By Raiza Giorgi
Farmers and ranchers are invited to take part in a “carbon farming” discussion and see the success of a large-scale composting project from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on June 3 at the Chamberlin Ranch in Los Olivos.
The Chamberlin Ranch became the first ranch in Southern California to implement a large-scale carbon farming plan in 2016. (Carbon farming refers to agricultural practices that capture atmospheric carbon and transfer it to the soil.)
The family’s strategy of applying a layer of compost increases the land’s capacity to hold water and makes pastures more abundant for growing grasses for grazing cattle.
According to Russell Chamberlin, the results have been impressive. Two years after applying a quarter-inch layer of compost to several plots on his land, Chamberlin reports a 24 percent increase in grass production, along with hundreds of new oak saplings sprouting naturally in the fields.
The June 3 event is hosted by the Community Environmental Council, the Cachuma Resource Conservation District, and the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.
The goal of the event is to start a conversation about soil health and good practices for rangeland management, according to Allegra Roth of the Community Environmental Council.
“We want people to talk about barriers they are seeing from environmental and economic perspectives, and also talk about solutions to these problems,” Roth said.
“Hopefully our results from the composting trials will jumpstart the biological processes and photosynthesis and help mitigate the severity of climate change — all while offering ranchers and farmers economic incentives to help remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” Roth said.
The Chamberlin Ranch is now one of 15 sites in California where the impacts of compost application are being studied, according to the CEC.
So far, the results have been promising enough that the California Department of Food and Agriculture recently started the California Healthy Soils Program, which awards grants to farmers and ranchers who implement carbon sequestering practices that include the type of compost application used at the Chamberlin Ranch.
To learn more about the Healthy Soils work or sign up for the event, contact CEC’s Food and Climate Program Associate Allegra Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805- 963-0583, Ext. 104.