Regenerative Organic Agriculture
Silver Reef Organic Farms is a sustainable farm moving toward a Regenerative Organic Agriculture model. Since we first started farming in Northern Colorado in 2013, we have learned a lot about sustainable agriculture initiatives and how these practices create profitable and environmentally responsible farms. However, our education has led us to pursue Regenerative Organic Farming techniques so that we can do even more for the land. So, in 2018 we began implementing Regenerative Practices into our farm management techniques.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
What is Regenerative Agriculture? To put it in simple terms, it is farming practices that support the conservation of the land and rehabilitation to food and farming systems. Regenerative Agriculture encompasses holistic land management practices by leveraging nature’s natural cycles. Research has shown us overtime the damaging effects current agriculture practices have on the land and the environment. For example, over tillage damages the soil as well as releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and using chemical based fertilizers strips the soil of its nutrient. Overtime, these practices affect water retention capabilities of the soil and will contribute to erosion potential. We realized this would be a key piece for us to look at since organic farming systems rely heavily on mechanical weed control to help with weed mitigation. Relying on tractors and heavy tillage equipment diminishes the opportunity for sequestering carbon. The main purpose for Regenerative Agriculture is to reverse climate change by restoring areas of erosion, increasing carbon sequestration, rebuilding the soil’s organic matter by focusing on biodiversity, restoring soil fertility, and saving water.
Here is what we have done…
Silver Reef ORganic Farms Regenerative Farming Practices
Minimal Till is essential for soil health and carbon sequestration. Over tiling the soil leads to the break down and compaction of soil particles, releasing carbon to the atmosphere and higher rates of soil erosion. In organic farming systems, minimal or no till alone is not going to do the job so pairing it with other regenerative practices improves field health. Incorporating minimal tillage initiatives with other practices will hold carbon in the soil which is where we want to keep it. If plants “inhale” carbon for plant growth and “exhale” oxygen through photosynthesis, then the goal of minimal till is to keep the carbon in soil rather than releasing it back in to the atmosphere. By seeking to keep the carbon in the subsoil through minimal tillage practices we are also reducing surface and organic matter erosion.
Between the end of September and Mid-October, we plant cover crop mixes that include legume seed varieties such as radish and peas. Cover crops provide the farm with operating efficiency by reducing manure applications and purchases of supplemental nitrogen. Nitrogen needs are then met by using legumes to create nitrogen fixation in the soils. Utilizing cover crops as a smothering crop, improves weed management, and reduces labor and fuel use for mechanical weed control methods. While there are many advantages to cover crops for operating efficiency, they also provide the soil with additional organic matter by sequestering carbon, fixing nitrogen and thus reducing soil nitrous oxide emissions.
Alternative Manure Sources
Here at Silver Reef Organic Farms, we continually seek for local and sustainable resources for our crop fertilization needs. In recent years, our management plan has moved to utilizing poultry litter as our primary nutrient source. Poultry litter is more nutrient dense per ton than cattle manure which makes it a more cost effective source of crop fertilizer. Increased nutrient density of poultry litter renders the need for less tons per acre which translates to less trips in the semi’s to meet our whole-farm nutrient needs. This move helps to further reduce our fuel costs, wear and tear on equipment, improve local road conditions and lower carbon emissions.
What is Carbon Sequestration?
Photosynthesis is a vital part in carbon sequestration. During photosynthesis, plants intake carbon through the atmosphere and root systems, retaining the carbon within their leaves and roots, then releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. Carbon is a key element in structural and reproductive health of plants; oxygen is a key element of the atmosphere and life here on earth. Mainstream Agriculture practices use tractors that will make multiple passes over the soil, releasing this carbon back into the atmosphere before the plant is able to utilize it. The effect of releasing carbon into the atmosphere creates ozone and global warming issues. As a regenerative practice, Silver Reef Organic Farms has implemented a minimal tillage initiative to help support the reestablishment of a balanced carbon cycle.
NORI CROPLANDS PROJECT
While on the path to regenerative organic production, Silver Reef Organic Farm is participating in the NORI Croplands Pilot Program. The Nori US Croplands program allows growers that are implementing regenerative practices on their properties an opportunity to sell off additional carbon sequestered through a private-sector marketplace. Agricultural conservation practices that include reducing/eliminating tillage, planting cover crops, reducing chemical fertilizer use, incorporating manure and composts, integrating livestock, and introducing new crop rotations qualify.
The NORI Croplands Pilot Program allows farmers and ranchers to gain additional per acre revenue based on the farming practices implemented field-level. You can learn more about Nori here: nori.com.
We commit to growing high quality Organic crops in Northern Colorado. We are a USDA Certified Organic Farm who is committed to growing our crops with respect for the land, transparency with our buyers, and hard work and vigilance to grow the best crops we can.
We commit to prioritizing todays farmlands available to future generations while adhering to all Organic regulations. To uphold this commitment, we take action. As stewards of the land we must be willing to grow as our environment grows. So, to keep ourselves and our farm running at its highest good we have OUR Sustainability practices
We commit to providing everyone the resources that we use to run a USDA Certified Organic farm. We commit to helping others grow organic by sharing what we have learned too far and what we will continue to learn in the future.