Of soil and sandwiches: urban restaurants fund regenerative farming in #Colorado — KUNC

Graphic credit: Yellow Barn Farm

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Rae Solomon). Here’s an excerpt:

Yellow Barn is a baby of a farm. The 100-acre operation in Longmont started up just a little over 2 years ago, on the grounds of a shuttered horse stable. Nick DiDomenico is Yellow Barn’s young farmer. DiDomenico practices regenerative agriculture, a holistic approach to farming and ranching. It rebuilds depleted soils, improves ecosystems and mitigates climate change by putting carbon back in the ground. Farmers in Colorado are increasingly experimenting with those techniques, to different degrees. DiDomenico is among those leading the pack. The fields at Yellow Barn are just getting started. DiDomenico has been working to establish a silvopasture here – an integrated system of trees and livestock that work together to produce an overall regenerative benefit – including increased biodiversity on the land, leading to higher soil fertility, and better water retention. “We’re farming here, we’re running our cattle,” Didomenico explained. “It’s this rotational grazing strategy that improves the land.”

On a recent afternoon, DiDomenico adjusted a faulty pump on the water trough that keeps his small herd of belted Galloway cows hydrated. “It’s a really niche thing that we’re doing,” he said, “which is converting completely decertified, degraded, marginalized land and redeveloping it into agricultural systems that are viable.”


Conventional agriculture costs a lot of money. Farmers typically pay dearly for inputs like fertilizer and pesticides and the fuel needed to spread them in the field. Since the 1930’s, the federal government has subsidized those costs heavily. But Farm Bill subsidies are deliberately conservative. They aren’t equipped to encourage risk and experimentation. “They’re designed for commodity mid- to large-scale agriculture,” according to Clark Harshbarger, a regenerative agriculture expert with the NGO Mad Agriculture in Boulder, Colorado. “They purposely try to take the risk out of those practices because it’s taxpayer money already spent,” Harshbarger said. “And sometimes [the USDA] vetting process hasn’t necessarily caught up with progressive regenerative farming systems.” As a small-scale regenerative farmer, DiDomenico falls through the cracks when it comes to federal subsidies. The farming technique at Yellow Barn is experimental and holistic. Harshbarger is familiar with DiDomenicos’ work. “It’s very creative and it’s complex,” he explained, but “the Farm Bill is designed to be very specific… very 1 to 1.”


The USDA doesn’t subsidize this type of work. So DiDomenico finds financial support in some unlikely places…Just off the highway, in the city of Boulder, there’s a strip mall with an Indian Restaurant, a nail salon, and a locksmith. In a corner behind the Goodwill, a Subway sandwich shop does brisk business at lunch hour. But this Subway is special, because along with the standard steak and cheese, spicy Italian and tuna subs, it offers customers the opportunity to support regenerative farming in the neighboring rural areas. That’s because of a program called Restore Colorado, that takes a little extra charge – just 1% of the cost of your meal – from urban restaurants, like this Subway, and gives it to rural farmers, like DiDomenico, to invest in their soil. That comes to just a few cents on top of the cost of each sandwich, that shows up on the sales receipt as the 1% Restore Colorado charge.

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