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Rodale Soil Carbon White Paper

Excellent thought piece. Here's the proposition:

If carbon sequestration rates attained by exemplary cases were achieved on crop and pastureland across the globe, regenerative agriculture would sequester more than our current annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, providing a mechanism to meet global carbon emissions goals, drawdown legacy carbondioxide, and give us the time needed to bring emissions from other sectors in to balance.

Focused win 'biodiversity below the ground', the Rodale Institute offers a win/win solution for better farming outcomes while mitigating climate change. 

CHB Mail publishes on grazing workshop

The 10 Sep CHB Mail published a full account of Siobhan Griffin's ‘Next Level Grazing’ workshop, which HB Future Farming Trust sponsored (alongside another in Sherenden).

The article was written by Joanna Ibell and is attached here.

Regenerative Grazing Presentations – Hawke’s Bay -- Aug 24-25

Sponsored by the Hawke’s Bay Future Farming Trust

Take your grazing practices to the next level. Achieve more pasture growth and better soils.

Siobhan Griffin of ‘Next Level Grazing’ will be making a presentation – Regenerating the Unlimited Grassland – at two venues in HB later this month.

 Siobhan has years of hands-on farming experience with regenerative grazing in US and NZ (Southland). She has taught well-received workshops for Quorum Sense in Southland.

Her presentation will cover what she has learned over the past fourteen years practicing regenerative grazing – what it is exactly we are trying to regenerate and how the  practices are being implemented on New Zealand farms. This includes growing dairy heifers, breeding and finishing lamb and beef on quality grass, managing for diversity at low to no cost, drought proofing and flood proofing her farm in a changing climate. 

Monday, August 24th, 1-3pm, Wallingford Hall

Tuesday, August 25th, 1-3pm, Sherenden Hall

These events are free. But for catering purposes, please register using the easy form here.

For more details, contact Greg Hart: greg@thefamilyfarm.co.nz  027 499 0097

*****

Carbon-neutral dairy farming isn’t just sustainable, it’s more profitable too

The Covid-19 crisis has shown us what can be achieved in New Zealand if we work towards a common goal rather than wholly directed by self-interest.

In my view, farming in New Zealand could be driven by a similarly united ambition to become carbon neutral and then, ultimately, a net extractor of atmospheric carbon. There is a clear need to make our farms more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. Farming that produces more each year with fewer inputs and is resilient to climate volatility is in our common interest.

It would be useful to see this goal articulated by the government. Instead of punitive regulations, a bold approach would be to educate farmers and reward them for improving soil carbon sequestration, preserving valuable nutrients on-farm and reducing methane emissions to make animals more productive – all with the ultimate pay-off that premium markets will pay more for traceable products that have this kind of story standing behind them.

This could form the basis of a uniquely New Zealand solution where farmers are key troops in the war against climate change. Not through relying on the chessboard manoeuvres of traded offsets and market schemes, and not through production reductions, but through the actual capture and storage of carbon from the atmosphere into the soil sinks of our farms. This should be practicable and, equally, profitable.

The EU is planning to pay farmers to capture carbon on their farms – storing it in pastures, trees, hedgerows, and perhaps most critically, in soil. There is logic to this as soil has the ability to hold immense amounts of atmospheric carbon.Carbon-rich topsoil is very productive and the world needs far more of it.

New Zealand could take a similar path and incentivise pastoral farmers to make climate change mitigation central to their farming practices. The techniques are available and largely uncomplicated: rotational grazing, riparian and other planting, the use of earthworms and dung beetles, biochar, inverse tillage, low tillage, and rotational, deep-rooted, cover and catch crops. These and other farm management tactics can all come together to enable really significant soil carbon sequestration. Other countries call it regenerative agriculture. For us, it should be the normal New Zealand farming system.

At Southern Pastures, we’re practising and researching these methods on our own farms. We’re firmly focused on identifying the final pieces of the jigsaw that could see this country leading the way in producing carbon-neutral dairy. We’re a large dairy operator underwritten by long-term pension funds and our sustainability and climate change mitigation ambitions for our farms do not jeopardise this investment. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – our long-term view enables us to reimagine the industry both on and off the farm. Our founding environmental, social, governance policies resonate with our customers, as do our obligations to the UN as a signatory to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment.

I’m convinced that sustainably farmed, carbon-neutral products can earn a premium for the country as a whole. My confidence is also based on what I’m seeing in our own research projects and farm practices and on the international evidence that is accumulating at pace.

We must aim for dairy that’s less extractive but also more enriching for our communities as well as the country’s coffers.
[ends]

*****

A message on the Hawke's Bay drought from Trustee and CHB farmer Will Foley
14 May 2020

Farming in the summer dry environment is not new to Hawke’s Bay, but this year is unprecedented in the severity and length of the drought.

I know firsthand the stress our farmers and their farming systems are under. And I hope all farmers are taking advantage of the supports available now to get through the immediate crisis.

The drought crisis hub on the HBRC website is a collection of all the information compiled by the Hawke’s Bay Rural Advisory Group to assist farmers in the many different aspects of your business and personal well-being affected by drought. There is also contact information there to help you with any further support required.  Funding is now available to help farmers out so don’t be afraid to reach out.

But I also want to comment on the future.

I serve as a trustee of the Hawke’s Bay Future Farming Trust. The HBFFT was setup last year to focus on and support resilient, profitable and sustainable farming in our region.

Our thoughts go out to all farmers and their families during this time of stress, and like you we wish for some rain very soon to give hope for some pasture growth to return to our parched pastures.

Looking to the future, the Trust’s aim is to research, find and promote new ways of farming in the Hawke’s Bay environment that particularly excel during the dry periods. We are about to launch some projects with that goal.

We would like to hear from anyone who thinks that they have techniques, pastures or crops that have worked or coped better than others during the current dry.

Your ideas  and interest would be especially valuable as we begin our ‘on the ground’ work.

We are in this together.

Will Foley

*****

Greg Hart Looks ahead to 2030
12 April 2020

The sun sets on another beautiful autumn day at Mangarara – The Family Farm, near the thriving community of Elsthorpe in Hawke’s Bay.

It’s early April 2030 and I am reflecting on the last decade since the Covid-19 virus changed the world for good.

Feelings of massive gratitude flood my thoughts as I appreciate how fortunate I am to live in New Zealand, the country that has lead the world on a new regenerative path over this past decade. Every environmental, social and economic measurement is now showing improvement.

We can’t ignore the dark times of the mid 2020s. In many countries there has been tragic loss of life and social upheaval as globalisation unravelled and economies crashed, breaking the long supply chains that were unseen … until they weren’t there anymore.

Until this time we were oblivious of the role oil played in every part of our lives. Global tensions escalated as it became obvious that despite efforts to pump more oil from the earth, we were on the irreversible slide down the peak oil curve. With the benefit of hindsight we could see that oil production peaked in 2018. Fortunately, mass public rallies all around the world calling for peace prevented a disastrous world war.

Life has got a lot simpler. After the practice run we got from being isolated in our ‘bubbles’ for eight weeks back in 2020, many of us appreciated the slower pace of life and more quality time with our family. The lockdown bought communities together where we supported those who were struggling and shared what we had. Life simplified, but our connection to each other and the earth deepened and we felt much richer for it.

Changing the system

The ‘infinite growth’ economic model that required ever more consumption of finite resources was always destined to fail.

At Mangarara, we had been planning for a different future for a number of years; however, the Covid-19 virus acted as the catalyst that catapulted us into action.

Changing our farm debt from the interest-sucking Australian banks that took over $1,000 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand through the 20-teens was the first change we made.

Parents who had financed us into the farm remained our main backers, but we created a Limited Partnership which enabled a group of passionate change-makers to join The Family Farm team and invest in a better future. We developed the farm to become a model of Regenerative Agriculture and created a thriving ‘Agrihood’ with a diverse range of land based enterprises, which has enabled other families to live and generate their livelihoods off the once-traditional sheep and beef farm.

While the farm has remained profitable financially, this group understands that wealth is much more then dollars and cents. Financial profits are distributed to shareholders after ensuring the environment and the community around the farm are taken care of.

The widespread shift to Regenerative Agriculture since 2020 has been revolutionary. People began to understand that action on Climate Change was urgent. And the science community verified that sequestering carbon from the atmosphere back into the soil was our best hope to mitigate its worst effects. After years of being vilified New Zealand farmers rose to the challenge and became the heroes once more.

The old way of farming was no longer possible as supply chains broke down, with fertilizer and other chemicals from the other side of the planet no longer available. With the use of diverse pastures, wise crop rotation and inputs sourced locally to stimulate the soil microbes that maintain the health of the soil and plants, farms maintained their production while increasing their profitability.

Shortening the supply chain of farm inputs and becoming largely self-sufficient through effectively recycling nutrients has made the farm much more resilient to climate and market shocks that still occur.

Resilience has been built into the system by building carbon levels in the soil so it holds more water and acts like a sponge, allowing pastures to absorb more water faster during heavy rainfall events and to continue growing for longer in the dry Hawke’s Bay summers.

Now, in 2030, Mangarara sequesters four times more carbon than it emits (455% to be more precise). Our total farm emissions are 1,445 tonnes CO2e per year. However, we offset those emissions each year through our pasture management practices and our trees. Our soil alone sequesters 1,725 tonnes CO2e.

And this is augmented by our strategic planting of trees. Mangarara has been regenerating native forest both original and planted with community support, complemented by areas of exotic forestry planted before the ‘Great Reset’ of 2020. Since that time we have planted 400ha of the 470ha effective grazing area in a diverse mix of trees, creating a silvopasture that is sequestering approximately 4,000 tonnes CO2e per year. And our exotic forestry accounts for another 861 tonnes CO2e.

Our trees are providing shade and shelter for the animals that graze contentedly amongst them. The trees are cycling nutrients from deep in the soil profile, further reducing the need for fertiliser to be applied. They are reducing erosion while also providing the animals with a diverse diet, allowing them to self-medicate and resulting in excellent animal health. Trees create habitat for birds and insects and when combined with Holistic Grazing Management that has taller pastures with longer rest periods between grazing, the diverse insect populations increase and the whole eco-system really comes to life.

Building the ‘Agrihood’ Community

Like the family of shareholders who came on board to support the regenerative vision for the farm there is a large community of ‘careholders’ who have been supporting the farm by buying Mangarara farm produce from butcher shops in Hawke’s Bay and Auckland.

Over the years most of those people have visited the farm, either on one of our many farm open days or staying at our Eco Lodge. They understand the intimate connection between the health of the soil and environment and the nutrition of the food and ultimately the health of their family and society. This connection to the farm and the friendships built is one of the most rewarding outcomes of my farming career.

Like most other farms in Hawke’s Bay our surplus production is exported to the most discerning markets in the world, where a big premium is paid for the certified Regenerative farming system that it was grown in. As these techniques have been widely adopted throughout the country over the 2020s, New Zealand has become the first country in the world to be carbon positive, sequestering more than we emit.

New Zealand is a beacon of hope, showing that global warming can still be kept below the critical 1.5C level. Moreover, our rivers run clean again and the mental health of farmers is positive after going through a tough transition period.

In the distance I can hear the sound of children laughing as a family holidays at the Mangarara Eco Lodge. Families return year after year, so now 15 years after the lodge was opened young adults who came here in the early years are now returning with children of their own. They refer to Mangarara as ‘their farm’, which is what we wanted from the start. We were always only kaitiaki or guardians of this land for our brief time on earth.

Further out on the farm, the 20 hectares that was developed in the early 2020’s as an Agrihood is now providing community and meaningful lives for another 10 families. This group of pioneers came from a range of backgrounds with a diverse set of skills and experiences. The one thing they all had in common was the understanding of the need to live more lightly on the earth and the opportunity to play an active role in healing the earth and society. Their eco-friendly homes were built from macrocarpa milled on the farm and other local materials. And they are off-grid, powered by a network of renewable energy.

Unfortunately, many people in the western world were not prepared for empty supermarket shelves during the food crisis that began in 2022. Many went hungry and the fragility of the ‘just in time’ supermarket model was exposed. This resulted in many people shifting to the country where they could at least share the responsibility of feeding their families. The Agrihood at Mangarara is largely self-sufficient in food and also supplies a cooperative store at Elsthorpe and local farmers markets in the weekends.

The Agrihood has become a model that has been replicated and adapted to many farms all around New Zealand.

Various families have developed enterprises including producing dairy products from the small dairy, poultry and eggs production from free range chickens integrated into the sheep and beef farm. A wide variety of vegetables are produced which are also available to lodge guests, where many enjoy a fully catered farm-grown meal. There are people employed on the farm in administration, marketing, and IT roles.

Beauty is the basis of all we do, exemplified by the craftsmen living in ‘the hood’ milling timber and creating beautiful furniture from trees grown on the farm. When advertising for people to come and live at Mangarara we realised the opportunities to develop new businesses were limited only by our imagination. We are delighted to now have the Permaculture Education Centre, which includes a food forest, tree nursery, vegetable gardens, as well as an education and accommodation space.

As the daylight fades and the stars begin to appear in the clear sky, a sense of contentment comes over me. I reflect on my 63 year journey through life and the massive leap in consciousness humanity has made over the last 10 years.

Yes we can have peace and beauty on a healthy planet, but it all starts by finding that peace, beauty and abundance that is inside each and every one of us.

Greg Hart

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