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Santa Maria Sun / Spotlight

The following article was posted on May 20th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 12 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 12

Local nonprofit aims to create large-scale regenerative ag center for education, research

By ZAC EZZONE

By the end of next year, a 1,000-acre ranch more than 5 miles south of Lompoc is slated to be the site of an agriculture program used to teach consumers and producers about a regenerative system of farming.


EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
White Buffalo Land Trust plans to develop a 1,000-acre regenerative agricultural center called Jalama Canyon Ranch a few miles south of Lompoc.
PHOTO COURTESY OF WHITE BUFFALO LAND TRUST

The organization behind the project, White Buffalo Land Trust, is a local nonprofit focused on the broad adoption of regenerative agriculture, Project Director Ana Smith said. To further this goal, White Buffalo focuses on land stewardship projects, such as the 12-acre farm it runs in Summerland, as well as education and research.

Earlier this year, the nonprofit announced its plans to develop a 1,000-acre regenerative agriculture project in Jalama Canyon Ranch. Smith said this project will serve as a model for how this type of farming can work efficiently on a larger scale.

“[Regenerative agriculture] is better for business and the planet, and can be done in a financially viable way,” Smith said. 

According to Terra Genesis International, which is a design consulting firm that specializes in regenerative agriculture, this system is based on a set of principles that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystems. It’s also used to capture carbon in the soil as a way to fight climate change.

Plans at Jalama Canyon Ranch include eliminating herbicide use and planting perennial ground cover at the ranch’s vineyards to improve soil health and water infiltration rates while reducing erosion; adding trees to existing pasture and grasslands on the ranch, which will help increase the carbon in the soil; and building a center with worker and guest housing, as well as spaces for meetings and research.

Smith said the nonprofit views regenerative agriculture as a potential way to address some of the major environmental challenges the county and the rest of the world are facing, such as climate change and declining biodiversity. 

“Change does begin on the ground, and this solution is positioned for regional and global impact with shared data models and having the research to back these outcomes and techniques used on the landscape,” Smith said. 

One of the most significant barriers preventing the widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture is that there are no local large-scale examples of how it can work, Smith said. The nonprofit envisions the ranch as a center for education, training, and scientific research that can act as that example.

“[Producers] need to see these local examples of regenerative agriculture on scale so they can see how it works,” Smith said.

The nonprofit is in the process of buying the property, and it’s raising funds to complete the purchase. During this first phase of funding, the nonprofit aims to raise $6 million by December 2020 to purchase the land, preserve it in perpetuity, and establish a maintenance fund. So far, Smith said the nonprofit is halfway to this goal. 

Next year, the nonprofit will kick off a second phase of funding. During that effort, the nonprofit hopes to raise $4 million by December 2021 to build the necessary infrastructure on the ranch and to implement the education, training, and science programs the organization has planned. Smith said the nonprofit plans to host its first training course at the end of 2021 and then roll out a more robust training program afterward. 

Highlights

• The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County recently launched a bilingual text message program. County residents can text “food” or “comida” to (877) 366-3801, enter their zip code, and then receive a message with the three food distribution locations nearest to them.

• The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce started a marketing campaign for businesses that are open or reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Business owners can fill out a “safe and open” pledge where they agree to review state and local guidelines and do everything they can to abide by those guidelines. After signing the pledge, the chamber will send promotional material to the business to highlight their status. Visit santamaria.com for details. 

Staff Writer Zac Ezzone wrote this week’s Spotlight. Send tips to spotlight@santamariasun.com.








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