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Carbon Farming


Soil assessment for carbon farm plan on a Le Grand Ranchland

Carbon Farming

Carbon Farm Planning is the process of identifying opportunities to decrease the production of greenhouse gases on agriculture lands and ranchlands. The planning process utilizes the power of photosynthesis that drives the transfer of Atmospheric CO2 to stored carbohydrates in soils and above and below ground biomass. Enhancing working land carbon, whether in plants or soils, results in beneficial changes in a wide array of system attributes including: soil water holding capacity, soil hydrological function, biodiversity, soil fertility, agricultural productivity, as well as, resiliency to drought and flood.

Land use activities on agriculture, ranchlands, and other farmlands play a role in greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide). While all farming is completely dependent upon carbon, the various farming practices, and the different farm systems, can lead to variable amounts of on-farm carbon capture and storage. These lands can act as either a source or a sink of GHGs, depending on seasons, practices, history, and/or management. Carbon farm plans promote the contributions farmlands can make toward climate change mitigation.

Carbon Farm Plans can be developed for natural and working lands including: rangelands, forests, croplands and orchards.

Carbon Farm Planning uses carbon as its organizing principle to identify practices that enable agricultural operations to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Technically, all farming is “carbon farming,” because all agricultural production depends on the photosynthetic process of moving CO2 out of the atmosphere and into the plant where it is transformed into agricultural products, whether food, flora, fuel or fiber. Carbon farming practices can directly benefit farms and ranches through improved soil health, water holding capacity, crop and forage production, and resilience to climate change. They can benefit the environment by reducing demands on local water sources and enhancing wildlife and pollinator habitat. While most modern agriculture tends to lose carbon from the farm system, carbon farming aims to increase carbon stored on farms and ranches in soil organic matter, perennial plant roots, and standing woody biomass.

The Carbon Farm Process

The carbon farm process consists of strategies tailored for each specific land. The Carbon Farm Planning (CFP) process differs from other approaches to land use planning by focusing on increasing the capacity of the working farm or ranch to capture carbon and to store it beneficially in the crop, in the standing carbon stocks, and/or in the soil.

Carbon Farm Planning is the first step. Based on the conservation planning approach of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Carbon Farm Planning uses carbon as its organizing principle to identify practices that enable agricultural operations to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon Farm Planning begins with an overall inventory of natural resource conditions on the farm or ranch and identifies opportunities to enhance the capture of carbon from the atmosphere by plants and soils. The plan considers the unique production and conservation goals for each farm or ranch and fits it to the landowner’s goals, including economic considerations. The customized plan also aims to help farmers and ranchers make their lands and their businesses more productive and resilient.

The partnerships and goals are developed with the plan and once agreements are made; the plan is implemented with everything in mind. Monitoring and building relationships through the whole process, before and after the plan development, is essential in successfully reaching the landowner’s goals and meeting the needs of a healthy land.

For more information about Carbon Farm Plans, visit:

Carbon Farm Plans currently under construction with EMRCD:

  • Orvis Cattle Co.

  • Le Grand Westfall Ranchland


  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

  • Carbon Cycle Institute

  • Point Blue Conservation Science


  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

  • Patagonia Foundation

  • Landowners



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