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Solar Farm
Robin Lubbock/WBUR

Farms will harvest food and the sun, as Mass. pioneers ‘dual-use’ solar

Is your land trust thinking creatively about climate solutions and partnerships? Perhaps your land trust realizes that renewables need to work with land and water.

Paul Knowlton owns 300 acres of land in Grafton, and farms about 50. The farm has been in his family for five generation, ever since Knowlton’s great-great-grandfather settled in the Blackstone Valley in 1872.

These days Knowlton grows pumpkins, squash and corn. Up a gravel road, past the family cemetery, corn stalks are still standing from this year’s crop. “Considering the drought situation, we did fair,” Knowlton says.

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Solar Sheep
American Solar Grazing Association

Solar meets sheep (and bees, and more)

Is your land trust thinking creatively about climate solutions and partnerships? Perhaps your land trust realizes that renewables need to work with land and water. Scenic Hudson continues to demonstrate how they are an organization that is learning and helping to lead.

Often solar panels sit on former agricultural land, but aren’t what we’d otherwise think of as a farm.

Agrivoltaics aims to change that by hosting PV panels and agriculture on the exact same land. Often, livestock like sheep graze under the solar panels. Sometimes the projects include pollinator habitat as well, which can benefit biodiversity, honey production, or adjacent pollinator-dependent crops. And trials are being done growing shaded crops under raised panels, too…

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Farmerica
Don Graham, Flickr/Creative Commons

USDA to invest $1 billion in climate smart commodities, expanding markets, strengthening rural America

The USDA will invest $1 billion in climate-smart commodities, expanding markets, and strengthening rural America.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today at Lincoln University that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is delivering on its promise to expand markets by investing $1 billion in partnerships to support America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers and forest landowners. The new Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities opportunity will finance pilot projects that create market opportunities for U.S. agricultural and forestry products that use climate-smart practices and include innovative, cost-effective ways to measure and verify greenhouse gas benefits. USDA is now accepting project applications for fiscal year 2022.

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Long Horned Cattle
Brett Deering for The NYT

A different kind of land management: let the cows stomp

This is a good story that you might share. We need farmers and ranchers more than ever — they are critical parts of the climate solution.

Adam Isaacs stood surrounded by cattle in an old pasture that had been overgrazed for years. Now it was a jumble of weeds.

“Most people would want to get out here and start spraying it” with herbicides, he said. “My family used to do that. It doesn’t work.”

Instead, Mr. Isaacs, a fourth-generation rancher on this rolling land in the northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle, will put his animals to work on the pasture, using portable electrified fencing to confine them to a small area so that they can’t help but trample some of the weeds as they graze.

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Soil
Picryl

Research on soil sequestration

This is a scientific article that you might find of interest as you learn more about carbon sequestration in soils.

Soil carbon (C) sequestration is one of three main approaches to carbon dioxide removal and storage through management of terrestrial ecosystems. Soil C sequestration relies of the adoption of improved management practices that increase the amount of carbon stored as soil organic matter, primarily in cropland and grazing lands. These C sequestering practices act by increasing the rate of input of plant-derived residues to soils and/or by reducing the rates of turnover of organic C stocks already in the soil.

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Thoughtful Ag
NRDC

Fighting climate change through farming

In Central California, small ranches and farms are growing their connections — to the land, to the past, and to each other. And that's happening all over this country. This article includes a video that features a Midwest farmer taking action around clover crops. We need to share these stories so people understand that farming is part of the climate solution.

Some research suggests that widespread trapping of carbon in soil through practices such as cover cropping, low- or no-till cultivation, and crop rotation could globally store up to the equivalent of eight billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year—nearly matching current annual emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, though more research is needed to determine if the gains decline overtime…

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The Secret Weapon to Healthier Soil

Watch this short video about covers and how they help farmers and farmland.

Cover crops, an age-old farming strategy, can help boost soil health, protect water sources, and create fields that are more resilient to climate change. Watch how…

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Agrivoltaics
Screenshot

Friday Feature: Agrivoltaics — farming under solar panels

The University of Florida Extension featured this short video explaining the positive benefits — and challenges — around elevated, dual-use solar for farm viability. We need conservation groups to start advocating for this as they do for land conservation funding and healthy soil initiatives.

With the push to seek alternative energy sources, solar farms are buying up farm land. Agrivoltaics is the combination of the two, so the land is not lost for food production. There are benefits to partial shade for crop production, such as lower irrigation requirements. The trick is to find the right mix to have both productive crop production and also adequate solar energy production. There are research projects in Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon to evaluate this opportunity that is already being utilized to some extent in Europe.

Check out the pros and cons of combining farming with solar installations…

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Orchard
iStock

California conservation to address climate change

Is your land trust thinking creatively about climate solutions and partnerships?

[In 2021] the Trust for Public Land and JPMorgan Chase announced a $500,000 collaboration to launch The Trust for Public Land’s new California Climate Conservation program, and protect natural and working lands, mitigating climate impacts for people in the Central Coast and Los Angeles County. The program will incorporate California’s climate action strategy and help achieve greater community resilience through nature-based solutions and by engaging with local communities…

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Screen Shot Webinar

Solar that supports farmers, soils, water

We are losing farms due to a lack of farm viability. Elevated solar, that allows for growing crops, grazing with dairy cows and horses, and protecting orchards and sensitive plants could become the norm (if we make it that way...). Check out this webinar.

While states and communities around the U.S. are ramping up renewable energy commitments and incentivizing solar development, many farms are struggling. There is also growing concern that solar development could displace active agricultural use on productive farmland, with impacts to farm renters, local economies, and regional food systems. Without an integrated approach, achieving clean energy goals may come at the loss of some of our most fertile and economically viable farmland to solar development.

American Farmland Trust seeks a more collaborative and sustainable path forward towards a clean energy transition that supports healthy soils, wholesome food, and vibrant farms…

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