I wish I had written Nathaneal Johnson’s article because it does an excellent job of describing the work that my good friends are doing in California. I’ve been talking to John, who owns the ranch where this work began, about the results of the research being done there so that I could share them with you. But Nathaneal Johnson wrote this before I could, so read this now!
While this article doesn’t actually give you the steps for turning your grassland ranch into a carbon sink, it will give you some background in what’s going on out there that should give us all hope. I’m continuing to talk to John, and will have the working details for you as soon as they’re available.
For a little more background, John and his wife Peggy didn’t start out to be ranchers. But soon after moving in, they realized they had a big project on their hands. The first thing they had to do was to deal with a significant weed problem. When they realized that herbicides were doing more harm than good, they looked for other solutions. So they invited me in to help them teach cattle to eat the weeds. It was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever done!
From dealing with weeds, they moved on to creating the healthiest vegetation and environment they could. Working with Jeff Creque, a local ecologist, they implemented a management intensive grazing system so that they could use time and timing to get rid of weeds, and they could reduce competition from non-native annuals to give the native species the opportunity to rebound.
They named their place “Nicasio Native Grass Ranch” in honor of their goal for their place and all their hard work. Thanks to Jeff’s deep understanding of ecology, the growth habits of plants, and the biology of creatures we can use as tools, combined with John and Peggy’s investment of labor, time and money, native species have increased dramatically and weeds and non-natives have decreased. Then John and Peggy invested in research on their efforts to increase soil carbon because they wanted to make sure that what they did was actually working. Things that didn’t work for them, like key line plowing using a Yeoman’s plow, they dropped by the wayside. Through it all, they’ve never stopped asking questions, educating themselves, and coming up with innovative solutions.
When things aren’t going well, and I need to go to “my happy place” I go to the Nicasio Native Grass Ranch in my mind. For me it’s evidence that you can have fun and save the planet too!