Last Updated on October 17, 2022 by Argufier
What if one of the biggest contributors to climate change could be turned into one of the most powerful solutions?
This man was trying to get rid of weeds on his farm when he discovered a way to remove CO2.
In 1998, John Wick and his wife moved from San Francisco to a ranch in Northern California, but problems immediately arose. The cows from the neighboring ranch roamed freely and destroyed his land.
— So the first order of business was to get rid of the cows. Once we got rid of the cows, we thought we were done and that things would get easier for us.
It didn’t work out that way. After the cows were gone, the soil dried out and weeds invaded the ground.
— So I took it seriously, and 20 men came to us, and we pulled out all the weeds on the farm. And it got worse. The following year, more weeds came. Ten thousand weeds came to where all the weeds were arranged.
The land ecologist told John that he should bring the cows back to fight the weeds, but the cows had to be used in the right way. Cattle had to be constantly moved from one piece of land to another. This is because if the cow stays in one place for too long, it will eat everything on the ground and destroy the soil.
— So in the first year we brought in 250 cows and moved them around the farm in the right amount for them and the grass. And it worked.
By the following summer, the land had completely repaired itself, the grass had deep roots, and the soil was holding plenty of water, when the ecologist had a lightbulb moment. What if the earth did more? What if all that healthy grass helped solve climate change by pulling CO2 out of the air and storing it safely underground. If so, it would be a major breakthrough in the climate. John brought in more scientists to conduct soil tests on dozens of farms in the area to find out.
— And we found something that was very exciting. It was exciting even for scientists. We found that where cow manure was sprayed on top of the grass, those branches had more carbon in the soil. No one expected this to happen.
Dairy farms stored the most carbon in the soil. These farms were sprayed with large amounts of manure, but this manure had one major drawback. Manure produces the strongest greenhouse gases on Earth. So John wanted to find something that was just as effective as manure but didn’t warm the planet.
— So we decided to try putting the compost on the ground to see if the same thing happens.
A few months later, John checked to make sure it was working.
— And where we put compost, there was a significant amount of grass. There was 50% more grass. And it was beautiful.
More importantly, the soil stored huge amounts of carbon. And over the next few years, John’s single compost application caused the soil to store more and more carbon dioxide. In fact, it turned out that just a dusting of compost would increase that storage for decades to come.
— We were very excited about the results we saw on the farm, but in order for this to be meaningful, we need to go to other larger farms. This is what we did at Stemple Creek with Lauren. When I first heard about applying compost to the soil, I was skeptical, I didn’t really know much about it, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn.
Spreading compost on his land has produced such incredible results. Lauren now makes his own compost. His land was transformed.
— When we first started applying compost to the land, it was a great feeling to see.
You could actually see the results visually.
— The grass was greener, deeper and lusher, and created much more biodiversity in the soil and flora. And it just felt good. And you can actually look at it and say, man, we’ve really changed a lot with this practice and built the soil that way. So the compost we’re applying now will sequester carbon dioxide for the next 30 years, which is pretty epic that we can make a difference like that.
And we need such a change because agriculture is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and that number is growing. Therefore, in 2008, John co-founded the Marin Carbon Project to bring the idea of ”Carbon Farming” to as many farmers and farms as possible.
— We can reduce the temperature of the planet by increasing the health of our soil.
What started as John’s determination to get rid of weeds is now a blueprint for revolutionizing agriculture and a way for farmers to help solve climate change, not make it worse.
— This version of agriculture is actually a climate solution.
But if John’s vision is to have a global impact, it must be adopted by farms and ranches everywhere. Because it can be a powerful solution like wind farms or electric vehicles to meet the biggest challenge of our time.
The conclusion would be to eat as many beef and dairy products as we desire… but is it healthy? I’ll discuss this in another post.
At least we don’t need to feel guilty of any environmental harm that the cows caused until now – that’s for sure.