Before Resource Conservation Districts assisted in the management of all natural resources local to their district, they were Soil Conservation Districts, as preempted by the great Dust Bowl event of the 1940s. RCDs were created to conserve and protect the health of our nation’s soils as the foundation for agricultural health and stability. Resource Conservation Districts have strong ties to the agricultural community. In the early days of our RCD, staff was composed mostly of farmers, and today, our board of directors are mostly farmers. While the RCD has evolved and expanded with the changing needs of West Sonoma County’s diverse communities, farmers, ranchers, and producers are an integral part of the history, mission, and focus of RCD work.
Today, Gold Ridge RCD still assists in stewarding our district’s agriculture by providing technical assistance for conservation practices that improves soil, plant, water, human, and/or planetary health, while specifically increasing soil organic matter by sequestering carbon.The RCD completes projects that prevent and treat soil erosion, conserve agricultural water resources, developing sustainable pasture and rangeland management plans, developing carbon farm plans (strategic planning for farms and ranches to curb and sequester greenhouse gas emissions) and improving the availability of resources related to the specialized material Biochar. The RCD also rents out a special piece of equipment called a no-till drill which conserves vital soil microbial health while sowing seed.
Many of our Agriculture Programs are directly linked and intertwined with our Climate Change Mitigation, Wildfire, Water and other programs. Carbon Farm Planning and agricultural conservation practices are climate-beneficial practices that target climate change mitigation on agricultural lands. For more information on our agricultural work focused on climate change mitigation, check out our Climate Change Mitigation Programs page here.
Frequently served: Farmers, ranchers, dairy operators
Agricultural Water Conservation
Conserving water where we have it and using it responsibly is a major charge for the Gold Ridge RCD. Conservation measures and projects such as protecting groundwater supply, helping to improve water use efficiency, and developing alternative water sources and supplies such as greywater, rainwater and building seasonal water storage are all essential parts of local water conservation in California’s Mediterranean climate.
For more information on water conservation, check out our Water Programs page here.
LandSmart Plans (Conservation Farm Plan)
LandSmart is a regional collaborative program that helps land managers meet their natural resource management goals while supporting productive lands and thriving streams. LandSmart was developed by the Sonoma RCD, Napa County RCD, Mendocino County RCD, and Gold Ridge RCD in collaboration with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), land managers, and environmental agencies.
LandSmart Plans are prepared with landowners and are geared to meet individual landowner and property needs. LandSmart Plans describe the natural and agricultural resources of a property, document the practices used to protect natural resources, identify opportunities to maintain or improve the quality of natural resources on the property, and prioritize management practices according to individual landowners’ needs, goals, and timelines.
There are many benefits to having a LandSmart Plan. Plans comply with the requirements of current and future water quality regulations, including water quality Conditional Waivers and Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). Plans also address any concerns landowners have about specific areas of their property, solidify priorities for land management activities, and determine a timeline that is feasible for the landowner to implement their individual priorities. LandSmart Plans implement land management practices that improve the long term productivity and profitability of your land while protecting natural resources.
What does a Farm/Ranch Plan include?
- Mapping and Inventory of property features such as planted areas, streams, riparian areas, roads, etc.
- Water Supply – water sources, irrigation, frost protection
- Erosion control – cover cropping, streambank stabilization, road repair
- Nutrient management – manure, fertilizer, compost
- Pest management – chemical, biological, cultural practices, potential to increase pollinator species
- Management of riparian areas – invasive plant removal, native vegetation enhancement
- Any other issues or management practices of interest to landowners
North Coast Soil Health Hub
The North Coast Soil Hub is a regional network dedicated to advancing the adoption of climate-friendly agriculture in California’s North Coast region that is coordinated by a seven-way partnership of Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) — Gold Ridge RCD, Humboldt RCD, Lake RCD, Marin RCD, Mendocino RCD, Napa County RCD, and Sonoma RCD. In order to meet the demand for knowledge about how to build and maintain healthy soils on working lands, RCDs provide farmers and ranchers with outreach, education, planning, and implementation services through the North Coast Soil Hub.
RCDs in the North Coast region provide one-on-one technical assistance to agricultural producers to help plan and implement climate-friendly management practices such as compost application, reduced tillage, improved cover cropping, and hedgerow installation. The North Coast Soil Hub has also completed a widespread soil sampling effort in vineyards throughout the region to create a locally calibrated soil health database where growers can get information on how their soil health compares to other vineyards with similar site conditions. This database has been used to create custom soil reports for wine grape growers throughout California’s North Coast.
Ways to Participate: Visit soilhub.org to read the latest on this project and to sign up for the quarterly newsletter.
No-Till Drill Rental
The RCD owns a compact rangeland No-Till Drill (NTD) which is available for rent at low cost to landowners. The drill is most appropriate for rangeland and pasture settings, as well as cover crop seeding for veggie farms (if you have wide enough gates). It is too wide for vineyard rows and it is too tall for orchard trees. Please note that the use of this drill is strictly limited to Sonoma and Marin Counties. If you are inquiring from a surrounding county, we encourage you to contact your local RCD and express your interest in using a No-Till Drill. If they receive feedback about the need for a drill in your community, then perhaps grant funds can be obtained to purchase the equipment.
The No-Till Drill is available for $150/day for residents within the GRRCD and $200/day for residents outside of the district. Each year, the drill is typically used by 15 to 20 landowners. Each year we receive inquiries from 30 to 35 landowners, and we are unfortunately unable to serve every person who inquires.
How it Works: Our machine is a Great Plains 606NT 6-foot No-Till Drill. The NTD is a towed seeding implement with end wheels and it has a planting width of 7.5 feet and an overall width of 11 feet. The opener discs make a seed bed, and seed tubes mounted between the discs place seed in the furrow. Press wheels following the opener discs close the furrow and gauge opener seeding depth.
Benefits of conservation tillage: Depending on its condition or state, soils are a living dynamic organism that functions in a holistic way, rather than as an inanimate mixture of sand, silt, and clay (Doran, 1999). Soils are neither good nor bad; rather soils are either healthy or unhealthy, the difference being that healthy soils have the capacity:
- To function as a vital living system (within ecosystem and land use boundaries);
- To sustain biological productivity;
- To promote the quality of air and water environments; andTo maintain plant, animal, and human health.
The practice of conservation tillage contributes substantially to better soil health as compared to the practice of conventional plowing. Most importantly, conservation tillage reduces the impacts of soil erosion – erosion carries away soil, nutrients and organic matter. Based on 2009 USDA estimates, the total cost of eroded soil is between $6.10 and $6.40 per ton. No-till seeding provides winter vegetative cover without tilling the soil, improving soil permeability and reducing both runoff and erosion. Because there is no tillage, use near water bodies does not endanger water quality but acts to protect and enhance it, as improving vegetative cover during the winter further reduces runoff and erosion. A no-till approach leaves plant residue (from harvest, cover cropping, etc.) on the surface, rather than tilling it in, which further protects the soil from erosion and imparts additional benefits.
Ways to Participate: Contact William Hart if you are interested in renting our No-Till Drill.
Soil Health and Conservation Technical Assistance
The Gold Ridge RCD offers technical and financial assistance to farmers, ranchers, and producers to aid in soil sampling, erosion control, compost application, biochar application, conservation tillage, and pasture and rangeland management. These soil health conservation practices can be implemented individually as well as part of larger comprehensive conservation plans and Carbon Farm Plans. We also offer some services to assist producers in complying with new regulations as they emerge. To learn more, see resources in the Resource Library or contact us.
Solid Waste and Illegal Dumping Cleanup
Gold Ridge RCD previously received a grant from CalRecycle for the cleanup of illegal solid waste sites on farm or ranch property. A site may be eligible for funding if the parcel is zoned for agricultural use, where unauthorized solid waste disposal has occurred, and where the site is in need of cleanup in order to abate a nuisance or public health and safety threat and/or a threat to the environment. Our goals for this program included implementing cleanup of various types of debris on over 12,000 square feet of land, preventing future dumping by posting “no trespassing” signs and cameras, remediating the sites to their original state, and diverting as much waste as possible from landfills.
- Ranch Illegal Disposal Site Clean Up | Fact Sheet (rcdprojects.org)
- Freezeout Creek Ranch | Project Detail (rcdprojects.org)
Carbon Farm Planning
For more information on Carbon Farm Planning, check out the Carbon Farm Planning section under our Climate Programs here.