Goin' Green on St. Patrick's Day
There was an interesting piece in the Fashion section of the NYTimes this Sunday that is a little weird but it gets into some pretty fun stuff.
The piece follows a kid from Brooklyn who is hell bent on becoming an organic farmer. Trucker hats, Carhartts, and Pabst were the fashion but now some are putting the heart behind the fashion and finding the funk in farming.
"The Billyburg scene has changed, said Annaliese Griffin, who contributes to a blog called Grocery Guy. “Having a cool cheese in your fridge has taken the place of knowing what the cool band is, or even of playing in that band,” she said. “Our rock stars are ricotta makers.”
The same is true for Sarah Love, an Oklahoma University political science graduate and sometimes young Clay Pope a former DC staffer turn conservation lobbyist who have formed an organization that helps farmers become more environmentally friendly and companies to offset their carbon emissions.
Pope says he doesn't know about New York farmers but in Oklahoma the coolness of farming just brings the same stream of folks. "But stuff like that usually starts on the coasts and works its way inward. Boutique farms in Oklahoma would go a whole lot further if you legalize marijuana, though. I see a lot of kids getting involved then!"
Kidding aside, they hope to increase the interest and financial availability to small farmers and new farmers by providing financial incentives to those who run environmentally friendly operations.
"There are a lot of ways that farms hurt the environment over time," Love tells me. "With someone providing incentives to be more eco-friendly more people are happy to do the right thing for the environment."
Their plan is three fold.
- Switch to no till farming methods. Traditional farming methods have you work the land, turning over the soil to get rid of weeds and work in fertilizer. When you till the soil, however, carbon dioxide escapes from the ground into the atmosphere. The best way to get the soil to chill out is to let it sit for a while and let grasses grow over it which converts the carbon dioxide into oxygen via photosynthesis. You can let your cows graze on it and plant the next year. This is what people mean when they talk about carbon sequestration through the natural terrestrial cycle.
- Pasture land management is the next idea. This is what is mentioned a little bit above. The more the land sits and the the grasses can grow and suck the carbon out and change it to oxygen. Reducing production and using it for livestock instead lets the grass do its thing.
- Buffer zone repairs. In places like Oklahoma there is a lot of water. Tons of lakes, rivers, streams... just a lot of water moving around. And of course a lot of farmland and grazing lands bump up against these waterways. With cows grazing so close to them you have them pulling the grass out of the banks reducing the vegetation that is holding the soil in around the waterways. As a result the land falls into the water... as does everything that is on the land... which means... cow poo too. That pollutes the hell out of the rivers and streams and lakes.
So we have a couple of choices here. Move the buffer zone back 75-300 meters from waterways and it saves the grass. For the waterways that have already been compromised you'll allow the grass to regrow, or you can do what is called active re-forestation and plant trees and grass along to hold the soil together.
What Love and Pope do is work with companies to offset their own carbon emissions by contributing to farmers who do this kind eco-friendly farming and adopt some of these practices.
Organic is hot farming, but here's another way that new farmers can do their thing while also making the environment better and be adequately compensated for it. And its a great way for companies to offset their own emissions in a homegrown local way.
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