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Focus on Sonoma County Soil Health Accomplishments

And ongoing activities in Sonoma and Marin Counties

James Gore and group
Photo of the soil health collaborative with Sonoma County Supervisor, and former Assistant Chief of NRCS, James Gore (seated) days after surgery and ready to talk soil health.  


Sonoma County is home to world class wineries, cattle ranches, craft cheeses, a colorful array of specialty crops and organic farms—with some properties laying claim to several of these titles. What they all have in common, however, is a reliance on soil. It is soil that can support—or thwart—the efforts of the most dedicated farmers while aiding natural resource goals such as water infiltration, soil stabilization and carbon sequestration.

To support soil health goals in Sonoma, many exciting events are happening both in the County and in conjunction with ongoing soil health field trials in Marin, Mendocino and Napa Counties.  Here are the highlights: 

  • The Board of Supervisors will make key announcements in October of soil health activities they are about to undertake locally.
  • An upcoming press event in Healdsburg will demonstrate the importance of how soil health is working on the landscape.
  • Field trials in Mendocino County vineyards will invite farmers and others interested in soil health to come to a workshop and learn about how the practices are affecting production, soil health, drought resiliency and the environment.
  • Sonoma and Gold Ridge RCDs are going back to their soils roots just in time to celebrate their 70th and 75thAnniversaries in February 2016.  More announcements will be coming soon.
  • Sonoma County Month of the Soils will be November with a Gold Resolution by the County Board of Supervisors.
  • A Sonoma County Soil Health Collaborative has been formed by local partners driven to improve soil health on all landscapes in Sonoma County and reduce organic matter loss. This group combines local, state, federal government along with non-profits and districts that work with agricultural and urban areas to increase knowledge and collaborate efforts in the county. Development of a countywide soil challenge is underway to encourage participation in soil building practices on a local level.
  • Marin Carbon Project – The Petaluma field office is continuing to work with the State Office and local partners to conduct field trials on local farms and ranches that are applying compost.
  • Soils Technical Workshops for landowners will be conducted at the end of the year with Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, Marin, and Napa counties.


Carbon Project Promoting Carbon Farming in Marin County

The Marin Carbon Project (MCP) is engaging agricultural producers as ecosystem stewards to provide on-farm ecological benefits, improve agricultural productivity and economic sustainability, and mitigate global climate change through carbon farming.

MCP’s goal is to develop a countywide agricultural carbon sequestration program that will serve as a model for other regions in California, the western US, and the nation. NRCS is working with MCP to better understand the benefits of carbon farming and compost applications on rangeland.

James Creque-Marin Carbon ProjectAt right, Jeff Creque, co-founder of the Marin Carbon Project, walks across a field in Marin County where compost is being applied.


In 2013, MCP launched a year-long carbon farming program on three farms in West Marin: Stemple Creek Ranch (700 acres), Straus Dairy (500 acres), and Corda Ranch (1,200 acres).  After performing extensive baseline soil sampling and rangeland assessment on these farms, close to 4,000 cubic yards of compost supplied by West Marin Compost was applied on nearly 100 acres of rangelands on these farms. 

MCP is working with these farms and the local NRCS office to identify a suite of farm management practices to compliment compost application in a manner that builds soil carbon and soil health and improves productivity and forage. Each farm has developed a comprehensive carbon farm plan, including known climate-beneficial practices such as windbreaks, riparian and range management improvements, and grass, plant and tree establishment. The plans are now being implemented. In the next three years, 20 more CFPs will be written for Marin County farms and ranches.