There is increased pressure and interest in society today to determine the carbon footprint of our actions and examine new approaches to reduce it. Our farmers are among the first to see and feel the impact of climate change on the land. ANY farmer, whether big or small, organic or not, can do a great job taking care of the planet, regardless of how much land they farm and how they are labeled.
This spring, ASA embarked on a multi-year project to understand and articulate the benefits farming and conservation easements can provide in terms of climate resiliency. One of the most exciting things we have learned is that farmland offers immediate, low-cost and proven ways to address climate change.
As a steward of conserved land in perpetuity, ASA is invested in ensuring that conserved land is sustainable for the future. We are committed to providing learning opportunities for both farmers and community members to improve soil health and invest in renewables. Our goal is to integrate climate adaptation and mitigation into land conservation and to spread the word about the solutions farmers are putting into practice to sequester carbon.
The following are some of the programs we have offered this year pertaining to climate smart solutions:
Agrivoltaics: Could Solar Panels on Farms be a Win-Win?
Agrivoltaic solar arrays are raised far enough off the ground and spaced in such a way that crops can still grow and animals can graze around and beneath the panels. The goal is to help farmers diversify their income through renewable energy generation, while keeping land in agricultural use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
ASA invited Jake Marley and Michael Lehan from Hyperion Systems, LLC, a solar company who is working with The University of Massachusetts Crop Research and Education Center to come and talk to us about the pros and cons of this “dual-use” solar.
What is a Soil Sponge Anyway? Regenerating Soil Health for Resilience
In April, guest speaker Didi Pershouse discussed strategies to build the health of agricultural soils by fostering a “soil sponge”, capable of restoring the natural carbon and water cycles that determine our climate. By re-creating landscapes that soak up rain, retain nutrients and filter water, farmers can build climate resilience in the face of extreme weather events. These practices can also improve the bottom line.
New York Soil Health Trailer Visits Hoosick
Dany and Joanne Tilley of Tilldale Farm in Hoosick hosted Cornell Cooperative Extension Specialist Fay Benson for an evening soil health discussion in August. Mr. Benson brought the New York Soil Health Trailer to demonstrate how the soil health of pasture and cropland affects water infiltration and run-off. The evening included demonstrations of techniques to measure compaction and other soil health indicators, and a discussion of practices which help improve our agricultural soils.
Restoration Agriculture: Using perennial crops to restore the health and viability of farm enterprises.
ASA was pleased to host a talk by Mark Shepard, Founder and President of Restoration Agriculture Development and CEO of Forest Agriculture Enterprises. Mark teaches agroforestry and permaculture design and techniques around the world and is the author of Restoration Agriculture, Real World Permaculture for Farmers.
Mark gave a stimulating talk for a group of 80 on the benefits of incorporating perennial crops in farm enterprises. He is currently working on a project in Washington County with a vision of planting 4,000 acres of land with hazelnuts and chestnuts as the lead crops.