Organic Valley Implements Riparian Restoration Projects

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Scenery from the Ocean Breeze Dairy farm. Photo by Jessica Rowland Photography. Courtesy of Organic Valley.

Sonoma County, CA—Organic Valley has implemented two riparian restoration projects on two of its Sonoma County farms, according to a press release.

In a blog post, Organic Valley explained that riparian restoration means the ecological improvement of habitats along waterways such as streams, rivers, springs, lakes, and floodplains. “These borderland areas are essential to improving biodiversity and protecting watersheds,” the post says. “Improving the land along waterways helps improve water quality, reduce runoff and erosion, and create habitat that will attract beneficial wildlife.” A biodiverse riparian zone includes native trees, shrubs, and grasses with fibrous root systems. The new plants and their root systems, once established, filter pollutants and catch sediment from runoff, thus reducing erosion and slowing flooding. For dairy farms especially, there are perks—cows like to graze on perennial grasses, the post says, which keeps the areas from getting overgrown, and the tress provide shade for cows during warmer months.

The projects are each roughly two acres. These projects have the potential to store 40 metric tons of carbon within their first five years.

The first restoration started in December 2018 on the McClelland dairy farm in Petaluma, CA, on two acres of land near Stemple Creek. Over 150 students and teachers of the Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) program planted 90 individual plants consisting of 12 species of native trees and shrugs. In summer 2020, STRAW will install an irrigation system, and after the school year, STRAW staff will monitor and maintain the projects for one to two years.

“It’s important to take care of the land, water, and air we breathe. Every little bit that we can all do contributes to having a healthier earth,” said Jana McClelland, McClelland Dairy Owner, in the press release.

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The second restoration started earlier this year on the Bordessa farm, Ocean Breeze Dairy, in Valley Ford, CA. An estimated 14 classrooms consisting of 14 teachers, 350 students, and 60 volunteers participated in the Ebabias Creek restoration project, which involved planting almost 700 native species. In early spring, STRAW will install an irrigation system.

“I wanted to implement the practices that the Organic Valley sustainability team was talking about and see what would happen on my farm,” said Jarrid Bordessa, Ocean Breeze Dairy Owner, in the press release.

These products, according to Jessica Luhning, Sustainability Manager at Organic Valley, are called “carbon farming” projects. “You plant the ‘seed’ somewhere and it will grow—we have additional farmers signed up for Climate Smart Farm Planning plans in Sonoma County just because these two farmers did it,” Luhning said. “Across the U.S., interest in carbon farm planning in our cooperative continues to grow.

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