Farming for the Climate
In the fight against climate change, efforts that strengthen natural resources, bolster the self-sufficiency of local communities, and improve resilience to the extreme and the unexpected are key.
At Luna Bleu, we have always approached farming as a way to create an ecosystem that works within the natural ecosystem. We have also been active to support connections between farms and community, not just here at our farm but with other farms and groups locally and around the sate.
Being organic farmers does not just mean we will not pollute airways, waterways, and soils with toxic fertilizers and pesticides. We are just as invested in this work for the ways our practices actively strengthen natural systems. I don't think we really realized when we started farming almost 35 years ago, that these practices were not only good for the environment but they make our farm and community more resilient to the effects of climate change AND they can be an important part of the way we fight climate change . Here are some of our farming practices that contribute to resilience and can help to reduce climate change:
Protect Natural Ecosystems and
Build Farm Biodiversity
At Luna Bleu, we have always tried to create a farm ecosystem full of cycles, webs of relationship and energy flows building biodiversity on the farm and protecting the surrounding natural ecosystems--above ground and below. We plant a large variety of crops and rotate them each season. We plant cover crops and maintain pollinator habitats. We integrate chickens and livestock in and around the crop fields, use compost and reduce tillage to nurture biological activity and biodiversity in the soil fostering Soil Health --- the key to organic farming and reducing climate change.
Healthy, biologically active soils support healthy plant growth and robust photosynthetic activity-the plant chemical reaction that takes CO2 from the air to make plant biomass. Carbon can then be stored in the soil roots and microbes. Healthy soil will release some carbon into the air with the natural process of decomposition and soil organisms respiring. Thus it is important that we keep our fields covered as much as possible with growing plants to capture that carbon. So, soon after we harvest a crop out of the field, we try to replant other vegetables or a cover crop
to keep photosynthesis going strong farm-wide. Cover crops can have the added advantage of replenishing nutrients to the soil, increasing biodiversity, protecting the soil from erosion, and suppressing weeds.
Tillage is the common practice of digging up, turning over, or otherwise agitating the soil with mechanical tools like rototillers, plows and harrows. Tilling breaks up soil compaction, helps eliminate weeds, and incorporates plant residue for boosted soil fertility at planting time.
These benefits have been useful for productive vegetable farming, yet tillage when overused can have significant negative effects on soil structure and soil life-especially those beneficial fungi that are so important to soil health (that mycelium that we are all learning more about!). And since tilling brings fungi, bacteria, and organic matter to the surface, they begin to die and decompose giving that burst of fertility to the soil but also releasing CO2 back into the air.
So by reducing tillage, and in some beds not tilling at all, we can minimize the amount of carbon released to the air, improve the structure of the soil, and enhance soil biodiversity and fungal activity to build soil health.
Livestock Management and
At Luna Bleu, we still raise laying hens and meat birds but our daughter Shona also has her Flying Dog Farm cows and sheep grazing the pastures around the vegetables. Animals play an important part in the whole farm ecosystem.
Organic livestock management is pasture-based, encouraging biodiversity, healthy soil, and healthy and happy animals. Rotational grazing is an essential element our animal management. The animals are moved regularly, grazing an area for a short time, moving on to allow the pasture to rest, regrow and deepen the root systems before it is grazed again. Animal manures fertilize the fields directly encouraging more soil biological activity and cow and sheep saliva has natural hormones that encourage grasses to grow!-- who knew?--the wisdom of natural systems!
Rotational grazing encourages vigorous plant and root growth and biodiversity above and below ground. This fuels plant photosynthesis pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. Then the healthy root and mycorrhizal networks (those fungi and roots working together) can store that carbon in the ground where we need it to be. Of all farming practices, pasture-based livestock operations have the most potential to sequester carbon.
Building Healthy Soil
to Sequester Carbon
Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing, securing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Cover cropping, crop rotation, reduced tillage, using compost and integrating animals into the farm ecosystem all serve to improve our soil’s chemical composition and structure, facilitating the kind of vibrant soil ecosystem that draws carbon out of the atmosphere via plant photosynthesis and received and stored by a healthy soil ecosystem. More carbon in the soil actually will promote more photosynthesis, more carbon out of the air, and more soil networks to store more carbon.
Enhancing or reestablishing those healthy carbon cycles between plants and the soil microbiome is full or nuance and complexity but it essential vibrant agricultural ecosystems-- of course we just need to do it on a much larger scale...which will require major changes in the national and global food system and economy.
Of course, restoring healthy carbon cycling in agriculture can be an important part of the climate solution but still most important is our efforts to stop our emissions of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants into the earths atmosphere and ecosystems... again requiring a dramatic economic and political shift.
So, the soil holds the key!
As we learn more about the incredible complexity of soil ecosystems and the amazing relationships between soil organisms and plants and animals (and that includes humans!), we get just a little glimpse of Natures wisdom and the potential we have to do things better. There are of course a few more important things to remember about the benefits of stewarding a healthy soil ecosystem.
Plants get their nutrients from the soil. A biologically healthy soil allow plants to access the nutrients they need when they need them so plants are healthy and can reach their complete nutritional potential. Your fruits and vegetables will have more vitamins and minerals. Also animals raised on healthy pasture will produce nutrient dense meats. And you will be able to taste the difference.
Good soil structure, plant cover and organic matter makes our lands more resilient. With heavy rains, good soil has more capacity to absorb water and reduce runoff and mediate flooding risk. In times of drought, good soils can hold soil moisture longer and good plant cover keeps soil cooler and moister.
Of course, building a vibrant resilient local farms can be a first step to community food security and health.
Learn More and Get Involved
Building and maintaining soil health should always be a farmers top priority. Most farmers really know this, but in truth, when farmers are functioning in an extractive economic system with no root in ecosystem health farmers can be limited in the steps they can easily take.
...And building soil health and regenerative agricultural systems can start at home, but need to reach farther and become a national and global priority. Learning more and taking local steps is the way to begin to build momentum....
RESOURCES: here are a few to start with
GET INVOLVED: haha..I don't really know, but if you are interested to do more let's talk --- or email ... firstname.lastname@example.org