Episode 35 of Farmerama is out and about! This month we begin in California, where they are paying farmers to sequester carbon, using practices proven to increase soil health. We hear from Charles Schembre, Vineyard Conservation Coordinator at Napa County Resource Conservation District about California’s world-leading Healthy Soils Program. This scheme compensates farmers for increasing the health of their soil – with the goal of sequestering carbon and increasing water retention. The quantities sequestered are estimated using CARB GHG Quantification Methodology and tools. For example, one farm in Merced, California is being paid $50,000 to sequester 345.6 tonnes of GHG per year. They will do this by moving to minimum tillage on farm, planting multi-species legume cover crops and spreading compost annually on 70 acres. You can also hear Charles talk about creating carbon farm plans for four vineyards in Napa county, plus details of how they monitor soil health and carbon sequestration in this month’s short (to be published shortly).

Charles Dowding

Next up, we hear from Peliti, a voluntary, non-profit organization based near Drama, in Greece. It works to preserve agricultural biodiversity through the collection and exchange of traditional seeds. There is a longer version of this interview available on our soundcloud, along with six other interviews that Pavlos and Olly from the GROW Observatory team sent us. The GROW Observatory is an EU-wide citizen science project which helps people to grow food and care for their soils using regenerative practices.

Then back to Somerset to hear from Charles Dowding, a UK-based pioneer of no-dig market gardening who makes his second appearance on the show (the first is in episode 18) to tell us how he went about planning and creating his beautiful no-dig market garden, Homeacres, in Somerset. And he also has a few tips on how to keep your garden weed-free.

Finally, we finish on US soil, deep in Indiana. Merry Lea Sustainable Farm is part of the environmental learning centre at Goshen College in Indiana. You can drive for hundreds of miles passing vast expanses of corn and soybeans with a tree here and there, but on arriving at Merry Lea you are submerged into a lush prairie and woodland landscape, with lakes all around. This is a working farm buzzing with diversity, a place for students to see just what’s possible in the Midwest. We hear from John Mischler, Merry Lea’s Director of Agroecology, and Ellie Schertz, the Assistant Farm Manager, as well as two students who’ve chosen to return to Merry Lea and volunteer for another summer.

This episode was produced by Abby Rose, Jo Barratt and Katie Revell. Thanks to the team at GROW Observatory for sending in the recording from Greece. And thank you as always to Annie Landless for keeping everyone up-to-date on social media – and to all of our guests and listeners. The Farmerama theme music comes from Owen Barratt.

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