The answer under our feet
Free Range Dairy Network is entering the film competition Picture This about what communities across the world are doing to help protect the environment. I was excited to make the film as although we talk about cow, consumers and farmers as our core messages, we believe we can make a positive environmental contribution to the planet too.
So one day last week, Neil and I plus an iPhone set out on one of our Free Range Dairy farms to tell the story about how important utilising pasture and protecting our soil is to Free Range Dairy Network and the environment.
Just by chance an article in The Guardian this weekend echoed the theme of our film. The article said that ‘soil is the second biggest reservoir of carbon on the planet, next to the oceans. It holds four times more carbon than all the plants and trees in the world.’ And we desperately need to reduce our carbon emissions. Each year we make and break weather records and according to Professor Kevin Anderson, one of Britain’s leading climate scientists, ‘we’ve already blown our chances of keeping global warming below the “safe” threshold of 1.5 degrees’.
It shows how we all need to play our part in how we help the environment, in the article it says ‘we need to start reducing emissions by a sobering 8%–10% per year, from now until we reach “net zero” in 2050. If that doesn’t sound difficult enough, here’s the clincher: efficiency improvements and clean energy technologies will only win us reductions of about 4% per year at most’, which means we need to look at every way possible to help reduce carbon emissions. On top of this we should be looking to produce food in a way that helps reduce carbon and greenhouse gases at the same time. Therefore, milk from cows that graze on pasture and locks carbon into the soil beneath should be how we are looking to source our milk and dairy products.
Protecting soil and good pasture management plays a big part in the work of Free Range Dairy Network and that’s why our farmers have to graze for at least 180 days and nights per year. Locking carbon into soil helps the environment and becomes an important part of the structure of healthy soil. As the soils recover, they not only regain their capacity to hold CO2, they begin to actively pull additional CO2 out of the atmosphere.
We want to promote the vital role that that healthy soil plays in delivering our food. Past farming practices such as intensive, monoculture style farming as well as overuse of fertilisers and pesticides have helped deplete the quality of our soils by 40%. It seems crazy not make the most of this incredible material to help our planet. In fact, we’re looking to crowdfund to run soil and pasture workshops with our farmers soon, to ensure they are up to date with best farming practices and we’re all doing all we can to help the environment.
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