Carrying the Torch for Healthy Soils

November 2021 CCC Newsletter

As these short days turn into long nights, we are buoyed by those holiday traditions that bring light to the darkness. The holiday lighting of candles on a menorah, the Christmas lights aplenty, all moving the spirit of closing out the old year and moving on with the new. While we mourn the recent passing of one of our founders, Will Bakx, we look forward to carrying the torch for healthy soils to honor his memory. Will would not likely want us dwelling on the past but surging ahead to enthusiastically perpetuate his lifelong mission to better the planet, in particular enlightening all of us on the value of healthy soils. Will was a passionate leader, a guiding light in the compost community (among his many interests), and was among the first that many of us learned from to make the connection between climate change and soils.

While California combined a banner year for organics policymaking in 2021 with budget allocations to fund infrastructure and SB 1383 implementation – along with unprecedented investments into Healthy Soils and Climate Smart Agriculture – legislation and funding accomplishments in Washington D.C. nearly stole the spotlight. The Build Back Better Act added piles of gold from the Federal coffers, helping to blaze the way for sustainable agriculture from coast to coast. Congresswoman Julia Brownley has enlisted an illustrious list of legislative co-authors to push the COMPOST Act (Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion Of Sustainable Techniques), adding more fuel to the burning desire for getting organics out of landfills on a massive scale. While international leaders met in Glasgow, trying to secure a safe planet for future generations, calls from American leadership on increasing soil organic carbon is resonating from the mega-corporate boardrooms of Cargill, General Mills, Walmart, and others to the halls of Congress.

Given its position as the largest agricultural producing state in the country, closing the loop on organics, back to our farmland soils, is another area where #Californiamustlead; (and she has!) with the Dept. of Food and Agriculture, Resources Agency, and Air Resources Board all working on Natural and Working Lands strategies. Harnessing the innovative spirit of California, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-82-20 on October 7, 2020, enlisting California’s vast network of natural and working lands – forests, rangelands, farms, wetlands, coast, deserts and urban greenspaces – in the fight against climate change. A core pillar of Governor Newsom’s climate agenda, these novel approaches will help clean the air and water for communities throughout the state and support California’s unique biodiversity. The order directs state agencies to deploy a number of strategies to store carbon in the state’s natural and working lands and remove it from the atmosphere. Specifically, state agencies are directed to pursue innovative actions, strategies, and partnerships to maximize the full climate benefits of natural and working lands.

Helping to bridge the gap between food waste recovery and compost use, CCC has worked with a diverse stakeholder team to develop and sponsor a series of Compost Use in Agriculture workshops, where farmers and crop advisors are able to learn about all of the value and beneficial characteristics of compost use, what some of these smart people call ecosystem co-benefits. Participants will be encouraged to ask the hard questions about compost quality and safety that will help build confidence in the grower community that their organic input needs can be met. The first of these workshops will take place in Salinas, during California’s Healthy Soils Week (December 5-11) and will be held, largely in conjunction with field demonstration projects funded by CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program Grants, in multiple regional locations, focused on the specific compost markets in those areas. CCC looks ahead to Getting s#*! Done! – as Will would have expected us to do, without a lot of fanfare. It just won’t be quite the same without him.

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