Farmland image

With all the concern about excess carbon in the atmosphere causing global warming, it’s easy to forget that carbon is beneficial when it’s in the ground.

When Jesse McDougall and his wife inherited a farm in Vermont, they discovered that years of tilling had depleted the carbon in the soil, leaving fields so unproductive not even grass could grow. So they decided to try carbon farming.

McDougall: “When we talk about carbon farming, the idea is that we produce food, fuel, and fiber in ways that put more carbon into the ground than release it to the atmosphere.”

The McDougalls started by putting chickens on their most unproductive field.

McDougall: “The chickens did the work of scratching and aerating and fertilizing the ground, working their manure down into the dirt.”

The nutrients in the manure helped the grass grow. And as the grass became healthier and grew more, it was able to capture more carbon from the atmosphere and store it underground.

”Keeping Click To Tweet

The McDougalls added turkey, sheep, and pigs – and let the animals graze and trample the grass. That’s regenerating the fields without tilling or fertilizer and allowing the McDougalls to raise meat with less of an impact on the climate.

McDougall: “So it has been an ecological and economic boon for our small family farm.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy.

Daisy Simmons is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in research-driven storytelling. In addition to contributing to Yale Climate Connections since early 2016, she also...