Mendocino County Healthy Soil Award Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of the CDFA Healthy Soils Program! Nine Mendocino farmers were selected for an award, totaling over $300k going to make Mendocino County soils that much healthier. That is incredible action taken by our NorCal land stewards!

The Mendocino awarded projects are as follows:

  1. Elke Vineyards, of Anderson Valley, was selected for an award of $42,034.08 to plant hedgerows and a riparian forest buffer on their property, and to include cover crop and compost under their vines. This is designed to reduce run-off, soil erosion, and drift and dust contamination, as well as to improve wildlife and healthy pollinator habitat, and to sequester carbon, add soil vitality, and keep their streams clean and cool. 
  2. Frey Vineyards, of Redwood Valley, was selected for an award of $25,942.77 to plant hedgerows and riparian buffer zones at the edge of their vineyards. This was designed to provide a greater balance of ecosystem functions by sequestering carbon and creating habitat for wildlife.
  3. Glenn McGourty, County Director of UCCE Mendocino, was selected for an award of $29,246.66 to improve the functioning of his property, where he grows a variety of wine grapes, walnuts, and fruit trees. This project was designed to stabilize the eroding streambanks of this Russian River property by establishing a riparian herbaceous cover of native grasses and by restoring an aging riparian forest buffer of cottonwoods and oaks. In addition, he will be applying a compost/cover crop combo on his vineyards to repair the soils damaged by recent flooding.
  4. Magruder Ranch in Potter Valley has been selected for an award of $73,500 to apply compost to 26 acres of rangeland used to pasture cattle, sheep, and pigs. They will be working in partnership with Scripps Oceanography Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes to accurately measure the soil moisture holding capacity of their rangelands throughout this project.
  5. Marie Hoff, a small land owner in Potter Valley, was selected for an award of $2,928.28 to improve the forage of her flock of sheep by integrating fruit trees, applying compost, and planting a multi-species hedgerow on their 10 acre pasture.
  6. Meadow Farm Community Land Trust, a non-profit located in Fort Bragg, has been selected for an award of $17,765.11 to add compost, mulch, and cover crops to their low-carbon soils. They will also be planting more herbaceous plants to provide habitat for wildlife.
  7. Navarro Vineyards, of Anderson Valley, was selected for an award of $74,338 to produce their own on-farm compost, which they will spread over 264 acres. 
  8. Red Creek Farm in Potter Valley was selected for an award of $9,300 to apply compost to their pastures and rangeland.
  9. Strong Roots in Potter Valley was selected for an award of $36,300 to apply compost to the veggie fields and irrigated pasture.

Stream bank near a farm in Ukiah, California.

According to Linda Macalwee and Katy Brantley of the Mendocino Resource Conservation District, “In total, practices combined have the potential to sequester almost 1,980 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. This would lead to the equivalent of 420 cars being removed from the roads per year. Additionally, implementing these practices has the potential to improve water holding capacity, increase soil organic matter, reduce nutrient inputs, stabilize soil to reduce erosion, attract beneficial insects and pollinators, and save fuel costs by reducing tillage.” Way to go, Mendo farmers!

As UCCE Mendocino's Climate-Smart Community Education Specialist, I was able to work 1-1 with several of the awarded farmers on their applications. The experience was very educational, as I had about 5 weeks to get started, learn as much as I could, meet the farmers and discuss their projects, and get their applications in by the deadline in March. While some of our farmers worked independently on their applications, only to reach out to ask questions, others worked more closely with myself and the other Technical Assistance Providers contracted by the CDFA. I found that many of our older farmers needed help navigating the intricacies of the online application platform, while others had more questions and concerns regarding the project's implementation requirements. For instance, qualified winners applying compost to their land are required to apply it 3x over the project duration, a feat which requires hiring labor and renting machinery which isn't covered with the grant funds. This detail was a make or break for certain farmers, but overall it seems compost application was a popular choice amongst our selected awardees. 

The Healthy Soils Program is set to have another round of solicitations starting in early 2020. For more information on how to prepare, check out the CDFA website at Farmers across CA, no matter the size of their production or hopeful projects are encouraged to apply. Farmers who qualify as a Socially or Severely Disadvantaged Community member, or who provide benefits to these specific communities, will receive extra consideration. Contact your closest UCCE Community Education Specialist for Technical Assistance with your application!

Climate smart agriculture encompasses management practices that increase soil carbon sequestration, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve yields and efficiencies, and promotes climate resilience. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) supports three funding opportunities in climate smart agriculture: the Healthy Soils Program, the State Water Efficiency & Enhancement Program, and the Alternative Manure Management Program

In a collaborative partnership, CDFA and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources have teamed up to support 9 community education specialists throughout the state to provide technical assistance and outreach for the climate smart agriculture programs. To learn more and locate a specialist near you, visit