Addressing climate change is one feat nobody can accomplish alone. The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA’s) Healthy Soils Program is designed to help at ground level, literally. Funded by dollars from California’s Cap-and-Trade Program, Healthy Soils Program (HSP) Incentives Program offers farmers and ranchers grants to implement practices that improve soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Three Tehama County farms applied and were selected to receive funding during this the first year of the Healthy Soils Incentives grant program: Lucky Dog Farms, Capay Rancho Herb Company, and Red Gate Ranch. The three are very different farm operations, yet their grant activities will move them towards the same goals.
Martin and Joann Spannaus own Lucky Dog Farms, which produces alfalfa hay, grain, and cattle and is located on 195 acres west of Corning in the Henleyville area. The couple sells hay and grain to local farmers and beef to the public by the half or whole animal.
A mother-daughter duo, Nancy and Kelly Osborne, own Capay Rancho Herb Company. They grow culinary and medicinal herbs and fruit on three and a half acres along the Sacramento River southeast of Corning. The farm is certified organic, and the Osbornes have been selling its products at the Chico certified farmers’ markets since 2014.
On Red Gate Ranch, west of Red Bluff, Heather and Kraig Austin and Audrey Pascone produce organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and meats on their 110 acres of pasture and gardens. They offer a weekly vegetable farm box by subscription and also sell the farm’s products at a farmstand on the ranch and at local farmers’ markets.
These farms received the three-year grants by submitting plans to implement farm practices that trap atmospheric carbon and improve soil health. Generally, their plans include mulching, using cover crops, applying compost, and creating hedgerows. All are practices that collectively result in greenhouse gas reduction and less erosion, more water retention in the soils and more soil nutrients, and improved wildlife habitat, including for pollinators. In addition to laying out specific actions designed to meet the goals of the HSP, each farm specified how it would share the costs of these improvements. The HSP Incentives Program also requires measurements of the effects of their practices on both greenhouse gases and soil health, as indicated by the amount of organic matter in the soil. The three farms have projected that the practices they use will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions the equivalent of the annual emissions from 133 homes.
Agricultural activities, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, accounted for nine percent of the U.S.’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2016, the latest year for which data is available. The HSP Incentives Program recognizes these farmers’ intentional work to reduce this number. Late this fall, farmers and ranchers can apply for grants in the next, 2018 round of the CDFA HSP Incentives Program. It’s a great opportunity. As Kelly Osborne points out, “We’re now able to do in three years what it might have taken us ten to accomplish.”
For information on this fall’s round of grant applications, see cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/healthysoils/IncentivesProgram.html and contact your local Resource Conservation District to request technical assistance.
All the farmers who received the grant welcome conversation and questions. Contact Red Gate Ranch at 530.727.8717 or email@example.com; Capay Rancho Herb Company at 530.736.7308; and Lucky Dog Farms at 530.824.2825.