August 1st, 2011

Carbon Nation: Organic Farming Sequesters CO2

peterbyckby Peter Byck—
Early on in the filming of Carbon Nation, we were given the compelling hint that organic farming may actually be a huge asset in the sucking down of atmospheric CO2.  This was excellent news, since we were of the mind that there is too much CO2 up there already (387 parts per million when we finished the movie) when compared to the amount that held steady for the past 10,000 years (280 ppm), the period that saw most if not all of human achievement. Our associate producer, Jim Slama, insisted we get in touch with the Rodale Institute, that they would have the data. So my pregnant wife/Carbon Nation producer, Chrisna, and I headed out to the countryside near Kutztown, Pennsylvania, with a pit stop at Premise Maid (sweet tooth disclaimer) and discovered Rodale’s 70-year-old side-by-side testing plots comparing organic and chemical (not “conventional”) farming.  I think organic is more “conventional” than chemical farming.

carbon_nation

Besides making the soil more robust and allowing it to retain water in drought and absorb water in flood (two things global weirding has in store), and in addition to greatly reducing soil erosion and creating healthy food, organic farming does indeed sequester huge amounts of carbon. How huge? We were told at Rodale that it was up to 3,000 pounds of carbon per acre per year when using manure as compost and legumes as winter cover crops.

An interesting thing was happening when we were at Rodale: Some organic farmers were interested that organics sequestered carbon, and some simply were not. Because of this, not every farmer we asked to interview said yes. We were thrilled, then, when Kore Yoder agreed. He had started organic farming when he realized that his young children couldn’t play in the freshly planted chemically farmed fields of corn—that he had to wear hazmat clothing while planting. Climate change was not on his radar. Healthy food and clean fields for his family were paramount.

I asked Yoder if his organic corn had the same yields as his neighbors’ chemical corn. He said that in normal years, his yield was a bit lower, but in years of drought and years of flood, when his neighbors’ crops were ruined, he had yields consistent with normal-weather years.

From where we, the Carbon Nation team, stand, organic farming offers cascading benefits of clean fields, clean groundwater, healthy food, robust soils, and a powerful solution to removing all that extra CO2 from the air and storing in the ground, in the soil, where it belongs. We hope to make this story heard by many, many people.

The Carbon Nation DVD goes on sale August 1, 2011, at carbonnationmovie.com. It will also be available in On Demand and streaming, and in retail stores like Walmart across the United States and Canada—please visit carbonnationmovie.com for more details.


Peter Byck has over 20 years experience as a director and editor. His first documentary Garbage won the South by Southwest Film Festival. In 1986, Peter received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts. Peter has become a sought after speaker on the subject of climate change solutions and sustainability issues since making “carbon nation,” and  has been invited to speak at Boeing, Disney, Microsoft, Walmart, SC Johnson, Stonyfield, Wall Street Journal, Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, Producers’ Guild of America, NetImpact, AREDAY, Yale, Duke, Stanford & Cambridge.

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