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Marketing Biochar: Carbon-Smart Farming to grow Nutrient-Dense Cool-Food

David Yarrow

Soil is the final resting place for sequestered biochar, so agriculture is our largest pathway to move Carbon out of atmosphere into soils.  Thus, farmers are pivotal partners in this climate-smart Carbon strategy.  How to convince farmers to buy and try biochar?  How to guarantee biochar yields farmers production benefits and financial success?  How to represent and promote this new soil substance and strategy? Farmers put priority on Cost, Convenience & Customers: Cost: Biochar must save farmers money by cutting fertilizers, chemicals, fuel, and chemicals. Convenience:  Biochar must be easy, simple to use in production systems on the variety of crops, soils, systems, farms, climates, ideologies. Customers: Farmers grow crops to sell to a market for profit.  If farmers know markets that will buy crops grown with biochar, they will quickly learn to grow to that soil carbon specification.  Ultimately, food is the primary driver of this biochar market.  In 1990, USDA Certified Organic created a food label that allowed organic farming and food systems to grow steadily into the last quarter century.  In this century, we must go beyond organic to create a new product specification and label based on carbon strategy, nutrient density and climate adaptation. US biochar producers must quickly form a Marketing Council to formulate and launch a unified, coherent, consistent strategy to market biochar in the US.  A public persona and concept must be formulated into language, images, style, and trademarks.   Producers must take the initiative to shape public perception and expectation of this new substance and key strategy.  Standards for grade, quality, classification, packaging, label, insignia, terminology, and product specifications must be carefully crafted and nationally promoted. A Council special mandate is to develop a “Carbon-Smart” certification to identify farms and crops grown by climate-smart farming methods, including biochar.  A further option is a “Cool-Food” label to identify foods in the marketplace that are grown by “Carbon-Smart” farms. Special concern is how to shoehorn biochar into the complex tangle of Rules, Regulations & Expectations by federal agencies, banks, insurance, shipping, state ag departments, health agencies, food trade associations, consumer groups, environmental organizations, etc.

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