Page 45 - The Hunt - Summer 2019
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                 Carbon is found in all living organisms, including the bacteria and critters below ground, where it exists in solid form. While most of the Earth’s carbon is stored in our oceans, it’s also in soil. This is why soil plays a significant role in maintain-
ing a balanced global carbon cycle. When it’s disturbed through traditional farming methods like tilling and plowing, the organic carbon mixes with oxygen and sun to create carbon dioxide, the toxic atmospheric gas that’s the main cause
of manmade climate change.
“Farming that breaks up the soil and
leaves it barren for long periods robs the soil of organic matter, without paying it back,” says Jeffrey Dukes, a professor of biological sciences and a member of the Ecological Society of America. “Plants— and especially their roots—contribute carbon compounds to the soil that serve as food for microbes and other organisms. Without carbon input from plants, the soil food web can’t thrive.” So, farming
systems that keep living plants in the soil for longer periods of time are more likely to maintain, or even build up, the soil’s organic matter, which in turn contributes to the fertility of the soil and to its ability to take up and retain moisture.
Coverdale decided about six years ago to stop using chemical fertilizers. “In both animals and production, our primary focus is the soil,”Wales says. “When you focus on that, everything else is easier.”
To foster a diverse ecosystem and rebuild the health of the soil, Coverdale’s forward-thinking farmers are turning to “regenerative agriculture”—a millennia- old method that mimics natural processes by using livestock to farm their own land with rotational grazing. They’ve devised a three-phase plan that began in 2016 and aims to better the environment while also being economically viable. “We’re moving toward a system that honors the land,” says Wales. “As an environmental organization, we have a responsibility to demonstrate sound land stewardship in a way that’s restorative and not damaging or
THE MOIST, SLIGHTLY SWEET- SMELLING “DIRT” IS HOME TO BILLIONS OF LIVE ORGANISMS.
Coverdale Farm Preserve helps visitors connect with the earth and improve the environment through education and sustainable agricultural practices.
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