Farming with Climate Change in Mind
A major contributor to climate change is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Thankfully, trees, plants, and soils can draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and respirate out oxygen. (That’s one of the many reasons why we love them so much!)
As farmers, we’re particularly focused on regenerative agriculture, and making our soils as effective as possible at storing carbon.
At Erickson Fields, where we grow vegetables, we avoid annual row crop farming. Row cropping is a common farming practice that often involves monocropping (growing a single crop on many acres), heavy tillage, chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and whole crop removal, which strips soil of existing carbon wells and degrades its ability to store carbon in the future.
Instead, we prioritize biodiversity and healthy soil microbiology by growing dozens of varieties of crops in our four-acre garden. We teach local youth and supply area food pantries with thousands of pounds of healthy fresh veggies every year!
We utilize techniques like no till or minimum tilling, “natural farming,” cover cropping, intercropping, compost made from cow manure from nearby Aldermere Farm, and integrated pest management to enhance soil health and improve the soil’s carbon-storing powers.
Our farming practices at Erickson Fields aim to remove rather than add carbon to the atmosphere.
At Aldermere Farm, where we graze livestock, we thoughtfully manage our pastures to enhance their health and carbon-storing capabilities.
We do this by carefully rotating cows through the pastures to spread their manure’s nutrients to the growing plants while creating hummocks and depressions for water to seep into the soil. Our cows eat a wide diversity of pasture species, which encourages species diversity, stimulates photosynthesis, and increases carbon sequestration in the soil.
These regenerative farming practices result in increased carbon sequestration, water infiltration and retention, and maintenance of species and habitat diversity. The environmental impacts of this type of farming are extremely different from raising livestock in the industrial food system.
A simple soil test is one indicator of the soil’s total carbon reservoir. At Aldermere, our established pastures with grazing Belties average around 8-9% organic matter, which is quite high, and indicates our established pasture system is already protecting a large well of carbon. Other fields, which are mechanically managed with mowers, bushhogs, and the like, show more like 5-6% organic matter content.
As participants in the first Maine Soil Health Network cohort, we’re excited to be involved in more complex soil testing, data sharing, and studying the effects of different management practices. As part of the Network, we’re creating a Climate Adaptation Plan to map out the unique climate mitigation and adaptation approaches we’re taking.
We’re constantly learning about more regenerative practices from other local farms and Indigenous communities, and we’re sharing what we’re learning with our program participants and through various workshops and networks.
For farmers who don’t have the time and resources to try out regenerative techniques, we’re happy to be able to experiment and collect and share data as well as hands-on skills and knowledge of what works.
More Stories from the Coast
MCHT has been engaging in “natural climate solutions” for over fifty years, which is a critical component of the multi-faceted approach we must take to slow the rate of climate change and mitigate its impacts.
Enock Glidden is helping Maine land trusts make their trails more accessible.
“Writing the Land is an attempt to honor nature and our relationship with it in a way that is as equitable and transparent as it is deep and entangled. We intend to be as inclusive—to humans and places—as we hope the mantle of protection that land trusts offer can be.”
Our new Southern Maine Outreach Coordinator is excited to bring her skillset and outdoor educational experience to this new position at MCHT.
Zhenya Mikha spends formative years on the Teen Ag Crew at Erickson Fields, fostering an interest in conservation and studying ecology and psychology.