American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, was recently awarded a Professional Development Program grant from the Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Administrative Council. The grant will support AFT in expanding its existing work scaling up the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices among farmers by demonstrating the economic and environmental benefits realized from successful soil health management practices in wine grapes, wheat and other crops. The project, entitled “From Classroom to the Field: Soil Health Bottom Line: Expanding Adoption of Healthy Soils Practices by Quantifying the Economic and Environmental Benefits to Growers,” will focus in AFT’s California and Pacific Northwest regions.

The dual strategies of keeping land in farming and managing it with good stewardship practices offers a viable and encouraging solution to climate change. No other approach to combat climate change yields the vital combination of abundant food, clean water and sustainable landscapes.

“Healthy soils offer many benefits, including resiliency to extreme weather, nutrient and water storage and carbon sequestration,” says Hannah Clark, AFT’s Pacific Northwest regional director. “Growers want to improve soil health, but lack of information on the economic outcomes can be a barrier. Through this grant, we aim to help arm growers with the knowledge they need to make decisions around soil health based on economic and environmental impacts.”

AFT’s scope of work entails delivering ten train the trainer workshops in ten major agricultural regions throughout Washington, Oregon and California. The workshops will provide agricultural service providers as well as staff from conservation districts, NGOs and land trusts with training on technical tools to assess and communicate the economic and environmental benefits of soil health practices in wine grapes, wheat and other crops. Following the workshops, select participants will create case studies featuring the economic and environmental benefits regional farmers realized from the implementation of these practices. The case studies will serve as a critical tool in providing motivation to other growers to adopt soil health practices on their own farms.

Through these resources and trainings, AFT aims to grow a network of professionals with an enhanced understanding of the multiple benefits of healthy soils and a capacity to apply relevant technical tools. This network will support the expansion of soil health management systems in the west.

“Climate-smart agriculture is fundamental in the fight against climate change,” says Kara Heckert, AFT’s California state director. “Realizing a sustainable future means investing in a strong foundation of service providers and farmers that can build the health of our soil, making it more productive and capable of absorbing vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.”

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