Case Study: Williamson Preserve
To increase our understanding of 1) how to measure soil carbon in the Southeast U.S. and 2) the needs and capacity of North Carolina farmers, our team partnered with the Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) to conduct field research and speak with a grazier named Jake Newbold who is raising cattle on 12 acres of TLC’s land.
We conducted our field research at the Williamson Preserve, a 405-acre property straddling Wake and Johnston County operated by TLC, on which Jake has implemented regenerative grazing practices. The preserve will be used for a variety of conservation, public education, and regenerative agriculture and grazing activities. The focus of our field research was to take soil samples and improve our understanding of how the data would be used by a grazier to acquire carbon offsets the use of our protocol. Along with Dr. Alan Franzluebbers from North Carolina State University, our team tested our soil sampling methodology on Williamson Preserve, learning how to collect soil samples and prepare them for analysis at NCSU’s lab.
Meet the Farmer: Q & A
Regenerative Grazing NC: How did you get involved with TLC?
Jake: We were linked by NC Choices and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems from NC State. NC Choices help represent and market local meat producers. We were asked if we needed additional ground to expand our operation, and we desperately did. We were already being good stewards of the land, like most Ag producers. We were then/still are big fans of strip grazing, and forage planning.
Regenerative Grazing NC: To you, what is the importance of knowing how much carbon is in your soil and how much you can sequester?
Jake: The importance is, it is necessary to grow good grass! We are grass farmers first, and cattlemen second. Quality forages are the backbone of any quality cattle endeavor. Carbon is the major component in a healthy soil profile, the better the grass the more animal units per acre that can be produced, and the more beef we can produce. It is in Newbold Farm’s best interest financially, and as good stewards, to build the healthiest soil possible.
I also see the carbon credits being used as currency in the future. We are in a position to where we have to lease all of our farming ground. It can be a scary and an uncertain environment for business planning, expansion, trying to keep everyone happy, etc. The more we can bring to the “table,” to our landowners, the better. If we could utilize/produce carbon credits that the landowner could sell, it would make us more valuable to our landowners. This would be a win/win for all parties involved.
Knowing what you have in your soil profile at the beginning is important. You can use it as a benchmark for moving forward. You will see what is working and what is not, and learn from it. Almost all farmers know what the ground has and what it lacks. They also know what is needed to achieve the crop result they want.
We are no different, and want to work to this goal as naturally as possible.
Regenerative methods are not new: they are actually really old. Back when the majority of the population did not depend on someone else for three meals a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year; they knew how to take care of land and be good stewards (and feed themselves at the same time!). Almost every family had cattle, swine, poultry, produce, and revenue generating crops (Ex: few acres of tobacco in Carolinas). All these food sources worked together, and the farmers did it on what we would consider a pretty small amount of acreage! They knew how to rotate crops, graze pastures, and use livestock to fertilize land.
Regenerative Grazing NC: What are your plans with regenerative grazing in the future?
Jake: We will always strip graze cattle, and would like to introduce other livestock to our rotations, eventually. However, as young/beginning farmers, we are trying to get our feet on the ground and be able to tackle one segment at a time. Once our cattle operation is financially stable, we can begin looking into other segments of animal agriculture/husbandry.
Our forage plans are where we can make the biggest difference in soil health. By planting annual/perennial mixes you can add lots of nutrients and microorganisms naturally to the soil. Then, grazing these forages responsibly greatly benefits the soil.