbon sequestration by creating a barrier between air and soil.
“Farmers, gardeners, homeowners, landscapers—anyone who owns or manages land—can follow these simple principles and not only restore carbon to the soil but help rebuild the marvelous system that nature has put in place to renew our atmosphere,” notes Kittredge. NOFA also reports that policymakers can contribute to carbon farming by ruling out the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and emphasizing development projects that regenerate, preserve, and do not destroy soil ecosystems.
Carbon farming not only functions to remove carbon from the atmosphere, but also to enhance soil ecosystems that support the vitality of society. Taken in context to the larger challenge of mitigating climate change, Toensmeier believes, “[carbon farming’s] importance is on par with that of renewable energy.”