Their crop won’t be harvested for at least 60 years, if ever. But Brad Rabiey and his wife Rebecca Edwards Rabiey are being paid for it now. And they’re not farming a crop – they’re harvesting and storing carbon.
The young couple knew they would be inheriting the Rabiey family farm located near Manning, and decided to look at ways they could farm that would be fulfilling and economical. Their educational backgrounds also played a part in their decision. Brad has a degree in political science and biology, while Rebecca holds a masters degree in social work. Rebecca’s numerous allergies were also a consideration for the couple.
“Basically, we were trying to figure out a way to sustain the family farm, because we’ll eventually be responsible for it,” says Rebecca.
Brad grew up with the farming lifestyle and met Rebecca, a city girl from Edmonton, at the University of Alberta in 2001. The couple, now both 26 years old, moved to Peace River when Rebecca got a job there in May 2008.
“We’re embracing an idea of sustainable agriculture that will exist over our lifetime, based on what is right for us.”
They came up with the idea of “The Carbon Farmer,” which was incorporated as a business in August 2008. Buying carbon offsets is a way for people to counteract their carbon dioxide emissions. Customers purchase carbon offsets in the form of trees which the couple plant on their land.
Brad says that at present, carbon credits are voluntary and are not regulated by any government.
“It’s a new concept so our marketing is really important. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a new market. But once it gets going, the potential is there, and we’re starting to see it.”
The Carbon Farmer offers carbon credits for individuals, businesses and event organizers. Carbon credits have been purchased by a group of people organizing a wedding and by a Sustainable Transportation conference held in Edmonton. Other purchasers have included a bed and breakfast in California and a bookstore in Chilliwack, B.C. Visitors to the Fairmont Hotel McDonald in Edmonton can purchase The Carbon Farmer’s carbon credits by choosing a “green stay” package.
After researching their options, Brad and Rebecca decided to plant trees that were native to the area. They began by planting a test patch of five acres of lodgepole pine and have now planted 165 of the farm’s total 480 acres, which equals about 123,000 trees. The trees will be maintained organically and will not be sprayed.
“We’re looking at ways to get back to the boreal forest that was established there,” says Rebecca. “Our concept is about honouring the land and keeping the land healthy.”
Brad’s parents currently have a grain farm and a small elk operation and are still working the land. Their son’s farming idea was a bit of a challenge for them to get used to.
“It’s a paradigm shift that is ongoing,” says Brad. “We’re embracing an idea of sustainable agriculture that will exist over our lifetime, based on what is right for us.”
Their website is one way that The Carbon Farmer has managed to attract customers. The website www.thecarbonfarmer.ca was launched in January 2008 after a year of development, research and working with lawyers and consultants to develop the logistics and legalities of the business.
“A lot of what we did was groundbreaking so we had to find people to work with us,” says Brad. “Our whole goal is to be as transparent as possible so we try to keep the process simple,” Rebecca adds.
Customers who purchase offsets can see their credits and name on the website as well as graphs of the plotted areas. The business plan also accounts for developments which may occur after Brad and Rebecca’s lifetime. The contract which customers sign provides for maintenance of the trees for up to 60 years.