To Meet Ambitious Emissions Goals, Large Food Companies Are Looking to Lock Carbon in Soil – Smithsonian Magazine


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Jason Johnson, Stonyfield Organic’s farmer relationship manager, fires up the AgriCORE soil sampling tool in a pasture with sweeping views of central Maine’s rolling hillsides at Dostie Farm, an organic dairy. The auger bit whirrs as it slices through clover and grass, spiraling downward into the earth to retrieve a sample from the 650-acre (263-hectare) farm on a blustery October day.

Soil samples from Dostie Farm are placed in a battery-powered oven to remove moisture before they go to a lab for elemental analysis to measure the amount of carbon trapped in the soil.

(Meg Wilcox)

Dave Herring (right) and Leah Puro stand in front of a building at Wolfe’s Neck Center, a research center and a working dairy farm that sells its milk to Stonyfield Organic.

(Meg Wilcox)

Egide Dostie Jr. (left), Selena Brown and Egide Dostie Sr.’s Dostie Farm is one of six dairies working with Stonyfield to hone cost-effective methods for measuring soil carbon.

(Meg Wilcox)

Leah Puro and Jason Johnson take a soil sample from a Dostie Farm pasture with an AgriCORE soil sampling tool while the Dosties and Brown look on.

(Meg Wilcox)

Storing Carbon on Dairy Farms

Selena Brown has a name for every one of Dostie Farm’s 210 cows, including this one, Swiss Roll.

(Meg Wilcox)

Inside a makeshift office in the farm’s garage, Selena Brown and Britt Lundgren review data from farmOS, a software tool that allows for spatial representation of daily farm records.

(Meg Wilcox)

Technical Assistance Challenges

Selena Brown digs a soil sample while Britt Lundgren (center) and others record data on the pasture in the United States Department of Agriculture’s LandPKS tool.

(Meg Wilcox)

Lundgren says it’s “a tall order” to get 250 farms to increase their soil carbon by 1 [metric] ton [1.1. tons] per acre by 2030. “But when you think of the scope of the problem that climate change poses, why wouldn’t you do it?”

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