MUM alumnus Josef Biechler
Visitors and team members on the site of the tropical farming systems trial with Tom Newmark on the far right
Collecting soil samples with MUM alumna Tara O’Brien and intern Sean Taylor
Educating local high school students in Costa Rica about the ecosystem of organisms in the soil
MUM Alumnus Manages Carbon Sequestration Study in Costa Rica
MUM alumnus Josef Biechler completed his studies in the Sustainable Living program in February 2013 and headed to Costa Rica to manage the composting systems for Finca Luna Nueva, an organic farming operation and eco lodge co-owned by Tom Newmark.
Soon he was promoted to manage a farming systems trial on carbon sequestration methods funded by the nonprofit organization The Carbon Underground and in collaboration with the Rodale Institute.
Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The goal of Josef’s work is to find the best regenerative farming methods to sequester carbon from the atmosphere in amounts that will mitigate climate change, and then publish the research in scientific journals.
“If we cut emissions today, we are going to have rising temperatures for 40 years before it starts to go down,” said Josef. “We need to actively remove carbon from the atmosphere and get back down to levels of preindustrial times. Nature in its perfect intelligence knows how take carbon dioxide from the air and lock it in the soil in stable forms through photosynthesis and the microorganisms in the soil.”
The connections Josef made at MUM have proven to be life-changing. He took the living soil track with Elaine Ingham and became passionate about soil microbiology. He also met Tom Newmark, who gave him the opportunity to apply everything he learned about composting.
On the 5-hectare trial site at Finca Luna Nueva, Josef’s team of seven is growing staple crops for the tropics such as taro root, plantain, and corn, comparing regenerative agricultural methods such as composting, biodynamics, and cover-cropping to conventional chemical agricultural methods. In addition to the carbon trapped in the soil, they also measure yields, economic feasibility, and the carbon footprint of the operation. The 5-year study aims to complement the already existing body of research showing that carbon sequestration is the most viable way to positively affect climate change.