"The Edges Matter: Hedgerows Are Bringing Life Back to Farms"

"Researchers have found that planting hedgerows helps farmers sequester carbon in the soil, manage pests, and provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife."

"More than 20 years ago, Craig McNamara started planting woody vegetation on his family’s farm, west of Sacramento, California. McNamara was an early organic pioneer in the region, and he prioritized weaving nature into the agricultural landscape at a time when it was far from popular. Native shrubs and trees lined a creek that ran through the walnut farm. Plants became boundaries between orchards and row crops—i.e., hedgerows—and it didn’t take long for the 450-acre organic farm to come “alive,” says Craig’s son, Sean McNamara, who joined the operation in 2014. Bees, owls, ladybugs, and many other creatures still routinely visit the farm. Just a few weeks ago, a bobcat strolled through the bushes along the creek.

These above-ground benefits to hedgerows are easy to spot. But a few years ago, McNamara watched as a soil scientist dug into the dirt surrounding them. She scooped up rich, dark, compacted soil, mycelial strands tangled within. “I think we were in the middle of summer and the soil, even the topsoil, was moist,” he recalls. It was a memorable sight in drought-riddled California.

That scientist, Jessica Chiartas, was studying the soil around hedgerows. She selected a couple dozen farms in the Sacramento Valley, an area with plenty of well-established hedgerows thanks to a campaign initiated more than 20 years ago that sought to bring native vegetation back to local farms."

Anne Marshall-Chalmers reports for Civil Eats February 14, 2023.

Source: Civil Eats, 02/15/2023