Woodwell Climate supporting sustainable alpaca farming efforts
Making agriculture more sustainable is a critical component of tackling climate change, and Woodwell Climate Research Center (formerly Woods Hole Research Center) Associate Scientist Dr. Jonathan Sanderman is working locally with a particularly adorable subject matter. Several southeastern New England alpaca and wool farms are partnering with the Southeastern New England Fibershed team and to develop a Carbon Farming Cohort, to identify best practices for their grazing and animal management systems.
Fibershed is a national organization that helps farmers minimize their carbon footprint and environmental impact, from raising animals to fiber processing to garment-making. The Southeastern New England Fibershed team is working with Dr. Sanderman, Dr. Christine Worthington, a local pasture management specialist, and Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP).
Last fall, Dr. Sanderman processed soil samples from each of the farms using Woodwell Climate’s Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and elemental analyzer to get baseline data on soil properties and health. That data will allow for comparisons as farmers try alternative farming and grazing practices in hopes of increasing the soil’s carbon storage. Long-term, if the practices are shown to increase soil carbon sequestration, farmers may receive Fibershed’s Climate Beneficial certification, used by companies like The North Face and Patagonia.
“Looking at farmers as a solution to climate change instead of a problem became a really compelling approach for me,” said Karen Schwalbe, Executive Director of SEMAP. “Helping farmers understand how farming is connected to the climate, to the environment, to ecosystems, and to give them the tools to do better farm management with outcomes like better soil health, also better planetary health, and an increase in biodiversity. Working with Dr. Sanderman means we’re not just making nice-sounding promises – we’re making real contributions to confronting climate change.”
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