Agricultural lands provide valuable habitat for wildlife like deer
Deer passing through crops Agricultural lands provide valuable habitat for wildlife like deer © Hamilton Wallace

Stories in Idaho

Growing a Sustainable Future for Idaho

Using regenerative agriculture to create a healthier future for people and nature.

This page was updated on January 6, 2021.

Healthy Soils, Clean Water

When you think about conservation in Idaho, agriculture may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, agriculture, an industry that touches nearly every aspect of life in Idaho, holds the potential to unlock solutions to some of our most complex environmental challenges.

Idaho leads the nation as the top producer of potatoes and commercial trout and is the third-largest water user in the U.S., due in part to irrigation. This means implementing sustainable, regenerative agricultural practices in Idaho is among the highest-potential strategies for protecting the environment and reducing climate impacts in the state. At the same time, improving soil health and water quality also supports the economic interests of Idaho’s large farming community that depends on healthy lands and freshwater.

With regenerative farming practices, we have the opportunity to create better economic and environmental conditions for Idaho's agriculture community that will last for future generations.

TNC agriculture strategy manager

In 2018, The Nature Conservancy launched the Healthy Soils, Clean Water program. This initiative brings together the ingenuity of the state’s farmers and TNC’s conservation experience to transform the way we use soil and water to grow food using regenerative farming practices.

TNC has continued to invest in this program by appointing Idaho native and long-time agriculture specialist, Brad Johnson, as the agriculture strategy manager. “Current agricultural practices are caught in a toxic cycle of high inputs of fertilizer, chemicals, and water while over-tilling the soil, which continues to degrade soil health, deplete water supplies, and affect our bottom line,” said Johnson. “With regenerative farming practices, we have the opportunity to create better economic and environmental conditions for Idaho’s agriculture community that will last for future generations.”

 

Potatoes pulled from the ground.
Idaho Potato Farm TNC is partnering with Idaho farmers to transform the way we use soil and water to grow food. © John Finnell

Program Goals

  • Mitigate climate change through regenerative farming techniques that restore soil, conserve water, and store more carbon in the ground.
  • Support the economic viability of Idaho's agriculture community by removing financial barriers to adopting sustainable practices.
  • Ensure a resilient water supply through improved water quality and quantity.
  • Demonstrate the environmetal and economic benefits of regenerative practices, catalyzing widespread adoption across Idaho.

Scaling up Sustainable Change

We’re working directly with farmers to implement regenerative practices and launch two new demonstration farms in Twin Falls and Fairfield, ID in Spring 2021. Farmers interested in regenerative agriculture will be able to tour the demonstration farms to see proven regenerative methods in action, such as no-till and cover crop planting. By partnering with farmers to absorb financial risks and remove barriers to adopting regenerative practices, TNC aims to scale up the number of regenerative farmlands to a critical tipping point that will catalyze sustainable change across the state.

Interested in learning about how regenerative agriculture could benefit your farm? Contact Brad Johnson, TNC’s agriculture strategy manager.

Using Nature to Fight Climate Change

The regenerative agriculture practices we are promoting are among the most powerful ways we can fight climate change in Idaho. For example, planting cover crops can increase the amount of carbon stored in the soil, and preventing excess fertilizer use can reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Natural climate solutions like improved agriculture practices can reduce one fifth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recently published peer-reviewed article in Science Advances.

In an agricultural state like Idaho, where agriculture forms a significant part of the state’s economy, a regenerative food system is one of our greatest opportunities—not just to protect nature, but to ensure thriving communities.