Organic Farmers Face Climate Dangers with Regenerative Solutions

Amherst, MA - This August the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Summer Conference explores how organic farming can help address the climate crisis. The Conference will feature an eight-part "Soil Carbon and Climate" workshop track, detailing farming methods for vegetables, fruits, nuts, forage, and feed that provide a resilient food source while returning carbon molecules from the atmosphere to the soil. The event takes place from August 8-10 at UMass Amherst.

A recent widely publicized report authored by the group Risky Business, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, predicts that in the 21st century, absent agricultural adaptation, extreme heat brought on by global climate disruption will reduce crop yields in some states by 50% to 70%.

Track presenters point out that agriculture not only faces massive risks due to climate change, but also, that when soils are managed properly, agriculture can help reduce atmospheric carbon concentrations and thereby mitigate climate disruption.

"The Soil Carbon and Climate track represents a growing awareness of biology in the mitigation of global warming," said presenter Seth Itzkan, who works with the Africa Center for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe. The group works to restore degraded land through grazing methods that regenerate soils. "Our climate problem isn't just about emissions. It's also about the earth's capacity to absorb atmospheric carbon, and the safest and largest reservoir for carbon pollution is in new soil formations."

Other organic farming researchers agree. A report, titled "Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change," released in April from the Rodale Institute, claims: "We could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term 'regenerative organic agriculture'."

In another study, a research scientist at the University of Texas, Richard Teague, demonstrated that land grazed for ecological goals - with many paddocks and short duration "timed" grazing - had approximately 30 tons of carbon more per hectare than comparable neighboring land that had been grazed conventionally.

"For thousands of years we've been managing livestock in ways that degrade grasslands and cause soil carbon to escape into the atmosphere," said Itzkan. "We now know the opposite is also possible. If managed appropriately, livestock can be part of the healing process - simultaneously replenishing grasslands and feeding people."

According to the presenters, when soil carbon levels increase, neighboring communities also enjoy ecological benefits. "Through regenerative farming, we're not just growing good food, we're also growing clean water and reducing flood risks - providing real economic value for downstream neighbors," said Abe Collins, a consultant and lecturer based in Winooski, VT.

"Soil organic matter is key to water cycling," said Collins, "because it provides the raw material for the glues that bind mineral and organic components into soil aggregates. Increases in soil organic matter raise the amount of water soil can hold, leading to reduced flooding, improved water quality, increased biodiversity habitat, and greater productivity in times of drought."

"Presenting this group of leading thinkers and practitioners of regenerative farming is one of the ways we're marking the 40th anniversary of our conference," said Ben Grosscup, NOFA Summer Conference Coordinator. "Since 1975 NOFA has been on the cutting edge, presenting practical skills for organic food production and land management. This track demonstrates how these agricultural practices address today's concerns over food, ecology, and the climate."

Topics covered in the "Soil Carbon and Climate" track include:

  1. "Permaculture principles to regenerate soils and stabilize the climate" (Connor Stedman, Saturday, 8:00 AM)
  2. "Increasing soil biodiversity in New England soils" (Jim Laurie, Saturday, 10:00 AM)
  3. "Building soil carbon by grazing ruminants according to how they evolved in grasslands" (Seth Itzkan, Saturday, 1:00 PM)
  4. "Measurement tools to monitor the capacity of soil to hold carbon" (Peter Donovan, Saturday, 3:00 PM)
  5. "Building soil carbon by grazing animals over cover cropped fields" (Ridge Shinn, Sunday, 8:00 AM)
  6. "Addressing flood risks and water pollution by building carbon in agricultural soils" (Abe Collins, Sunday, 10:00 AM)
  7. Growing nuts trees in the Northeast as a carbon-negative crop" (Keith Morris, Sunday, 1:00 PM)
  8. "Building stable soil humus through integrated practices of biological soil management" (Dan Kittredge, Sunday, 3:00 PM)

Read the full descriptions of the Soil Carbon and Climate Track.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association Summer Conference is an annual event, sponsored by NOFA/Mass on behalf of the seven-state NOFA organization, which brings together some of the brightest growers, thinkers, and activists in the organic movement. The weekend-long event features 150 captivating workshops, pre-conferences, activities for youth, farm tours, music and dance, affordable housing options, and organic meals.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION on the Northeast Organic Farming Association Summer Conference visit www.nofasummerconference.org or contact NOFA/Mass Public Relations Director, Nicole Belanger at nicole@nofamass.org or 508-450-2441.