The practice of “carbon farming,” which once seemed like an idealist’s dream, is becoming a reality in Marin County. The California Coastal Conservancy has just announced a $200,000 grant to the Marin Resource Conservation District that will fund as many as 10 projects on local ranches and farms. At each project, landowners and the M.R.C.D. will take measures to capture atmospheric carbon, improve riparian habitat and optimize the use and retention of water. The use of compost, the restoration of streams using native trees and shrubs and the development and protection of water sources are a few of the actions that the grant will support. Each project will be monitored for at least 10 years to measure its results and to improve future carbon farming techniques. The overall goal is to implement carbon-beneficial practices that result in resiliency to climate change while also providing a greater economic return to ranchers.

The grant is the latest local initiative to help reduce greenhouse gasses through agricultural practices, starting with a 2008 grant to the M.R.C.D. that helped launch the Marin Carbon Project. In 2013, the district funded three demonstration carbon farming plans that proved their effectiveness. “It has been amazing to see how carbon farming is taking off,” said Nancy Scolari, the district’s executive director. “We now have many more applications from ranchers than we can serve, as the benefits are becoming clear.” The Marin Agricultural Land Trust also is strongly backing the program, providing $50,000. Other partners will include the Marin Carbon Project, which will help select the projects, and federal, state and county agencies involved in agriculture and conservation. 

George Clyde is an associate director with the Marin R.C.D. He lives in Marshall.