RCDs promote soil health throughout California

11/2/18

Many Resource Conservation Districts are at the cutting edge in pilot projects and programs that incentivize and provide technical assistance for carbon farming and healthy soils practices.

Working landscapes have a critical role to play in helping California’s diverse communities adapt to extreme heat and drought conditions, particularly through sequestration of atmospheric carbon in soils and vegetation. In addition to their carbon-related benefits, well-managed working lands bring significant benefits related to increased water holding capacity in soils, water quality, biodiversity, and other positive environmental impacts.

Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are no strangers to soil health. Since their inception after the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, RCDs have worked voluntarily with farmers and land managers to implement natural resource management practices that improve soil health for the benefit of agricultural viability and environmental vitality. In this month’s spotlight on soil health, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) reached out to several RCDs that are actively working in this field.

Upper Salinas – Las Tablas RCD

The Upper Salinas – Las Tablas RCD (USLTRCD) has worked to bolster its healthy soils program to better serve growers in their district. The program is focused on conservation practices which improve water retention, reduce inorganic inputs, retain soil ecology, and sequester carbon and nitrogen. Funding has been secured from the Carbon Cycle Institute and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to address the feasibility of a healthy soils initiative and to work with local vineyard operators to implement and monitor which conservation practices benefit soil health throughout northern San Luis Obispo County. USLTRCD foresees greater participation and adoption by growers in the upcoming years as information becomes available.

Their upcoming Healthy Soils Workshop on November 29, 2018 will help growers and technical assistance providers understand soil health best practices on vineyards through demonstrations and by hearing from other growers and soil health practitioners. Growers interested in applying for their own Healthy Soils Program grant will be provided information about the application process for the incentives program.

Honey Lake Valley RCD

The Honey Lake Valley RCD (HLVRCD) facilitated a Carbon Farming Workshop on Wednesday, July 25, at the Grange Hall in Johnstonville. This was the first workshop of its kind in this area of the state. Attendees included representatives from the carbon farming industry, as well as business and agency leaders from around the state. Presentations and discussions included carbon farming practices, the science and research behind it, financial opportunities and more. Other attendees included farmers, ranchers, land managers and other interested in carbon farming. Soon after the workshop the HLVRCD applied and was awarded the CDFA’s Technical Assistance Grant for Climate Smart Agriculture Programs.

In an article in the Lassen County Times published earlier this summer, Jesse Claypool, HLVRCD’s Board Chair, explains, “Farmers and ranchers can be part of a climate solution for California and the nation as a whole. Encouraging sustainable agricultural practices can reduce GHG emissions, enhance on-farm/ranch capacity for carbon sequestration and provide numerous environmental and public health co-benefits. California agriculture can be a leader in mitigating and adapting to climate change. With research proven practices, technical assistance and financial incentives, we can ensure that agriculture remains a viable, innovative, and ecologically and economically sustainable industry for years to come.”

Del Norte RCD

Del Norte RCD is a unique district that hugs the Oregon border with a regional climate that has much more precipitation than the rest of California. This makes the RCD’s role in delivering information that is tailored to the area particularly important. Del Norte RCD’s Executive Director, Linda Crockett, was raised in the area. An Easter Lily grower, one of the major exports of that county, Linda is aware of the difficulties that producers in her area have in terms of obtaining information that is relevant to their climate. Del Norte RCD’s work with soil health involves workshops in collaboration with East Stanislaus RCD and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to put on hedgerow demonstrations. Their RCD has been a critical partner in forming the NRCS Soil Health Technical Advisory Committee in the area, which distributes important information to farmers. They are also part of the Soil Health Hub and put on a soil health workshop and soil health field day in April 2018. As they build capacity, they look forward to helping growers create carbon farming plans.

CARCD & the California Farm Demonstration Network

The California Farm Demonstration Network (CDFN) is a burgeoning network of farms and ranches which will demonstrate various conservation-oriented agricultural techniques for research and education of the agricultural community as a whole. The initiative is in collaboration with CARCD, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, California Farm Bureau Federation, California Department of Food and Agriculture, University of California, Davis, and University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

RCDs throughout the state are working on many other pilot projects and programs that benefit soil health and build climate resilience throughout California. For additional information about our network’s healthy soils work, please contact us.