The agricultural action carried out by restaurants aims to fight against climate change


DENVER (AP) – One early weekday morning in Longmont, the co-owners of boutique catering company Whistling Boar are busy in the kitchen preparing their weekly meal boxes for delivery. David Pitula and Debbie Seaford-Pitula moved from Brooklyn to Colorado five years ago with dreams of living closer to the farms they worked with.

“We wanted to be more personal with the farms,” Seaford-Pitula said. “We have farmers now farming specifically for us, (asking) ‘What do you need this season?’”

The two said part of this farm-restaurant relationship should be supporting farmers and ranchers in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Agriculture emits more than 10 percent of total greenhouse gases in the United States, and reducing that number is vital to tackling climate change.

Most ranchers sell their cattle to a meat company for the going price, so there is often little profit or incentive to invest in significant environmental improvements to their land. Something as simple as planting trees among pastures is expensive, especially on hundreds or thousands of acres.

“This stuff is great for biodiversity and removes carbon from the atmosphere, creates all of that public benefit and conserves water,” said Anthony Myint. “But they can’t sell the beef for an extra dollar.”

Myint is a restaurateur and co-founder of Zero Foodprint, a nonprofit organization that works with Boulder County to support regenerative agriculture projects that can help fight climate change.

Restore Colorado is a simple idea, but Myint hopes it will have a big impact. Restaurants and other food businesses donate 1% of their profits to fund agriculture and livestock projects that suck carbon from the atmosphere through plants that absorb greenhouse gas and store it in healthy soil . Some see regenerative agriculture as a key way to reduce the amount of CO2 in the air, worsening climate change.

“If we can’t afford to give back 1 percent, we shouldn’t (run our business),” Debbie said.

Boulder started Restore Colorado with a grant from the US Department of Agriculture and partnered with Myint, who founded the famous Chinese Food Mission in New York and San Francisco and first began funding grants for carbon agriculture in California.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a renewable food economy,” Myint said.

To give farmers additional financial support to invest in climate-friendly agriculture, Myint believes the food industry should take inspiration from the energy industry. Electricity customers, for example, may pay a little more on their utility bills to support clean energy or choose to purchase electricity from a solar farm.

“We don’t really have this system in agriculture,” he said.

Over 50 restaurants have joined Zero Foodprint. About 15 of them are in Colorado, including Bin 707 Foodbar in Grand Junction and River and Woods in Boulder, and more have signed up to participate. The owner of five Subway restaurants in Boulder is also on the list.

“It’s almost better than having Michelin-starred chefs participate, because it signals that there is a new normal, and that really anyone can be part of this movement to build healthy and healthy soil. fight climate change, ”Myint said.

– Regenerative agriculture in practice

The McCauley Family Farm in Longmont is one of the first in Colorado to receive a grant from this program. Farm manager Marcus McCauley said one of the ways he will use the money is to create more silviculture, where the trees are grown on pasture. These trees can provide a windbreak for grass, and protection and shade can help maintain moisture in the soil during a drought.

“Here it’s probably the best value for money trying to get more carbon pumped into the ground,” McCauley said.

All of these things mean healthier soil on McCauley’s farm. This healthier soil means trees and grass even suck carbon from the air. And healthier plants mean the chickens and sheep raised on McCauley’s pasture are more nutritious – and they do less damage to the land.

But cultivating pastures like this takes time. Tanner Starbard is working with Boulder’s nonprofit Mad Agriculture, which will work with the county and Zero Foodprint to select and oversee these farming projects.

Starbard said banks often don’t give loans to farmers and ranchers who don’t prioritize immediate profit. He said regeneration projects like McCauley’s will take years to start showing their potential benefits.

Five other Colorado farms are lined up to receive regenerative farming grants when they become available. Restore Colorado is not asking for the money to be refunded.

– Where the state intervenes

The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Soil Health Initiative supports regenerative agriculture projects with a five-year, $ 5 million agreement with the USDA. Cindy Lair, who manages the Colorado State Conservation Board program, said she thought the Restore Colorado concept would be “cool to take statewide and find more ways to connect food consumers to their food.”

“We have such a tendency to be so disconnected from where our food is produced,” Lair said. She sees Restore Colorado as a way to help people make that connection. Lair said the state is paying close attention to the Boulder program and is keen to “see if we can help build on it.”

President Biden has pledged to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 2030. As Politico reports, the White House has yet to set specific targets for agriculture. Lair expects the Biden administration to provide increased financial support for these kinds of soil health and climate initiatives.

Lair said she was grateful that Colorado has already done some of the work and that “we’re going to be ready for (this support) when or if it comes.”


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