Promoting Southeastern Agriculture Resilience with Carbon Farm Planning

Project Overview

LS20-326
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipients: NC Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation; Carbon Cycle Institute
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Michelle Lovejoy
NC Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation
Co-Investigators:
Pelayo Alvarez
Carbon Cycle Institute
Anne Coates
Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District
Bryan Evans
NC Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts
Cameron Farlow
Organic Growers School
Laura Lengnick
Cultivating Resilience LLC
Nathan Lowder
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Health Division

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, riparian buffers
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    The Project’s goals include 1) support a collaborative training process to introduce Conservation Districts and technical partners to USDA planning tools that encourage adoption of conservation practices focused on on-farm carbon sequestration, build agriculture sustainability at the farm level, and cultivate farm resilience to more variable weather; 2) provide resources to western NC Conservation Districts to establish Carbon Farm demonstrations designed to raise awareness of climate-resilient conservation practices through community engagement; and 3) foster development of producer networks to promote future information exchange on climate resilience benefits of agricultural conservation practices that promote on-farm carbon sequestration.

     

    The Foundation will partner with the Carbon Cycle Institute, the Organic Growers School, Cultivating Resilience, and the NC conservation partners to revise California’s Carbon Farm planning process for use in the Southeast, with a geographic focus targeting Southern Appalachian and western NC conventional farming systems. The training will introduce technical advisors to a set of NRCS-identified conservation practices that enhance soil health, increase per acre production values, and increase farm resilience to more variable weather while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing biological carbon sequestration (the capture and storage of carbon by plants and soil). Example sustainability agriculture (conservation) practices that are part of a soil health management system focused on increasing carbon sequestration include cover crops, no-tillage, riparian buffers, field borders, with conservation management practices including crop rotation and prescribed grazing. The project will feature USDA climate change adaptation guidance, leverage USDA Climate Hub resources, and teach participants how to use COMET-Planner, an online NRCS resource that assesses carbon sequestration at the farm level per conservation practice. The technical advisors will target outreach to the conventional agricultural community, bringing an emphasis to agriculture sustainability in the Southeast.

     

    In 2015, agriculture leaders in North Carolina formed the NC Adaptation Working Group (NC-ADAPT) to explore the potential benefits of coordinated statewide climate change adaptation planning for agriculture and forestry. This project addresses a top NC-ADAPT producer recommendation to develop planning tools with producer input that are adapted to NC physiographic provinces by piloting a conservation planning tool that is underutilized in the Southern Appalachians.  The demonstration farmers will be active participants in the Carbon Farm planning process by working with a local technical advisor and their support team, noting the process benefits on their farm and recommending how to improve the process for other producers.  Through regular evaluations, participants will help to tailor the training program. By placing a motived producer and the Conservation District in the center of the process with a demonstration farm, they serve as an information hub for future years and increase the number of producers learning about soil health and carbon sequestration. At the conclusion of the project, the western NC agricultural community will have the benefit of a knowledge sharing network made up of producers and technical advisors with experience in Carbon Farm planning and on-farm adoption of climate-resilient conservation practices. Project partners and supporters will leverage established networks to share information regarding adapting the Carbon Farm planning process throughout the Southeast.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Foster a Carbon Farm Planning process suited to the Southeast, adapted from an NRCS prototype that the California Resource Conservation Districts utilize.

    1.a. Establish a design team to oversee training development and delivery, with the following organizations confirmed – Carbon Cycle Institute; Cultivating Resilience LLC; Organic Growers School; NRCS East Technology Center, Soil Health Division and the state office; NC Association of Conservation Districts; and the Thomas Jefferson Conservation District in Virginia.

    1.b. Offer a series of webinars and in-field trainings to introduce the USDA tools that promote weather resilient farms to a class of 40 technical advisors, including those that will continue to grow the training capacity in the Southeast. Share the webinars to a broader audience by promoting and posting the presentations online.

    1.c. Solicit input from the first class to inform adaptive management for future training offerings. Share lessons learned through Carbon Farm plans specific to classic North Carolina production systems. Recommend a Southeast prototype standard to NRCS state office.

     

    1. Provide resources to North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Districts to establish Carbon Farm demonstration and promote agriculture resilience through broader community engagement.

    2.a. Work with a minimum five Conservation Districts to engage a producer whose operation will serve as Carbon Farm demonstrations. Selected producers will be motivated to explore weather resilience, Greenhouse Gas reductions and carbon sequestration.

    2.b. Complete a Carbon Farm Plan per demonstration farm. Embed the Carbon Farm Plan into an overall Conservation Plan that meets NRCS standards. Share a summary of the plans online.

    2.c. Work with participating producers to secure state, federal, or private cost-share resources to implement a soil health management system and other conservation practices as recommended in the Carbon Farm plan.

     

    1. Foster development of producer networks to promote future information exchange through broader community engagement.

    3.a. Offer field days and classroom style discussions with each Carbon Farm demonstration at the center of the events; an estimated attendance impact is 250 overall, assuming an average of 50 attendees per outreach meeting.

    3.b. Create a series of YouTube styled videos, focused on telling the story of participating producers and their local partners. Share the videos across online platforms and promote the resource at meetings across the broader conservation partnership.

    3.c. Host a series of discussions with participating producers and producers solicited from the outreach events to solidify a producer network around agriculture resilience. Release a summary report on recommended best practices regarding building agriculture resilience farmer networks.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.