Farmer Fridays: Healthy Soils Program Grants in Action

Posted on Friday, January 31st, 2020 by
Photo credit USDA NRCS

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Healthy Soils Program (HSP)  launched in 2017 and has since invested $17.8 million in farmers and ranchers to promote soil building practices as a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy. This year’s highly anticipated grant cycle is coming up, featuring many improvements and $28 million—more available funding than ever before.

Despite program and application upgrades, the process of applying, implementing and monitoring can still be time consuming and burdensome for many farmers. Technical Assistance (TA) providers—including recently launched program that supports TA providers specifically for CDFA’s Climate Smart Agriculture programs—exist for this purpose. Many past HSP incentive and demonstration grants have been supported by local organizations, like Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs).


Climate Leaders

The Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County manages the Tijuana River Valley Community Garden, providing plots of community gardeners and urban farmers for over two decades. With the help of a recent HSP Demonstration Grant, they have been exploring the benefits of compost application, mulching, and cover crops on an educational plot growing broccoli, romaine lettuce, cucumber and more. Beginning the project with overarching goals of carbon sequestration, soil health improvement, and increased moisture retention, they are already seeing slight increases in soil organic matter.

Read more here.



Closer to home, the Sonoma Resource Conservation District has been assisting farmers with HSP grants. They are working with Jackson Family Wines at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard to determine pest soil building and carbon sequestration practices. With this project, they are experimenting with different combinations of compost application and reduced tillage for the greatest carbon storage. Adopting the optimal combination across the Jackson’s Family’s expansive vineyard acreage amplifies climate benefits and their position as a model in the wine industry, hosting farm tours and sharing findings.

Read more here.




The Sonoma Mountain Institute (SMI) has also partnered with Sonoma RCD on a demonstration grant to scale up a pilot project, examining how compost application on rangelands sequesters carbon. SMI will monitor changes in soil health, fertility and water-holding capacity, as well as forage productivity and plant capacity. Sonoma RCD will work on the collection and analysis of soil organic matter data. As part of the demonstration grant’s outreach component, SMI and Sonoma RCD will host at least 120 farmers and ranchers to encourage practice adoption and share best practices over the course of three years.

Read more here.


Interested in applying for a Healthy Soils Program grant?

The application period is expected to open in February. Even if you were discouraged in the past by the amount of work involved, take another look at this streamlined application process and four-month window for submissions. Also take note that you are now able to apply for new practices on fields where you already received a grant—another program improvement.

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