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Fresh ideas abound at our ongoing Eco Farm Conference, as they have over now thirty-five annual organic confabs. This year’s event is all abuzz about “carbon farming”. Querying many farmers on the role carbon plays in their agricultural practice would yield blank stares or stammerings. After all, carbon is not something we buy in a sack and add to the recipe, like nitrogen or potassium. However, 2,000 attendees are this week absorbing, possibly for the first time, profound awareness that the business of all life on planet Earth, including that shepherded by agriculturalists, is essentially cycling carbon. EcoFarm presenters explain that while a relatively small portion of the “stuff of life” floats about Earth’s atmosphere, twice that amount of carbon resides in our soils, with the lion’s share deep in oceans. At any point in time, barely 1% of Earth’s total carbon store is temporarily incorporated into its living beings. I lobbied all last year that my friends Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser of Sebastopol’s Singing Frogs Farm be invited to demonstrate how they harvest $250,000 in organic vegetables from 2.5 acres without tilling their soil. If Thomas Jefferson held that “cultivators of the earth are the most virtuous”, why did Paul and Elizabeth renounce their birthright? They, among few, understand that our nation’s virgin soils, on average, harbored more than twice the carbon in organic matter as they do a few years after being subjected to the plow. Like bellows on a forge, tillage forces an oxygen blast into a soil’s living system, where under natural conditions this gas only diffuses slowly. Supercharged microbes respond by consuming organic matter at an accelerated pace, blowing off CO2 into the atmosphere. In fact, since agriculture’s dawn, humans’ soil plowing released more carbon into Earth’s atmosphere than had our burning of fossil fuels until 1955. With 40% of this planet’s dry land surface now managed for human food production, astute soil scientists estimate that all the miscreant, climate-disrupting carbon in our atmosphere could be sequestered in agricultural soils where it once safely rested. To forestall climate chaos, the world’s farmers would necessarily abandon an age-old tillage habit. Some actually have, few of these vegetable farmers, even fewer yet organic practitioners. Satisfy your curiosity about Paul and Elizabeth’s small, organic, tractor-less miracle, where little time is spent yanking weeds, by reading Todd Oppenheimer’s “The Drought Fighter” in a new online quarterly magazine, Craftsmanship. –Tom Willey