FILLMORE, Calif. — This past January, California put a new law into effect.
What You Need To Know
- Senate Bill 1383 is a statewide effort to reduce emissions of short-lived climate pollutants
- According to rethinkwaste.org, when compostable materials break down in a landfill, they become powerful contributors to greenhouse gas emissions
- One of the goals of SB 1383 is to rescue at least 20% of currently disposed of edible food for human consumption by 2025
- Regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity
Senate Bill 1383 — the compost law — requires all Californians to dispose of organic food waste in our green bins so the state can reduce methane emissions by creating compost. But many farms around California have already been putting some of the principles in the bill into practice for many years.
Just an hour outside of Los Angeles, Mollie Englehart owns and operates Sow a Heart Farm with her husband. And on this farm, they practice regenerative agriculture.
Englehart’s story is a very “LA” one, starting in the music industry.
“I went from the music industry to the film industry, and then I grew pot for a little while, and then I opened Sage,” she said.
Sage is Englehart’s vegan restaurant near Echo Park Lake. The restaurant and farm work in synchrony with each other. The cycle starts with grass hay, which Englehart feeds to her cows on the farm.
“The cows poop it out, and then we mix that with the scraps that are coming back from the restaurant. And we close that food loop,” she said.
Closing the loop is a key part of regenerative agriculture, which is the system of farming practices that above all encourages the health of the soil and ecosystem.
Sow a Heart Farm says they use practices that “increase water percolation, water retention, and clean and safe water runoff; increase biodiversity and ecosystem health and resiliency; and invert the carbon emissions of our current agriculture to one of remarkably significant carbon sequestration, thereby cleansing the atmosphere of legacy levels of CO2.”
Regenerative agriculture is the antithesis of the way huge corporate farms work across the country, which usually employ harmful techniques like mono-cropping (planting the same field with one crop year after year, which depletes the nutrients in the soil and eventually kills the field).
“After the corn comes down, we want to give back what the corn took out of the soil, so then we put in the fava beans, and then the fava beans give back the nitrogen that the corn took out,” said Englehart.
One practice of regenerative agriculture also includes alternating grazing animals, which each contribute in different ways to the regenerative process. While standing in a former broccoli bed with chickens all around her, Englehart explained how they play their part.
“All of the animals on this farm are part of the regenerative system, so we use the chickens for weed control, fertilizer and for cleaning up. The chickens will eat the remains of this broccoli, butternut squash, swiss chard and eggplant. So once all of that is done, and it’s time to move [the chickens] on, this field will be all clean and ready to plant again.”
Some of the principles of regenerative agriculture came up when SB 1383 went into effect in January 2022, which requires all Californians to dispose of organic food waste in the green bins instead of the trash. Why? To slow the advance of global warming.
Decomposing organic food waste creates huge amounts of methane in landfills, which is contributing to our warming world. But by creating compost using that same organic waste, officials say we can help cool the earth down because compost draws carbon back into the soil.
But the practices of regenerative agriculture were already creating compost to consume the carbon in the air, well before Senate Bill 1383 was passed. It is several steps ahead of of the new law.
Englehart’s husband, Elias Sosa, says regenerative agriculture ensures our collective futures.
“You can go for 100 years [with regenerative agriculture],” he said. “Otherwise, if you’re just taking and taking and taking [from the land], I don’t know if we’ll make it 100 years.”
“I’m not big on telling people how they should live their lives,” said Englehart. “I’ve always thought if I just do the best, then hopefully I will lead other people to do the best that they can do.”
And there’s no turning back for Englehart. She and Sosa just purchased 200 acres in Texas to create another regenerative agriculture farm and create millions of pounds of carbon-consuming soil. Englehart has never been more certain as she sheds her Hollywood past and charges forward into the future.
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