We at Unlimited are as guilty as the rest of the media mob. We tend to focus on the new, the cutting edge, the most high-tech stuff, when in reality most of our audience isn’t developing new widgets that will iPod your Facebook to your fusion reactor.
The worlds most important work is done by professionals in jobs that will never go out of style. We need doctors, lawyers, dentists, farmers, accountants and engineers not only to continue to function but to help us move forward. We need to celebrate and recognize the amazing things being done by professionals within these sectors as we move towards, well we’re not quite sure yet, but it’s going to look a lot different.
Farmers typically don’t innovate; they farm. Yet Brad Rabiey has brought something uncommon forward in the world of farming forward with his venture, The Carbon Farmer. Rabiey grew up working the family’s 500 acre plot in northern Alberta near Peace River but eventually grew up, moved away and got a degree from the University of Alberta.
He came back home and decided to farm a plot of land, not with wheat or barley, but with trees. Called afforestation, Rabiey and company have reforested a section of farmland, had it audited and now sell the carbon credits to clients like Millwoods Honda and The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald who want to offset their carbon footprint.
UL: What kind of farming background do you have?
BR: I was born and raised on our family grain farm producing largely wheat, canola and barley. It was basically conventional farming, dad just recently switched to no-till but we’re your typical old fashioned farming operation.
UL: What was your take on the farming life growing up?
BR: It’s certainly something I enjoy. The lifestyle that comes with being on the land and being connected that way as well as the family aspect really helps. There certainly is a reality to face when it comes to the economic side of things. We have a small 500 acre farm and we rent some land and it was constantly shown and told to me that it’s getting harder and harder for the family farm to continue going forward. The whole push towards the bigger and better farm systems certainly became apparent.
UL: What did you end up doing when leaving the farm?
BR: I took biological sciences at the U of A with a focus on conservation and biology and did a Poli-Sci minor. After university I worked at the legislature with Alberta Energy. I got married a couple of years ago and we were talking about places to put out roots down. With the farm, there was the desire to be a steward of the land that been in our family for three generations. It’s a very important thing, the value that that holds for our family and taking it to a place that makes it last another three generations.
UL: What does the Carbon Farmer do?
BR: We plant trees on previously tilled land. That process of creating forests is called aforestation. It’s not that we’re clearing forest and planting trees again it’s planting trees on land that’s been tilled for upwards of 60 years. As we take care of those trees and they grow, they’re storing carbon and providing a host of other environmental benefits. This carbon storage is assessed by a third party audit and then we sell those carbon credits to individuals, events and businesses like The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald and Millwoods Honda who want to offset their carbon footprint.
UL: When did you come up with the idea for The Carbon Farmer?
BR: We started development in 2006 and we were looking at a variety of different options of things to do with the land. The carbon market was emerging and my biology background had me wanting to create habitat potential and planting trees seemed like a promising option. We moved into a research stage through the rest of 2006 and 2007 and we decided to launch on a pilot level in 2008. We launched a website and incorporated and all that fun stuff and we planted our first tree in the summer of 2007 so we would be prepared for sales. It brought the stewardship aspects together with the environmental side of things as well as taking advantage of a new economic scenario for the farm as well.
UL: Do you consider what the carbon farmer does traditional farming?
BR: Certainly not. As evidenced by the discussions with my dad it’s a whole other way to look at things. Our trees are contracted to grow for 60 years so instead of having an annual crop rotation where you’re tilling the land and harvesting the product you’re looking at planting and taking care of the same crop for its entire lifespan. It’s not only a new product in a new market to get at but an entirely new way of thinking about the crop itself and the land that’s associated with it.