Learn about one farmer’s attempt to merge scientific management techniques with regenerative farming practices to improve soil health, enhance the economic viability of his farm and contribute to solving climate change.
For more than 150 years, the Schmitt family has been growing vegetables on their 250-acre farm on Long Island. But growing dozens of different crops year-round takes its toll on the soil. The Schmitts have experienced first-hand how degraded soils can have a negative effect on farm productivity – leading to erosion, nutrient loss and poor drainage of their land. By addressing poor soil management, the Schmitts have not only improved the health of their farm, but made their land a part of the solution to climate change.
To improve his soil, Phil Schmitt began soil management techniques like cover crops, compost and reduced tillage, along with nutrient management practices like controlled release of nitrogen fertilizer (CRNF). As a result of his work, Phil has since witnessed a 6-fold increase in the percentage of soil organic matter on his land, which also helps capture and sequester atmospheric carbon and put it back in the earth. With the help of American Farmland Trust (AFT), Phil helped other farmers learn about the benefits of these practices by hosting a Long Island Soil Health Field Day on his property.
In 2018, AFT studied the economic benefits Phil’s new practices had on his 75-acres of sweet corn and found an increased financial return of $2,503 compared to conventional farming methods. “In just one year I saw a positive change,” said Phil. “I had better infiltration and decreased run-off and erosion in my sweet corn fields following heavy rains.” Farmers and ranchers manage nearly one billion acres – about 60 percent of the land in America. This land can act as a natural carbon “sink” by absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in plants and soil. With cases like Phil’s, AFT hopes it can encourage other farmers in the U.S. to adopt similar soil health management techniques for the betterment of their farmland and livelihoods.
Read about more Schmitt Family Farm
Read the full economic case study
Read how the agriculture practices on the Schmitt farm help mitigate climate change
Did You Know? Improved management of nitrogen fertilizers on US farms can prevent the equivalent of between 46 and 144 million metric tons of dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.