North Coast Biochar is Now Available!

Written by admin on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized, USBI Conference 2012

The Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc. (RFFI), a non-profit organization that owns and manages the FSC Certified Usal Forest on the Lost Coast of northern California, is now producing high-carbon, low-ash biochar from surplus tan oak culled during forest restoration activities.  Production started on June 1, and this high-quality soil amendment is being marketed under the name North Coast Biochar.

Sold in 1 or 1.5 cubic yard totes, this product is made using a Biochar Solutions pyrolysis unit that is specifically designed to make biochar at the middle heat range of 500 to 700 degrees C which is considered an ideal temperature range to maximize biochar’s adsorptive qualities.  By purchasing this product you will be helping to support three non-profit organizations (RFFI, Sonoma Biochar Initiative, & Sonoma Ecology Center) working to promote sustainable agriculture and forestry practices. For more information, call Raymond Baltar at 707 291-3240.

Piercy Plant5270


Conservation Burn Training/Biochar Workshop Postponed to March 31st

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

Due to the amazing series of wet storms we have been experiencing we are postponing the upcoming Conservation Burn workshop scheduled to Friday March 31st, same time and place. Please mark it in your calendar.

Since burn season doesn’t end until May 1 you will still have plenty of time to burn your own piles after the workshop.

You can sign up here:

If you have additional questions please contact me directly at 707 291-3240.  We look forward to seeing you at this workshop and training in February.

Raymond Baltar
Sonoma Ecology Center–Sonoma Biochar Initiative

SEE US AT THE HEIRLOOM EXPO, Sept. 6, 7 and 8!!!

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

SBI and Sonoma Ecology Center will be having a large double booth presence at the upcoming Heirloom Expo at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds next Tuesday through Thursday.  We will be giving educational workshops on making biochar and how it can be used in agriculture and industry, hands-on bokashi compost making, and you will learn about all of the amazing activities of Sonoma Ecology Center, including environmental research, education, and ecological restoration. This year we will have activities for kids of all ages, including lectures about bugs and other critters beneficial for your garden.

GO HERE for more information about the Heirloom Expo.

Composting workshops at Sonoma Garden Park

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Initiative News

Announcing three fantastic composting workshops at the Sonoma Garden Park featuring Cuauhtemoc Villa:

–          Saturday, August 6th, 10am-12pm: Composting with Bokashi

–          Saturday, August 13th, 10am–12pm: Making Compost Tea

–          Saturday, August 20th, 10am-12pm: Reducing Waste: Indigenous Permaculture Practices

There is a nominal $10 fee per workshop that helps support activities of the Sonoma Ecology Center.

Click here to register and for more information.

The Aug. 20th workshop will also feature Raymond Baltar discussing how biochar should be integrated into all composting processes.

Biochar-Enhanced Chicken Manure Pellets Now Available

Written by raymondbiochar on . Posted in Biochar General, Biochar Policy, Biochar Technology, Citizen Science Project, Initiative News, Member News, Uncategorized, USBI Conference 2012

In collaboration with Weber Family Farms in Petaluma, The Sonoma Biochar Initiative and Sonoma Ecology Center are now offering buckets of biochar-enhanced chicken manure pellets as thank-you gifts for donations during a special fundraising campaign.  The chicken manure is an OMRI-listed organic manure that is high in nitrogen and blended with biochar made from locally-sourced woody biomass.

Pellets small

This fantastic soil amendment has been pelletized for easy application and can be used anywhere in your garden. Two sizes are available:  5-gallon and 2-gallon buckets. We are asking for a suggested donation of $30 for the 5-gallon size, and $20 for the 2-gallon size. This special blend is available for pickup on Saturday mornings at the Sonoma Garden Park Fam Market, from 9 A.M. to 12:30 P.M., 19996 7th St E, Sonoma, CA 95476, or by special arrangement at Sonoma Ecology Center offices in the Sonoma Developmental Center.

We want to thank Mike Weber of Weber Family Farms for his generous donation of goods and services in support of this fundraiser.

For more information call Raymond Baltar at:  707 291-3240

Biochar Demonstration at Shanti Permaculture Farm

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

Shanti Permaculture Farm is hosting a Biochar Demonstration on Saturday, April 30 at 10:00 AM until 4 PM at 16715 Coleman Valley Road. Admission is $2 for adults, free for kids or adults with an egg carton (which we reuse). Contact Elizabeth Medgyesy for more information:

Closing the Circle

Written by admin on . Posted in Initiative News

Closing the Circle:

Linked Responses to California’s Critical Environmental Challenges

David Morell, PhD

California faces three difficult environment-based challenges: continuing water shortages and ever-higher costs; risks of massive forest fires associated with millions of dead trees caused by the drought and its related bark beetle infestation; and ongoing need to increasingly reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in response to climate change imperatives.

It sounds daunting; but an efficient new integrated response to these related challenges is now available: biochar.

Biochar is a specialized form of charcoal made at high temperature in a low oxygen environment (a process termed “pyrolysis”). Combined with compost or similar nutrients, biochar has been demonstrated to retain soil moisture, improve soil health, increase soil organic matter, expand crop yields, and sequester carbon safely for decades or longer.

Using biochar as a soil amendment in California agriculture can save millions of acre/feet of water saved every year. This is true for the state’s almond, walnut, and citrus orchards, vegetable fields, vineyards…across the board. Research efforts and field demonstrations document significant savings —sometimes more, sometimes less, with variations due to soil conditions, crops being grown, historical farm practices, and irrigation techniques.

Saving that much water will allow farmers to save many millions of dollars. New financial instruments can be designed to allow eligible farmers to cover the costs of applying biochar to their farm’s soil over 10 years or so out of money gained by their water savings. Loans could be guaranteed by the state’s new Water Bond or AB 32 funds.

Where can we obtain all this new biochar? At what cost? Here’s where the forest challenge comes in and we begin to close the circle, since the biochar can be created from the millions of dead trees in California’s drought-ridden forests. A few of the state’s dozen or so existing biomass-to-energy facilities can be readily converted make biochar rather than wood ash while still producing heat and energy from the woody biomass. One such facility in Northern California has already been converted —it is now producing high-quality biochar that is being made available to farmers at prices impossible before: less than $100/cubic yard delivered to local farms.

These facilities face closure as their electricity sales contracts come to an end; biochar sales can play a role in helping to sustain them, retaining their highly skilled operators. Using dead and dying trees in this way allows us to thin the state’s forests carefully, thereby greatly reducing forest fire risks. At the same time, many new jobs will be created in rural areas. (As for cost concerns, California has spent over $3 billion in recent years fighting these fires, and that’s not counting the costs to devastated communities.)

Finally, there’s climate change. California already leads globally in creating renewable energy supplies (solar, wind, and geothermal), encouraging energy conservation in residential and commercial buildings, and creating appropriate legislative incentives: AB 32 and Sonoma Clean Power are two excellent examples. While these initiatives all help reduce new carbon emissions into the atmosphere, moving us towards “carbon neutral”, none of them work to remove carbon from the atmosphere by placing carbon underground, an action that is truly “carbon negative.” Using biochar in California agriculture does just this, burying thousands of tons of elemental carbon in the ground for decades, where it will save water while reducing forest fire risk. Now the circle is truly closed, proving once again the classic ecological principle that all systems are linked to one another in nature.

Happy Earth Day 2016.

Dr. David Morell is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the Sonoma Ecology Center, where he directs the organization’s biochar activities including the Sonoma County Biochar Project.