Paradise Lot Permaculture Food Forest, Carbon Sequestration on One Tenth Acre

How much Carbon have we sequestered on a tenth of an acre, in ten years, at Paradise Lot?

We (Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates) have done some very rough estimates of how much Carbon has been sequestered in our garden in Holyoke, MA.

This carbon came into our system through the action of green plant photosynthesis, and through the adding of carbonaceous materials, such as woodchips, leaves, and compost (it is impossible to know which source contributed what part of the total soil carbon unfortunately). What we do know is that the system we created has locked a lot of carbon away, and unless we till the system, or burn it with fire, it should stay there for a long time.

From our calculations, we’ve sequestered 7.5 tons of Carbon in 10 years, or .7 tons per year.

So, what is the math we used to get our numbers?:
(formulas borrowed from Soil Carbon Coalition and Eric Toensmeier)


1/10 Acre = .04 hectares

21 tones Carbon per hectare sequestered for every one percent organic matter increase in the soil

With a Logan Labs soil test, Paradise Lot went from 3% to 9% over 10 years, this equals

6% increase, so

21 x 6 = 126 t/ha x .04 hectares equals

5 tons or 1/2 ton of Carbon sequestered per year


In agroforestry systems: for every ton of soil organic carbon below ground, there is a 1/2 ton carbon in above ground biomass, SO,

2.5 tons of carbon above ground plus 5 tons below equal 7.5 tons, or

.7 tons/year

We’ve got the numbers, now how significant is this? We decided to do a basic comparison of this number (.7 tons/year of Carbon sequestered in the Paradise Lot 1/10 acre edible forest garden) to the CO2 emissions generated by the average person living in the U.S.A. per capita.

We could only find CO2 generated, but needed the number in Carbon, so Wikipedia says 17 tons CO2 emissions per capita U.S.A.

CO2 = 3.47 x C

17 divided by 3.47 equals

4.8 tones of Carbon emitted per person per year USA

If you grew a one acre food forest, using our methods, someone living an average carbon wasting lifestyle could easily offset their carbon use (although I’m not advocating here that we live like the average USer).

It is exciting to experience the power and abundance of diverse, multi-story, low-maintenance, temperate edible forest gardens, and realize that we are eating healthier, generating income, and locking carbon away all at the same time.

P.S. What makes these numbers very squishy is the fact that our calculations don’t account for things like the following:

-The fossil fuel carbon we’ve used building the garden: trucking in compost, bagged minerals, and chicken feed, etc
-The fossil fuels we’ve saved not buying food from the store (actually a huge number)
-The influence our garden has had on thousands of people who are also now growing gardens like ours (another huge number)
-The woodchips and leaf mulch used to create and mulch the planting beds

Turmeric, Persimmon and Calamondin Harvested January in Massachusetts

Happy 2015! I was just outside with Jesse, on a balmy 24 degree New Years Day. We did our regular morning chores: took the trash out, brought the kitchen scraps to the compost pile, feed watered and let out the chickens, and then went to check on the bioshelter. While there, Jesse and I decided to pick a few of our almost ripe [READ MORE]


Dear other white people involved in permaculture

Hey Folks… For us to do the real work of creating an ECO-logical, as apposed to EGO-logical society. We need to be working on our own personal issues regarding our relationship to the Global Majority, particularly people of color. My friend and permaculture colleague Lisa DePiano (co-founder of Permaculture FEAST) had some good thinking in this regard, which she posted on her Facebook page:

posted on… “Dear other white people involved in permaculture”.

Year-Round Food: Backyard Bioshelter Greenhouse Workshop – November 15, 2014

With Jonathan Bates of Food Forest Farm & Special Guest Eric Toensmeier

Click Here for Registration

Forget the cold! Come learn with us in the sub-tropics of Western Massachusetts! That’s right we have a piece of Florida in our backyard and we’d love to share it with you.

During the October 2011 snow storm, a tree fell on our greenhouse. Instead of mourning the loss, we realized an opportunity to build a bigger better BIOSHELTER!

Bioshelters are passive solar greenhouses, that produce… (MORE)

Permaculture FEAST article on

For folks in Western Massachusetts who’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to take a permaculture design course, this article is a fantastic introduction to Permaculture FEAST.

Permaculture FEAST to offer 12-day course on design in Holyoke

The Paradise Lot garden site is an integral outdoor learning lab during the course!

Discounted early bird registration ends August 1st!