Scaling-Up Climate Solutions
BC’s farmers and ranchers help fight climate change when they implement and scale-up climate mitigation strategies and adopt agroecological practices. Producers of all scales experience the consequences of climate change. Mitigation solutions will not only address these impacts but also increase the resiliency of provincial food systems. More than 30% of the province’s 17,000 farms operate on a medium to large-scale. These producers can scale-up climate solutions and significantly contribute to overall mitigation efforts.
BC ranchers are in a unique position to adopt agroecological strategies which contribute to climate change mitigation. According to our 2019 Climate Change Mitigation Opportunities Report, “BC ranches occupy over 5 million acres of private land and have tenure on a further 21.5 million acres of crown rangeland. Approximately 66% of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is owned by ranches.”
Numerous medium to large-scale ranchers in BC have demonstrated the sizable impact of implementing mitigation solutions through rotational grazing and protecting and enhancing biodiversity on and beyond the farm. These practices help build carbon in the soil and promote an agroecological system where growers sustainably utilize ecosystem services while conserving natural resources. Our Climate Change Mitigation Opportunities Report states, “Soil carbon sequestration is regarded as one of only a few strategies that could be applied at large scales and at a relatively low cost.”
Photo by Woodjam Ranch
Grass is our strength on this ranch – Ingrid Johnson.
An article from Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems identifies six key research areas for the design of large-scale agricultural systems that include multifunctional service crops, watershed regulation and soil conservation, and regenerative grazed-based livestock systems. The authors suggest that taking an agroecological approach to large-scale farming can, “make efficient use of the natural functionalities that ecosystems offer so that the reliance on external inputs of non-renewable resources or toxic molecules can gradually decrease along a so-called ecological intensification trajectory.” Farmers who implement these practices recognize their land is part of and reliant on a larger natural ecosystem that must be conserved. Adopting this circular system of managing carbon, nutrients, and water cycles beyond farm boundaries is, “a key pathway to support the transition to agroecology on large-scale farms,” reads the article.
Onward Ranch is one of the province’s 5,126 cattle farms, owned by Ingrid and Ty Johnston. Their 4,500-acre ranch near Williams Lake is home to a variety of wild animals that use their grasslands, woodlands, 17 km of winding rivers, and three lakes to feed, nest, and seek refuge in. The Johnston’s take great care in enhancing biodiversity and building healthy grasslands on their property. They maintain healthy soil through bale and rotational grazing and stockpile grass as feed in the shoulder season. Ingrid says, “Grass is our strength on this ranch.”
Full-time ranchers, Ricky and Chad Seelhof own and operate Woodjam Ranch near Horsefly, BC. There are 500 cattle on their 2,120 acres of rangeland and additional 80,000 acres of licensed grazing area. The Seelhof’s protect and maintain biodiversity on their farm by managing their herd within the existing natural environment. Seelhof says, “I think livestock are very important to the land. Everything does have a carbon footprint but the biggest thing is keeping the land as close to nature as possible. This will help sequester carbon and we can use cows to do that.” Cattle, when managed well on a larger area of land, can have beneficial and rippling effects on the natural environment. Seelhof admits that taking care of their large amount of land was daunting at first but, “stepping back and looking at what you’re given and seeing how you can work with nature helps a lot.”
Photo by Onward Ranch
In addition to contributions from ranchers, BC farmers in other sectors can help mitigate climate change through practices such as cover cropping, practicing the 4R’s of fertilizer application, reduced tillage, and crop diversity. Small, medium and large-scale farmers demonstrate how agriculture can help reduce BC’s greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
Farmers across the province are concerned for our environment with many already adopting climate change mitigation strategies. According to the 2016 Agriculture in Brief Census, the average farm size in BC is 365 acres. This demonstrates the significant mitigation potential and impact all provincial farms can have. Ty Johnston says, “You know, I believe ranchers truly love the land and I believe that a lot of them are doing their best in adapting [climate-friendly] practices.” Farmers and ranchers are among the first to directly experience the impacts of climate change. Despite these challenges, their mitigation efforts demonstrate a commitment to fight climate change and solidify their stance as environmental leaders in the agricultural sector.
If you want to learn more about BC farmers already implementing climate-friendly agricultural practices, check out our Supporting Farmers and Ranchers story series.