We believe the way we farm matters. We believe we need to nourish the earth that nourishes us. To those ends, we:
- Grow vegetables that are certified organic by the Real Organic Project and MOFGA
- Use biointensive and permaculture farming practices.
- Use mostly electric farm equipment, partially powered by solar panels.
- Amend our soil with carbon-sequestering biochar.
Why do we farm this way?
The vast majority of climate experts say:
- The climate is changing.
- These changes are largely due to human activity.
- Humans can slow down or reverse these changes.
Even many of those who remain skeptical about the claims of these experts are now reaching the conclusion that the potential risks of climate change are now so large that much more action is needed.
Many experts estimate as much as 15% of the climate change problem is caused by farming. To help address this problem, we use organic, biointensive and permaculture practices, which are far better for the climate than typical farming practices, but we also focus on two other specific actions. First, although we haven’t completely succeeded, we work hard at reducing the routine use of fossil fuels. To help meet this goal, we use lots of tools that are very efficient but are “powered” only by people, and we use lots of equipment powered by electricity. And second, we’re big fans of the soil amendment called biochar.
Biochar is charcoal-like substance that was made and used in large quantities thousands of years ago by people in South America. More recently, research at Cornell University and many other places is indicating that widespread production and use of biochar now could be hugely beneficial – and surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be much of a dispute about this. Doing this would sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil for at least hundreds of years, significantly improve soil health and crop yields, and significantly reduce the need for crop irrigation. Unfortunately, public awareness about biochar continues to be very low, so we’re trying to help increase awareness by using biochar ourselves and sharing our results. Starting in 2021, we will begin collecting data from a new round of biochar trials on 11 “virgin” plots; each of the four beds (rows) in each plot has received a different rate of “ground biochar” application. Also, in response to many requests, starting in 2020 we ordered more biochar “granules” (concentrated biochar) than we needed for our own operation, so we have enough to offer granules for resale to other farmers and gardeners. Please contact us if you may be interested in buying some biochar granules! For more information on biochar please see the biochar resources below.
Here are a few of our favorite resources on biochar:
- International Biochar Initiative – The International Biochar Initiative provides a platform for the international exchange of information and activities in support of biochar research, development, demonstration, and commercialization.
- US Biochar Initiative – The US Biochar Initiative is a not-for-profit organization promoting the sustainable production and use of biochar through research, policy, technology, and doing it!
- Sustainable Obtainable Solutions – Sustainable Obtainable Solutions is a non-profit organization dedicated to the sustainability of public lands and the plant and the animal and human communities that depend on them.
- New England Small Farm Institute – The New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI) is a land-based, non-profit organization that encourages more sustainable regional agriculture and promotes small farm development by providing information and training for aspiring, beginning, and transitioning farmers.
- Backyard Biochar – Backyard Biochar is a website that collects news and information on promising backyard biochar methods worldwide.
- Sonoma Biochar Initiative – The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI) is a project of the Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC), and is dedicated to promoting biochar education, production, and use throughout Sonoma County, California.
- CharGrow LLC – CharGrow LLC produces and sells high-quality “loaded” biochar to build soil and capture carbon while using the process energy to generate heat and electricity. This website also contains a concise summary of the results of seven years of field trials in conjunction with Virginia Tech. Look under “Results for CharGrow.”
- New England Biochar – This company uses the same successful biochar “formula” as CharGrow (founder Bob Wells was also a co-founder of CharGrow), but it provides us with a more local source of bulk biochar than CharGrow (in North Carolina), so we have been buying from NE Biochar since 2019.
- Biochar Company – The Biochar Company sells commercial-scale biochar equipment (incorporating Biochar Solutions, Inc.) and SoilReef brand biochars and blends.
- Sullivan Center for Sustainable Agriculture – The Sullivan Center for Sustainable Agriculture (in Sullivan, NH) is a CSA and consists of a small-scale, permaculture-based organic farm and orchard, a biochar production program, and an educational center.
- Cornell University – Cornell University has been one of the leading research centers for biochar. Its website includes an extensive list of references to scientific papers related to biochar.
- Biochar Revolution – The Biochar Revolution website is a global hub for the biochar industry.
- Ithaka Institute – The Ithaka Institute is conducting research into the foundations of positive climate agriculture with high biodiversity and a focus on biochar.
- Dr TLUD – The Dr TLUD website is a comprehensive online reference for TLUD biochar technology.
Please visit our Biochar YouTube playlist, which includes a link to the full “Secret of El Dorado – Terra Preta” documentary.
Learn more about biochar by watching these slideshows:
- Biochar overview by Hugh Laughlin in 2014
- A 2008 Iowa State University study of slow pyrolysis vs. fast pyrolysis vs. gasification
Reports, papers, and articles
Some wonderful resources on biochar:
- The 2014 report by the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) on the state of the biochar industry.
- A 2008 Iowa State University study of slow pyrolysis vs. fast pyrolysis vs. gasification (paper and poster).
- A 2008 paper by David Laird of Iowa State University on biochar’s potential to produce bioenergy and permanently sequester carbon, while improving soil and water quality.
- Journal of Environmental Quality 2012 article on the Environmental Benefits of Biochar by James Ippolito, David Laird (Iowa State University), and Warren Busscher.
The following discussion groups are active, civil, and populated by multiple knowledgeable contributors, but please note that they may have a limited geographic or topic focus: