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Creek restoration at dairies west of Petaluma

For Jarrid Bordessa, who was born and raised on a dairy farm in Valley Ford, environmental stewardship is good for the planet. It is also good for business.

“Healthy soil creates healthy food,” said Bordessa, who owns Ocean Breeze Dairy between Petaluma and the coast.

Healthy soil, he explained, is more productive, meaning more grass for his 300 cows. Better fed cows produce more milk. So Bordessa jumped at the opportunity to undertake a restoration project along Ebabias Creek, which runs through his property before emptying into Estero Americano.

“It is mutually beneficial,” he said of the project. “It’s good for the earth, good for the community and good for our bottom line. It’s a win-win.”

Ocean Breeze is one of two organic dairies west of Petaluma that are planting hundreds of trees in an effort to restore vital watersheds with a riparian canopy capable of storing tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

The Valley Ford farm, as well as McClelland’s Dairy in Two Rock, are both using volunteers and students from the STRAW program at Point Blue Conservation Science to provide the labor. Organic Valley, a co-op of organic farmers, funded the carbon farm plan for the projects at the two farms that supply the Wisconsin-based dairy cooperative.

“I wanted to implement the practices that the Organic Valley sustainability team was talking about and see what would happen on my farm,” Bordessa said.

Work to restore Ebabias Creek at Ocean Breeze Dairy started earlier this year with 14 classrooms of 350 students and 60 volunteers planting almost 700 native species during the first phase of the project. In the second phase, STRAW will install an irrigation system.

Bordessa, 40, who is a 5th generation dairy farmer and has supplied Organic Valley for about 10 years, said old timers recall steelhead once thrived in the creek. He hopes the restored creek habitat will bring back the fish.

Work on McClelland’s Dairy began in December 2018 on two acres of designated land near Stemple Creek. More than 150 students and teachers in five STRAW program classes planted 90 individual plants consisting of 12 species of native trees and shrubs, including coast live oak, Oregon ash, California blackberry and coffeeberry.

“It’s pretty powerful to give people — let alone young people — the opportunity to participate in a solution,” said Isaiah Thalmayer, senior project manager with Point Blue. “We all hear a lot of ‘doom and gloom’ news these days, especially around climate change, and it is really empowering to present a solution and all the learning that comes along with that.”

The second phase will begin this summer, when STRAW will install an irrigation system. STRAW staff will continue to monitor and maintain the projects for one to two years. The project will help prevent erosion, maintain water quality, provide habitat for wildlife, and preserve the health of the entire ecosystem.

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

Projects that restore land and sequester carbon from the atmosphere are called carbon farming projects. Together, the two projects have the potential to store 40 metric tons of carbon within their first five years, according to Jessica Luhning, sustainability manager at Organic Valley.

“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,” she said. “Across the U.S., interest in carbon farm planning in our cooperative continues to grow.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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