May Meeting Postponed

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Initiative News, Member News

SBI has been incredibly busy these last two months with grant proposals, educational outreach and Open Burn workshops. We have therefore postponed our May community meeting that was scheduled for May 8th until next month—June 12th. We will be featuring several great speakers—one of whom is Jason Aramburu of the re:char organization—and we will have lots of exciting news to share and ways you can become involved with our organization. Stay tuned for a newsletter that we will be sending out in early June, and be sure to mark June 12th on your calendars. The meeting will be at the Sonoma Grange, from 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.

We recommend you check out a meeting on May 8th instead in Santa Rosa on Navigating the New Economy.

When: Wednesday, May 8, 2013
7-9 pm, doors open at 6:30 pm
Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa
Tickets: General $10 in advance or $15 at door
Students $5 in advance or $10 at door
Advanced Tickets

Citizen Science Project Reaches Goal!

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News

The Citizen Science Project reached its goal today of distributing 200 free bags of biochar and compost to gardeners around the Bay Area. Attendees at the Sonoma Garden Park Plant Sale put us over the top and we now have now given out 204 bags—-with more going out to Thomas Page Elementary School and a Daily Acts project on Monday. We want to thank everyone who has agreed to take part in this first-of-its-kind project in the U.S., as well as all the volunteers that helped us reach and exceed our goal. We also want to thank the Mental Insight Foundation and Sonoma Compost for their important contributions to this project. We do still have a few bags left so you can still take part if you contact us by signing up this week on the Citizen Science page. We will contact you about when and where to pick up.

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Bagging the Biochar for the Citizen Science Project

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News

Volunteers from the Sonoma Biochar Initiative, the Sonoma Ecology Center Garden Park, and Green Valley Village filled bags of biochar and compost this past Saturday in preparation for the big Citizen Science Project distribution on April 20th. We greatly appreciate everyone’s help and are looking forward to distributing the material next weekend! Volunteers from San Francisco, Mill Valley, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Windsor have agreed to act as pick-up locations, so if you take part you won’t have to drive to Sonoma to get your bag. More information on these locations will be sent to participants the coming week. To sign up for the Citizen Science Project please GO HERE.

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2013 Citizen Science Project Launches April 20th

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News

Help us explore how biochar works in local soils using your personal, community, or school garden. Biochar has been shown in lab tests and scientific field trials around the world to be beneficial for soil health and plant production, and we want to test it in Sonoma County and the Bay Area. The project is easy, fun, and will be an interesting, science-based activity for the whole family. We are particularly interested in partnering with school and community gardens, so please let us know if you are connected to one of these.

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All you will need is space for two 3’X3′ plots (preferably using the section of your garden with the WORST soil), some seeds or starts, a camera, a measuring device (a home- made pole ruler works fine), and email capability.  You will be engaging in a scientifically accepted form of research called photo-monitoring-the simplest U.S. EPA-approved method of demonstrating plant success.

We will provide you with free bags of biochar and compost blended together, instructions on how to plant, how to take the photos in a scientifically accepted manner, and when and where to send them to add to our data set. We are working on expanding our web site and developing a special blog to allow you to stay connected to the project and see the results others are having.

Distribution will take place on Saturday April 20th at several locations in the town of Sonoma, and we are looking for volunteers and distribution locations in other areas of Sonoma County (and elsewhere) to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible.

We only have 200 bags to give out so please click the link below to reserve yours now. We are taking reservations on a first-come, first-served basis. Feel free to tell friends and neighbors about this experiment, and if they are willing to take part in the planting and photo-monitoring protocols please have them sign up as well.

Click the link below and scroll down to fill out the
simple form. Please indicate if you can help us
bag or distribute the biochar as well.
Distribution Date:  Saturday April 20th, 9 A.M. to noon, at Sonoma Garden Park & 1 P.M. to 4 P.M. at the Sonoma Ecology Center Earth Day Celebration at the Sonoma Plaza. You will be sent directions and other information when you sign up.

USDA Conservation Innovation Grant Application Goes to Second Phase

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Technology, Initiative News

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative received word on Friday that our California GIG grant application to fund the development and study of a farm-scale biochar operation has made the cut to stage two, and a full 30-page proposal has been requested. This grant, with matching funds provided by the Sonoma County Water Agency, would allow for the purchase of a steel retort from New England Biochar, to be located at Swallow Valley Farm in western Sonoma County, and 18 months of biochar field trials at Swallow Valley Farm, Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen, and Green String Farm in Petaluma.

The grant would study the economic feasibility of a small-scale biochar operation, using feedstock primarily from the farm, and provide enough biochar for the field trials and some income for the farm as well. The field trials would focus on biochar’s effectiveness in increasing soil carbon, decreasing water needs over time, and increasing production.  Heat produced from the unit would be captured and utilized in the farm’s cheese-making facility.

SBI is competing with 16 other grant proposals from around the state vying for $375,000 in funds.

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Lambing Season at Swallow Valley Farm

 

Earth Day Celebration / Sonoma April 20th

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Initiative News

The Sonoma Ecology Center, Transition Sonoma Valley, The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI), and many other local organizations, businesses, and citizens will be gathering to create a fun and engaging community spirited celebration to honor the Earth on Saturday, April 20th 1:00 – 5:00 PM on the Sonoma Plaza.

For more information, go here:

Earth Day on the Plaza

SBI will be distributing free bags of biochar to gardeners willing to take part in a Citizen Science experiment, and will be making presentations on a variety of topics including biochar production, biochar benefits for soil, and others. To sign up for the Citizen Science project please go here:

Citizen Science Project Signup

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Biochar Effects on Vineyards in Europe

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Initiative News

Though this article discusses the 2011 growing season in Europe, it is highly topical and relevant for our own North Bay wine growing region. This piece is also from Hans-Peter Schmidt’s Ithaka Journal. Thank you Hans-Peter and associates for all of your great work!

2011 European Vineyard Field Trial Results

I have two pdf’s that discuss this work as well and that show very encouraging results.  I am happy to forward them to you if you contact me directly at: raymond@sonomabiocharinitiative.org

55 Uses for Biochar

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Initiative News

Here is another fantastic article from Hans-Peter Schmidt’s Ithaka Journal:

55 Uses for Biochar

Hans-Peter makes a great case for first using biochar in at least one other way before putting it in the ground for agricultural use:

“Biochar is much too valuable for it to be just worked into the soil without having it used at least once for more beneficial purposes – whether as storage for volatile nutrients, as an adsorber in functional clothing, as insulation in the building industry, as energy storage in batteries, as a filter in a sewage plant, as a silage agent or as a feed supplement. Such uses can be followed by use in a farmer’s slurry pit or in a sewage plant, before being composted. It should only be worked into the soil at the end of this “cascade”, helping to create Terra Preta.”

This piece is filled with ideas for entrepreneurs! Since we believe biochar is most valuable and beneficial when used in an agricultural setting, keeping biochar in a closed loop cycle on the farm (or a number of nearby farms) may be the highest and best approach. If first used as a feed or bedding supplement for chickens or cows, or in a farmer’s slurry pit, then composting the resultant material and manure, biochar becomes inoculated with nutrients as part of an integrated system—reducing these costs.

Community Meeting on March 13th

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Initiative News

Announcing our first-ever COMMUNITY MEETING on Wednesday evening, March 13th, 2013 at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall, from 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. The event is FREE but we will be seeking donations to help cover event costs.

To register, please go here.

This will be the kickoff event for our 2013 educational outreach and membership campaign and we hope you will join us for an informative evening featuring biochar author and expert Peter Hirst of New England Biochar (see below). There will be ample time for questions and we will be encouraging audience participation and networking both before and after Peter’s presentation.

Peter Hirst / New England Biochar

This presentation will combine the basics of biochar (including how it is made and used), the attraction of building locally beneficial biochar enterprises, and how the Sonoma Biochar Initiative is fostering community participation.

Peter is a Principal at New England Biochar, a company that manufactures and licenses the Adam-Retort in the U.S.-a batch biochar production system. He is a respected authority on the manufacture and use of biochar as well as the development of community-based biochar ecosystems.

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