What’s New

We have been very busy lately giving Biochar Workshops and Conservation Burn trainings, and several more are in the works from Humboldt County down to Santa Cruz.  If you are interested in having us train you and your crew how to significantly  reduce smoke pollution while also creating biochar, feel free to contact us!

Here are a few photos of these recent events:

Four staff members from Sonoma Ecology Center’s Conservation Burn program trained Cakebread Vineyards staff, Wolf Vineyard management staff and workers on the top-down burn technique. Over a two-day period 12 large piles were burned cleanly, yielding about 15 yards of biochar to be used in the winery’s garden next fall. The biochar will be crushed and added to compost for seasoning over the summer.

Excavator operator assembled Conservation Burn piles at a Cakebread Cellars vineyard in Rutherford

Excavator operator assembles Conservation Burn piles at a Cakebread Cellars vineyard in Rutherford on 3/31/16.

One of the Cakebread Vineyards piles burning cleanly.  Most of the smoke gets sucked up through the flame front and combusted instead of escaping into the local community.

One of the Cakebread Vineyards piles burning cleanly. Most of the smoke gets sucked up through the flame front and combusted instead of escaping into the local community.

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Another Conservation Burn pile burns cleanly.

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All you can see during a successful Conservation Burn is the heat column. The trees in the background look warbled by the heat.

Workers rake and hoe the biochar as water is used to save the carbon (biochar).

Workers rake and hoe the pile as water is used to extinguish the fire and save the carbon (biochar).

  

A beautiful pile of char in the foreground with a burning pile in the background.

A beautiful pile of char in the foreground with a burning pile in the background.

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And as a reminder of how NOT to burn, here is a pile burned in the typical way— 

photographed recently in the Sonoma Valley.

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Smoky fires like this that can last for hours can be greatly diminished by utilizing the Conservation Burn technique as a BMP on your property. We view the Conservation Burn as a “bridge” solution that farmers can employ to reduce smoke in their community and make biochar in the process. However there are better long-term solutions as kiln and retort technologies become mainstream and cheaper. We envision a day when clean and multi-purpose biochar production facilities are located in every community, making open burning a thing of the past.

 

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Circle Bar Ranch Workshop

Circle Bar Ranch Workshop 2/9/16

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Cuauhtemoc Villa teaches about about microbes and biochar at the Circle Bar Ranch Workshop 2/9/16

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Four vine piles ready for a Conservation Burn at Pine Hawk Vineyards in San Miguel.

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Miles and Cuauhtemoc light the first pile at the top.

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The first pile takes off. Note the pile was lit on the DOWNWIND side.

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The second and third piles are lit a half hour apart, and are allowed to burn down to a critical point before extinguishing. Note how little smoke is escaping the flames.

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The first pile is almost ready to douse with water to save the carbon (biochar). Unburned pieces will be moved to the next pile.

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Miles, Cuauhtemoc and Pine Hawk crew members make sure the fire is completely out and rake out the partially burned pieces.

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A total of 10 piles were burned that day—a record for the Sonoma Biochar Initiative—with 8 excellent crew members. Here steam is created when one of the last piles is extinguished with water as sunset approaches.

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The awesome crew after a LONG day at the Pine Hawk Vineyards Conservation Burn training in Paso Robles on February 12th.

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Quivira Vineyards Training

Quivira Vineyards and Winery Conservation Burn training on February 16th. It was a gorgeous day in wine country and the Vineyard Manager, Ned Horton, and his fine crew, were impressed by the lack of smoke and how quickly the piles burned down.

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Quivira Vineyards / Always light the fire on the DOWNWIND side!

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Quivira Vineyards / The pile is almost ready to extinguish to save the carbon.

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Quivira Vineyards / Most of the smoke gets consumed by the flame!

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Quivira Vineyards / Working the pile

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Quivira Vineyards / Look at all that beautiful biochar that was produced.

 

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E & J Gallo's San Miguel Vineyard

Test Conservation Burn at E & J Gallo’s San Miguel Vineyard on Feb. 5th. With a moisture content of 30% to 45%, we determined that these vines were too green to burn easily and that they needed more seasoning. Ranch Lead Holly Smith was excited about the process and and in using biochar experimentally on some vines. Here Miles Atchison and Holly discuss the structure of the pile and the conditions of the vines.

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E & J Gallo’s San Miguel Vineyard / Though we did successfully burn the pile cleanly and make some good biochar, it took three times longer to burn than normal and we recommended waiting another month before processing the rest of the vines from the 75-acre vineyard. Here Miles Atchison discusses biochar with E & J Gallo staff members.

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SBI Education at the Heirloom Exposition

SBI was well represented with a double booth and workshop area at the recent Heirloom Exposition at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa , teaching hundreds of attendees about biochar, bokashi, DYI kiln technology, the Sonoma County Biochar Project, and the Conservation Burn Program. Here are a few photos from the wonderful event:

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Native American farming practices and permaculture gardens begin with the soil. Learning how to build the soil ecology to benefit other environmental systems can be rediscovered and utilized by looking into our past agriculture models as well as more modern composting techniques.

Through a collaboration between the Sonoma Ecology Center, The Sonoma Biochar Initiative, Whole Foods Market, and Cuauhtemoc Villa of EM of California, we recently held 4 FREE classes on Indigenous Farming Practices (including biochar use)  at the beautiful Sonoma Garden Park in Sonoma. Below are a few photos from the first class:

Instructor Cuauhtemoc Villa discusses Indigenous farming techniques during a class at the Sonoma Garden Park.

Instructor Cuauhtemoc Villa discusses indigenous farming techniques during a class at the Sonoma Garden Park.

Cuauhtemoc Villa adds bokashi to the Hugelkulture mound.

Cuauhtemoc Villa adds bokashi to the Hugelkultur mound.

 

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Cuauhtemoc Villa waters down the contents of a Hugelkultur mound with EM (Effective Microorganisms).

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Putting the finishing touches on the Hugelkultur mound.

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The Sonoma County Biochar Project, a partnership between the Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma Biochar Initiative,  Sonoma County Water Agency, Goldridge RCD, Sonoma County RCD, Swallow Valley Farm, Banchero Tree Service, and New England Biochar,  presented its first of three outreach workshops showcasing the biochar production unit—the Adam-Retort—and other operations at Swallow Valley Farm in Western Sonoma County. Below biomass provider Matt Banchero and Project manager David Morell present in front of the Adam-Retort.

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The Sonoma County Biochar Project has now distributed biochar to all three of our farm partner locations: Green String Farm in Petaluma, Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma, and Swallow Valley Farm in Valley Ford. Below are some photographs from the delivery of the the biochar to Green String and Oak Hill Farms, and the spreading of a 50/50 biochar and compost blend on a 1/4 acre pasture at Swallow Valley Farm.  Compost only was spread on another 1/4 acre control pasture next to the biochar plot. The biochar was made locally using an Adam-Retort purchased with funds received from a USDA/NRCS Conservation Innovation grant and the Sonoma County Water Agency.

The last batch of biochar for the Green String Farm field trial is delivered on June 27th.

The last batch of biochar for the Green String Farm field trial is delivered on June 27th.

Riley of Green String Farm unloads the last bag of biochar to be used in their field trial. They plan to blend the biochar with compost and spread it in a 1/4 acre plot in the next few weeks.

Riley of Green String Farm unloads the last bag of biochar to be used in their field trial. They plan to blend the biochar with compost and spread it in a 1/4 acre plot in the next few weeks.

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SBI’s Peter Hirst stands next to the Adam-retort when it was delivered last Fall.

 

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Delivery of supersacks of biochar to Oak Hill Farm.

 

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Oak Hill farm manager David Cooper unloads the biochar.

 

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David Cooper and Peter Hirst empty the supersack of biochar for re-use.

 

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At Swallow Valley Farm a spreader is loaded with a blend of compost and biochar.

 

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Spreading biochar and compost at Swallow Valley Farm.

 

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Swallow Valley Farm owner Nick Colby surveys the biochar application.

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Peter Hirst spreads the biochar and compost blend on a 1/4 acre pasture at Swallow Valley Farm.

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Spreading biochar and compost at Swallow Valley Farm.

 

Sonoma Biochar Initiative: A project of the Sonoma Ecology Center / Contact Us / Login