Carbon Sink Incentive Program

In March 2020 in San Diego, a small group of farmers decided to activate the “hub” concept and launched Foodshed Small Farm Distro and Resource Hub. Foodshed works directly with farmers, eaters, and entrepreneurs to cultivate an equitable food system in San Diego while addressing the challenges posed by the climate crisis.

Foodshed is comprised of local San Diego County (Southern California) farms (67% BIPoC owned, 50% woman-owned) that utilize a suite of production practices called “carbon farming” to pull CO2 from the atmosphere and transform it into healthy, productive soil. These 32 carbon farming practices are certified by the National Resource Conservation Service and include methods such as compost/mulch application, reduced tillage, cover crops, and perennial transition, which are proven to reduce the use of petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides while improving water and air quality and sequestering greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to addressing climate change in the way that we produce our food, Foodshed is equally committed to changing the inequitable distribution of healthful foods and the historic disinvestment in black, indigenous, and immigrant communities that will be exacerbated by a changing climate. Approximately 75% of weekly Foodshed sales are made to low-income community members and the remaining 25% of sales are made to retail customers who support our vision for a more just and climate-smart food system.
In June 2022, Foodshed launched San Diego’s first Carbon Sink Incentive Program. With this pilot program, Foodshed is incentivizing at the point of purchase the adoption and/or ongoing carbon farming practices in 15 soil-based farms for food production in their network. Farmers receive a higher premium payment (5% to 15%) for their produce based on their level of engagement in the program.

Foodshed believes soil health is the key to a thriving local food system, it is the infrastructure from which a myriad of co-benefits can be cultivated. Recognizing healthy soil as vital public infrastructure they’ve uncovered an urgent need to measure the impact of carbon farming for the sake of our own stewardship as well as to communicate effectively with local policymakers. These parallel needs have encouraged them to develop data collection and assessment tools that really work for farmers. They are currently using these tools to gather baseline data and are ready to scale up their use.

For their seasonal soil health assessments, in addition to some of the quantified results from traditional micro and macronutrients soil lab tests, Foodshed integrated Solvita (Basal Soil Respiration) test for measuring soil respiration in fresh soil samples and microBIOMETER®, as microbes are excellent predictors of soil health. microBIOMETER®, a professional lab-grade soil test kit for determination of soil microbial biomass and fungal to bacterial ratio, is an invaluable tool to help them understand their soil’s biology and it’s capacity to integrate nutrients, hold water, increase biodiversity, and strengthen the microbial community.

As part of the pilot and in collaboration with Zero Food Print/Compost Connector they provide their participant farms with compost from CalRecycle-verified facilities to replenish their soil with organic matter. microBIOMETER® gives them the opportunity to promptly analyze compost microbial activity, monitor quality, and track the progress of the compost as it matures and the effects on the soil on which it is applied.

Using the Soil Mentor Regen Platform as their data management app, they can analyze changes in different soil health indicators from year to year, compare results from farm to farm and in their bioregion. COMET Planner is the evaluation tool that allows them to calculate and validate carbon sequestration potential occurring on their farms by providing estimates of the net greenhouse gas reductions for specific agricultural management conservation practices.

They are dedicated to investing in building soil biology to increase our resilience. Their program demonstrates how we can leverage carbon farming investments to create real equity, and highlights the importance of accessible and affordable tools like the microBIOMETER® to their success in analyzing soil and compost across our farms’ network in an efficient and effective way.

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