about carbon sink farms
The Carbon Sink Demonstration Farm in Pauma Valley was created as a way to answer the call to ground truth strategies for adapting to and mitigating climate change in our region.
In July 2017, temperatures reached 122-degrees at Pauma Tribal Farms. Crops withered, trees burned and animals were lost. With the threat of rising temperatures and increased incidents of flood and drought due to climate change, the warning was clear: start building resilience now or give up on a livelihood derived from agriculture. Together, Solidarity Farm and Pauma Tribal Farms assessed the options. Pauma was ready to embark on a new olive orchard and vineyard planting and Solidarity Farm was eager to expand its diversified specialty crop operations. In order to ensure our agricultural enterprises reflected the changing environmental, social, and economic realities of our time, we invested in learning about and implementing a suite of carbon farming practices that we felt would enhance the land, improve our soil, and build resilience.
Both farms discussed what actions could be taken to move forward establishing a solid foundation for our operations that will favor carbon sequestration, increase biodiversity and promote soil health. We realized that exposing the way conventional agriculture is impacting our climate was a long term commitment and we needed to work together to bring solutions to our climate crisis, so we invested our resources in carbon farming as a collaborative effort to have an impact on drawing down CO2 emissions and bring us to hope that in some way small farmers and tribal nations can be part of a climate change solution.
We sought input from technical advisors, discussed opportunities to integrate traditional ecological knowledge, researched the most applicable practices for building healthy soil, and applied for funding to help offset costs and buffer our learning curve. In 2018, we formalized our plan as the “Carbon Sink Demonstration Farm” and began implementing a suite of “carbon farming” practices.
"A 2% increase in the carbon content of the planet's soils could offset 100% of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere."—Prof. Rattan Lal, Ohio State University
We started our carbon farm planning with the following goals in mind:
a reduction or elimination of tillage on at least 80% of the farm;
transition 70% of production to perennial crops;
planting of cover crops in orchards and vineyards to reduce soil temperatures
improve cation exchange and decrease the application of water
encircling the farm with hedgerows and windbreaks to improve pollinator habitat,
increase the availability of traditional food, fiber, and medicine, and reduce wind erosion/evaporation
the addition of compost and mulch to fruit and vegetable crops, with the goal of increasing soil organic matter.
No-till or reduce tillage crop field and the addition of quality compost application has helped us to achieve 4.4% of Soil Organic Matter, measured in 2018 and 2019 results shown us that not only there was an increase in SOM but also finding SOM in deeper levels of the soil horizon, we measured sequestration by crop and by the amount of carbon in our soils, which we have increased from 1% to 4% since 2018. In 2020, this equated to a drawdown of nearly 600 metric tons of C02, offsetting the emissions of 80 American households.
On that 5-acre of food production converted to no-till methods we've seen an increase in plant yield, and the vegetables we are growing are increasing their resilience to extreme weather conditions and a significant reduction in reports of pest presence.
As the carbon in the soil act as a sponge, we're able to increase the water-holding capacity in the soil, something very important for our region with intensified droughts, drier conditions, and larger water deficits; cover crops and animal integration plays an essential role in maintaining soil health principles that allow us to maximize plant and soil diversity, minimizing soil disturbance, keeping plants growing throughout the year to feed the soil and keep the soil covered as much as possible to minimize erosion and degradation. The hard-working living organisms in the soil seem to benefit from the practices as well, we see the value of increasing living roots that foster beneficial fungi and bacterial ratio in a healthy microbiome underground that also translate into a more nutrient-dense food.
Hedgerows and windbreaks fulfill a multitude of purposes at the Carbon Sink Demonstration Site. They attract pollinators, slow erosion from wind, and even improve microclimates and biodiversity on portions of the farm that are prone to extreme heat and frost while helping to increase biodiversity in our farm systems, these components were designed thru the Traditional Ecological Knowledge lens as the plants' selection follow the traditions of local indigenous communities where the needs for food, medicine and fiber was provided mostly from the local ecosystem.