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

Earth Day Poster_Med

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.

SBI in 2013

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

With our successful national conference now behind us, SBI’s Advisory Board has been hard at work developing strategies to build on the local excitement and knowledge gained at the event, and getting as much biochar into the ground as possible. We are poised to have a major growth spurt in our outreach and education activities in 2013. We also have plans to expand our field testing activities and to acquire and build  the first biochar production facility in the North Bay.

Here are a few of the exciting projects we are working on:

Four grant applications have been written in 2012 and will have been submitted by Dec. 17th. We should know by early 2013 if any have been funded.

We supplied biochar to a UC Davis monitored vineyard field trial in Oakville, California, and are working with David Cook of Cook Vineyard Management on a field trial to start soon in the Sonoma Valley.

We supplied biochar to 30 individuals or organizations (including all of the elementary school garden programs) in the Sonoma Valley as part of a hands-on educational outreach effort called the Citizen Science Project. We are hoping to receive a grant to expand the program to 200 in 2013.

We supplied biochar to Tara Firma Farm and Greenstring Farm in Petaluma, where they are using it in their chicken operations. We are looking forward to building ongoing strong relationships with these and other food providers practicing sustainable agriculture techniques.

We supplied biochar to the Pollinator Pal Program in Sonoma Valley.

We are planning a number of hands-on events in 2013 where the public can come to learn about making biochar and why it is an important soil amendment.

We are expanding the capacity and communication outreach of our organization and just published our first Newsletter.

There are other efforts  as well that I will expand on in upcoming posts, so stay tuned.

Raymond

SBI Applies for Conservation Innovation Grant

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

 

The Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI), in partnership with Southern Sonoma County Resource Conservation District as lead applicant, recently submitted an application for federal funding under USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Innovation Grant program.  The proposed project features a launch of biochar production from local biomass, field trials with local farmers, and education and outreach on the multiple benefits of biochar including improving soil tilth, agricultural yields, and renewable energy. The technology used to produce biochar would be the award-winning Adam Retort, licensed and manufactured in North America by New England Biochar.

If funded, the grant would allow development of best practices in the production and application of biochar, and would facilitate federal program delivery under the Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Insurance Program serving farmers, ranchers and the community-at-large. This project showcases another excellent, local example of public/private partnership to leverage private, local and public funding in a demonstration project.

The grant features strong partnerships focusing on sustainable ag practices, ag economy, jobs, carbon sequestration, and renewable energy.  Partners include: Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma County Water Agency, Regional Climate Protection Authority, Sotoyome Resource Conservation District and the North Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council and participating farmers/ranchers. If awarded, project would commence fall 2012.

SBI has garnered local and statewide recognition and support in it’s efforts to introduce biochar at a practical, community scale from Senator Noreen Evans, Assemblymember Jared Huffman, Sonoma County’s 1st District Supervisor, Valerie Brown, Sonoma councilmember Laurie Gallian and Rohnert Park councilmember Jake Mackenzie.  SBI is also receiving national recognition as the organizer and host of the 2012 USBI National Biochar Conference to be held July 29th through August 1st at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.

SBI Advocates Cap and Trade Investments in Biochar for Agriculture

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

In a recent letter to Assemblymembers Perez, Blumenfield, Gordon and Feuntes and Senators Steinberg, Leno, Simitian and Kehoe, initiated by CalCAN, the California Climate and Agriculture Network, the Sonoma Biochar Initiative (SBI) urged that biochar, a climate response tool and a material to benefit agriculture, be considered for investment under the cap-and-trade fee revenue that help meet the objectives of AB 32 climate response law.  SBI strongly supports investing a portion of the fee revenues in agricultural activities that reduce GHG emissions and actively sequester carbon.  Such investments in our communities can create jobs and spur innovation.

With the Air Resources Board moving forward with the first auctions of allowances in the summer and fall of 2012, the Legislature must appropriate auction revenues.  It is crucial that discussions continue to determine how best to invest these funds to meet the goals of AB 32 and to provide the greatest economic benefits. There must be urgent considerations about how best to allocate these resources.

The Governor’s budget and the Assembly Speaker’s bill, AB 1532, outline cap-and-trade fee funding areas, including funding to “reduce (GHG) emissions associated with water use and supply, land and natural resource conservation and management, and sustainable agriculture.”  Though not specified, we would add the imperative of capturing existing atmospheric carbon through biomass, processing it into biochar and sequestering it productively in agriculture.

Any legislative appropriation for a portion of the funds should go to agriculture in the first years of the program. A delay will mean lost opportunities to achieve GHG emission reductions in the food and farm sector and to sequester carbon beneficially within agriculture.

Potential GHG emission reductions in agriculture are substantial, and sequestering biochar carbon can help.  Biochar production is an innovative renewable biomass energy source, aids on-farm conservation measures, offsets some fossil fuel inputs, reduces biomass handling transportation emissions and sequesters carbon that helps build soil. Funding carbon sequestration efforts will aid in the preservation of farmland and the institution of the family farmer. With the right policies including support for biochar, agriculture can meaningfully reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, sequester significant volumes of carbon, and be a net positive contributor to the goals of AB 32.

The climate solutions that California agriculture has to offer can be realized with investments that overcome barriers for innovative producers who achieve real GHG emission reductions and sequester significant volumes of carbon. The sooner this potential is recognized and unleashed, the greater the ability of the state’s agricultural sector to provide needed climate solutions.

Raymund Gallian

Chairman

Sonoma Biochar Initiative

 

 

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