LOVELAND, Colo. — The USDA found in the last year, more than 80% of farms across the country made less than $100,000, and low profits forced nearly 7,000 farms to shut down business.
But there's a new, environmentally-friendly way of farming that's putting thousands of dollars back into farmers' pockets.
It’s called carbon farming, and it’s gaining popularity in family-owned farms across the United States.
Todd Olander is trying the practice on his family farm. Since 1926, Olander’s family worked the land to make a living.
Their farm sits in Loveland, Colorado under the sweeping mountains.
“I am the last remaining farmer that's left out of everyone,” said Todd Olander.
He’s trying to keep his family legacy alive, and to do that, he knows he must embrace change.
“I'm always open to trying different things,” he said.
The corn fields that once provided a stable paycheck weren’t making as much of a profit, so he started a malting operation that works with more than 150 Colorado breweries and distilleries.
It’s called Root Shoot Malting. Mike Myers helps him run it.
“We wanted to focus on quality more than anything, so that also kind of is why we've changed some of our farming practices is to make sure that our barley is the highest quality possible,” said Olander.
The biggest change to their farming practices: becoming a carbon farming operation.
Now, what does that mean?
When plants grow, they remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it. Now, there are companies making natural compounds to help crops do that better.
The goal is to slow or reverse the impacts of climate change and grow crops better and faster.
Olander is getting paid by Locus Agricultural Solutions to apply their carbon farming powder on his crops’ seeds.
The product allows more carbon to be taken out of the atmosphere than the crops could do on their own.
Olander said enrolling in the program earned him several thousand dollars in a time when every penny counts.
The company that he’s working with has paid family-owned farms across the country more than $1.2 million for carbon farming.
“It's not going to replace like actually growing the crops. It's going to be just like extra money to kind of offset maybe some of the extra fertilizer costs or fuel costs that we're seeing,” said Olander.
Travis Kraft of Locus Agricultural Solutions said he hopes more family-owned farms will enroll in the program.
“Legacy transition in farming and ranching is under attack. With revenues inconsistent, extreme weather events, and increasing costs, profits are shrinking. Creating value through Carbon Credits that are valued at the highest level, with longstanding partners and entities is key for legacy transfer. CarbonNOW is breaking those barriers and allowing for more strategic and tangible decisions to be made. CarbonNOW and Locus AG, with our industry partners are and will continue to change the carbon credit industry, ultimately bringing more opportunity and tools back to the American producer,” said Kraft.
“That'd be my hope is that farmers are going to see the incentive to actually earn a little bit of extra money and they're going to take some of these steps towards regenerative farming,” said Olander.
Olander is not stopping with carbon farming.
He is investing in regenerative farming practices throughout his operation. He’s growing radishes as ground cover to keep the soil cool, moist, and full of nutrients.
“Once you get the cycle working together, you should be able to eliminate fertilizer,” said Olander.
It's better for the planet, too, in the long run.
“I think we can reverse global warming. I mean, that's my hope,” said Olander.
You can learn more about carbon farming through Locus AG HERE.