The Carbon Farming Solution

A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security


"Readers interested in carbon capture and climate mitigation will welcome this new resource, one of the most complete books on the market today that deals with what could be called 'carbon farming.' Although the focus is on perennial crops and systems often grouped under the topics of agroforestry, or more recently permaculture, the book also delves into creative and biodiverse annual cropping and livestock systems, new crops, and innovative designs all focused on the issue of carbon. Toensmeier is an applied ecologist with extensive experience in the Latin American tropics, and practices these principles in workshops, books, and at home. More than a reference volume,The Carbon Farming Solution is an easily read and interesting overview of this important frontier. … The appendixes to the book provide a wealth of data on species and relevant references that could keep anyone truly interested  engaged for months in following up on sources and designing new systems based on these ideas. The Carbon Farming Solution is indeed a monumental project that will help guide tropical agricultural development for decades, and Toensmeier has provided a significant resource for those concerned about climate and the future.”

--Journal of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

"To minimize climate change, environmental engineers have recently proposed several innovative, if controversial, schemes designed to soak up CO2 or even block sunlight altogether, including spraying aerosols in the upper atmosphere. Yet, according to permaculture expert Toensmeier, a more reliable and safer solution involves trading in conventional agriculture practices for a soil-management methodology known as carbon farming. In this weighty but well-organized handbook, Toensmeier offers a wealth of guidance on cutting-edge farming techniques that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and capture carbon in vegetation and soils. As a successful model of what’s possible, Toensmeier cites Las Canadas, in Veracruz, Mexico, where food-cooperative owner Ricardo Romero restored 250 acres of degraded farmland within 10 years. In 5 lucidly written sections, Toensmeier covers the science of carbon sequestration, perennial crop cultivation, and key financing tips. On the coattails of the recent, successful Paris Climate Summit, Toensmeier provides invaluable information and inspiration to farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs as well as everyone interested in environmentally positive farming as part of the effort to protect food sources and mitigate global warming.”


“Scientific observations and models are building an increasingly dire picture of the obstacles that must be crossed on the road to achieving climate and ecological health and stability on a planet filled with humans. The relentlessly hopeful (but not naively optimistic) author of The Carbon Farming Solution reminds us that our planet is still rich in biological resources and that humanity is capable of astonishing feats of creativity and collaborative action; the picture painted here in word and image depicts both the barriers and paths through them. Eric Toensmeier draws upon both the scientific literature and the world’s ethnobotanical knowledge bank to construct a logical and compelling road map for future research and investment to reinvent agriculture. But reason and facts alone are insufficient to sustain a global and long-term agenda; passion is required. In the end, it is the perennial plants (and their human and microbial partners) themselves—lovingly portrayed here in their glorious diversity and elegant functionality—that steal the show and our hearts. This ‘Who’s Who’ of wild or orphaned potential crops can inspire a new generation of plant lovers and gardeners to become the convention-questioning, dedicated, passionate, hopeful scientists, farmers, and leaders that the movement requires.”

--David VanTassell, The Land Institute


"Toensmeier has done a great deal of research and he is careful to articulate all his sources... The largest chunk of the book is a fairly exhaustive list of the numerous perennial crops for use in carbon farming for protein, fats, carbohydrates, oils, biomass, hydrocarbon, industrial starches etc. This is where the book shines for me... As holistic managers we know that there are many factors as to why a producer will choose one carbon farming practice over another. We need to focus on how to get producers to take any step in the right direction toward carbon farming practices that speak to them. The first step is understanding the importance of carbon farming and the next step is being a part of the solution." 

--Anne Adams, Holistic Management Institute

"The Carbon Farming Solution is a book we will look back upon decades from now and wonder why something so critically relevant could have been so overlooked until that time. We are told we have a choice between chemical/GMO agriculture if we want to feed the world, or we can see children starve and adopt organic agriculture as a romantic and sentimental pursuit. Really? Toensmeier describes a future that is in alignment with how life works, a scientific and sophisticated agricultural understanding of husbandry and biology that surpasses the productivity of industrial agriculture. What is phenomenal about these land-use solutions is that they are the only way we can bring carbon back home if we are to reverse climate change. The title is accurate but humble: The Carbon Farming Solution describes the foundation of the future of civilization."

--Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest


"Eric Toensmeier presents a convincing argument that carbon farming is crucial to addressing global issues of the 21st century including climate change, food and nutritional insecurity, eutrophication and contamination of water, and dwindling of soil biodiversity. Implemented in a transparent manner and with payments of just and fair price based on the true societal value, carbon farming is also pertinent to alleviating poverty and addressing several Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Carbon farming as a strategy is in accord with the "4 pour 1000" initiative of the French Government presented during the COP-21 Summit in Paris on December 1, 2015 and The Carbon Farming Solution is a befitting tribute to the 2015 International Year of Soils."

--Dr. Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and director of The Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, The Ohio State University; President Elect, International Union of Soil Sciences


"The Carbon Farming Solution is a book whose time has come. This detailed documentation of regenerative practices from around the world, including principles and methods, provides a practical guide for others to follow and expand upon as humanity takes on the ‘Great Work of Our Time'—to restore the Earth's natural systems to ecological health. The Carbon Farming Solution is of enormous importance."

--John D. Liu, founder and director, Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP)


"Eric Toensmeier has done a hugely impressive job putting together this magnum opus. It is packed with an enormous amount of information about seven hundred plant species that have a role to play in saving the planet from land degradation and climate change, while at the same time improving the lives of millions of poor farmers, especially in the tropics and sub-tropics. The Carbon Farming Solution covers species for every use and every situation that can be assembled in infinite agroecological combinations. On top of that, the cultivation of these crops can lead to new industries in the production of food, medicines, cosmetics, and materials—creating wealth and employment. This information should be absorbed by everyone engaged in agriculture; everyone concerned about the future of the world and the well-being and health of its people; and everyone interested in protecting biodiversity. Indeed, The Carbon Farming Solution offers a path to a bright new world!"

--Professor Roger Leakey, vice chairman of the International Tree Foundation and author of Living with the Trees of Life


"Eric Toensmeier is one of North America's most inventive and scientifically-minded permaculture experimenters. In this book, he offers nothing less than a new vision for world agriculture that is more resilient, supports traditional farmers, and also helps relieve the global climate crisis. The Carbon Farming Solution offers an encyclopedic but also highly readable view of new and old carbon-trapping farming methods that can be applied around the world, and a profile of the highly adaptable, soil-enhancing perennial plant species that may just be the key to a livable human future."

--Brian Tokar, director of the Institute for Social Ecology and author of Toward Climate Justice: Perspectives on the Climate Crisis and Social Change


"The Carbon Farming Solution is an excellent reference book that convincingly explains the potential of farming practices based on perennial crops for carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation and adaptation. The numerous photographs and charts included help illustrate the food-security and multi-functionality attributes of agroforestry and other such farming systems. In addition to professionals who work on food security and climate stabilization issues, undergraduate and graduate students of these topics will find the book useful."

--Dr. P. K. Ramachandran Nair, Distinguished Professor in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida


"Dealing with climate change requires action on many fronts, and this book is the toolkit for making the soil itself a sponge for carbon. It's a powerful vision, one that I've seen playing out in enough places to make me very hopeful it can presage major changes in our species' use of the land."

--Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy


"In The Carbon Farming Solution, Eric Toensmeier admirably harnesses available data with traditional wisdom to propose a practical response to climate change. Toensmeier's solution-oriented ideas combine his clear understanding of ecology, agriculture, and the magnitude of the challenge we face with a set of agriculture-based solutions that are suited to various livelihoods, communities, and systems of production. This book will surely be a benchmark in policy-relevant knowledge."

--Dr. Cheikh Mbow, senior scientist on climate change and development, World Agroforestry Centre