In 2007-2008, as we were selling Laura’s Lean Beef and I was recovering from a horseback riding smash-up, a Donella Meadows Fellowship focused my attention on climate change.
I had entered the program thinking the biggest environmental problems confronting agriculture had to do with the use of chemicals in farming, and, in economics, externalities, and, related to this, industry concentration.
What I learned changed my mind. The facts are there – climate change is the whopper of a systems problem, the one on which the instructors at the fellowship focused. Since I had made a little money and had the inclination to work on complex problems, after the fellowship, my husband and I gathered up our possessions, sold our retirement place, and moved back to our farm in Kentucky.
It took several more years and several iterations of our plan to get things moving forward again. We realized we were not spring chickens, so to make sure this project would outlive us, we recruited a team of young leaders to learn, take ownership, and carry on when we collapse.
In the decade since the fellowship, my strategy crystallized. Most climate activists are intent on stopping the burning of fossil fuels…shutting down the carbon pumps…and we are doing this too. We have installed solar panels, do our best to conserve, drive less, and so on.
But the instructors at Meadows and their early models of climate change left out/didn’t emphasize using biological systems to drawdown carbon. This is what we are doing.
Our approach is multi-pronged and local. Here, in small-town Winchester, Kentucky, we have increased our commitment to the food system, starting a farm-to-table restaurant and a farm-to-bottle craft distillery, growing green employment while decreasing food miles.
Simultaneously, we are developing our land as a carbon sink. The Rodale Institute and others say that it is possible to sequester all…let me say that again…all 52 gigatons of CO2 and CO2 equivalents emitted annually… by switching to farming practices which maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of carbon returned to the soil.