Author: Deborah Sullivan Brennan | Published: May 12, 2017
he cattle herds at Santa Ysabel Ranch have provided meat and milk for centuries, and now they’re on the cutting edge of a new kind of agriculture: carbon farming.
By bunching cattle together and grazing them intensively for short periods, ranchers hope to restore grasslands and soil, and capture carbon from the atmosphere. In the ideal scenario, the operation could sequester more carbon than it produces, offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from cars or electric power.
If it sounds counterintuitive that grass-munching cows could beef up vegetation, or that cattle ranching — often criticized for its deep carbon footprint — could be a climate solution, Kevin Muno and his partner Jarod Cauzza aim to prove otherwise.
Through their company, Land of Milk and Honey, they’re conducting an experiment on the back country ranch in what they call regenerative agriculture, a process that aims to improve the area’s ecology. And they’re betting they can turn a profit doing it.
“We want to build soil, have more wildlife, have more cattle and more money for the families” working the land, Muno said.
They plan to sell grass-fed beef online, and eventually add other livestock to the operation. For now, they’re developing the system, which they hope will be a template for other ranches in the county.
The Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County received a $10,000 grant to develop a carbon farming plan with the ranchers that could guide similar efforts throughout the county, said executive director Sheryl Landrum. With more than 5,000 small farms and 208,564 acres of range land, San Diego could employ carbon farming to help meet its climate goals.
“We’re hoping that through this plan we might have something tangible for other agencies and other interested parties,” Landrum said.