Ramsey McPhillips: Look to the land for answer to climate crisis

Ramsey McPhillips photo##
Ramsey McPhillips photo##

Climate change is happening.

Arguing whether glacial melt and extreme weather are manmade or just part of the planet’s natural cycle is a waste of time. And it’s time we humans don’t have to spare if we wish to continue existing in a balanced environment.

What’s important is to participate actively in decarbonizing the atmosphere, in reducing CO2 and methane gas without torpedoing the economy.

The quickest and most surefire way to achieve measurable reductions in global carbon pollution is eliminating the need for landfills and sequestering carbon into the soil.

Waste Management is in the process of closing its local methane-spewing Riverbend Landfill, which is surrounded by some of the best soil in the world. Keeping garbage rates low by reducing the need for landfilling, and paying local farmers to solve our planetary imbalance through carbon sequestration in the soil, are essential to de-carbonization going forward.

Mark my word, this fight against carbon pollution will be won by those who embrace and support agriculture as THE cure to climate change. Given the crisis, and McMinnville’s options for helping provide an agrarian solution, it’s no surprise this is already happening locally.

But first, what has been happening recently in the national climate change arena?

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, which includes more than $369 billion to curtail climate change. This bill’s investment in clean energy manufacturing will create 1.5 million new jobs and significantly reduce our energy costs as we finally wean ourselves away from fossil fuels.

It’s estimated that when this act is fully instituted, it will slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below peak 2005 levels by 2030.

The portion of the bill directly affecting the agricultural sector includes $20 billion to support farmers moving to a regenerative way of growing our food. The funds will be allocated to farmers that utilize practices that reduce nutrient loss, stifle greenhouse gases and sequester carbon in the soil.

The dairy industry is especially pleased with the Inflation Reduction Act, as it will go a long way toward helping the industry fulfill its net zero goal by 2050.

So how does this affect McMinnville? A lot, if we play our cards right.

The Willamette Valley is blessed with highly fertile farmland and many farmers already moving to regenerative practices. These farmers are plowing less, planting cover crops, and building soil health with organic material.

Federal dollars will shortly be made available to the dairies, livestock producers, orchardists, grain producers and vineyardists moving to sink carbon into their soils. This will create local jobs and go a long way to stifle climate change.

It’s about time subsidies now going to the petroleum industry — the root cause of our carbon pollution — are shifted to the farmer. Many believe he can save us from the climate emergency.

In the form of oil, carbon is pumped and burned to the point of choking our planet. Farmers, however, reverse the extraction of carbon from the earth and instead lock it back into the ground in the form of organic material and roots.

As a result, Yamhill County is quickly becoming a noted hub of regenerative agriculture.

Leading the way are Tabula Rasa Farms and its Kookoolan Farms partner in Carlton; the Big Table Farms and Maysara winery operations; farm-to-table restaurants such as okta and Humble Spirit in McMinnville; and the Mac Market, which has been selling regenerative farm produce, along with meats and meals, from its quarters on Alpine Avenue. 

We here on McPhillips Farms are joining the movement with a new nonprofit agricultural laboratory, dedicated to hosting agricultural businesses working to sequester carbon with ag waste.

Called the Tainable Regenerative Agricultural Laboratory, or Tainable for short, it already features two game-changing anchor tenants working to mainstream soil carbon sequestration practices.

Pat Crowley of Chapul Farms, who successfully received funding from the TV show Shark Tank, and Dr. Elaine Ingham of the Soil Food Web, an internationally recognized soil expert, will be working on McPhillips Farms to bring advanced research in insect farming and the soil biome. Their scientific research has the potential to drastically change the way we dispose of waste and manage our soil.

Their innovations have the potential to greatly increase the bottom line of farms while solving the pressing issues swirling around climate change. I’m sure you will be hearing a lot about them in the near future.

Now that Riverbend Landfill is effectively closed, we must take responsibility for our waste. Using much of that waste to sequester soil carbon through agriculture is the solution.

Some local folks fear the landfill will somehow find a way to reopen. But that is not likely.

The city and county just moved the Urban Growth Boundary right up to the front door of the dump. If you think my landfill-slaying behavior was fierce over past years, wait until you see 2,500 new property owners rising up to fight Waste Management’s smells, leaks and litter — landowners who just plopped down hundreds of thousands of dollars for their dream home in our beautiful city.

Given farmland’s impact on solving climate change, it has become more valuable than ever.

Food and agricultural waste are the main culprits in methane generation in landfills. And methane is the second-largest manmade gas contributor to climate change.

Our tax dollars are being used to fix the climate emergency by intercepting waste once going to landfills and sequestering it back into the farmland to stave off carbon pollution.

The solution to global warming and the climate crisis lies right under our feet. It’s in the soil.

We only have a decade to turn back the tide, and McMinnville is perfectly positioned to lead the way. If we all work to make this happen, many jobs will be created, many environmental problems will be solved, and many lives will be saved.

Guest writer Ramsey McPhillips has pursued life strategies designed to accomplish seemingly insurmountable environmental goals. The mission of his ecological advocacy is summed up in two words: forming community. He has achieved his environmental successes by assembling teams of seasoned collaborators to help organize, define, fundraise and administer their way to effective solutions. He lives on his family’s 160-year-old farm in McMinnville. He is a graduate of Sterling, an early precursor to the regenerative farm movement, and holds a degree in environmental studies from Bowdoin College.


Don Dix

'Climate change is happening', reads the first sentence. That begs the question -- when has the Earth's climate not been in a state of change? -- the answer is never -- always changing since it's formation. There is no other fruit that hangs so low, and claiming that it's 'happening' (as in 'recently') is simply a form of condensation.


As we continue to sprawl out, make more roads, more black topped homes, cut down hillside trees that help cool the air to plant more grapes - with no limitations. We eat from plastic containers for a meals that take less than five minutes to eat. The list goes on. Take temperatures from concrete laden cities. Use the Portland Airport as a spokesperson for all temperatures in northern Oregon. And place blame only in one place (cars) causing skepticism and disbelief and nothing changes. Make people care by showing them what they can control.

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