Cover crops are plants—often a grass, grain, or legume—cultivated outside growing seasons. They can also be planted in between rows of perennial crops, like fruit trees. They can increase soil carbon, create pollinator habitat, and reduce earth compaction, among other benefits. Chris Sayer, a fifth generation farmer in Ventura County, has used cover crops for 15 years at Petty Ranch. Around the lemon and avocado trees, he rotates between different winter cover crops, mostly triticale and barley. The cover crops have increased the soil's organic matter—over half of which is carbon—from about 2.5 to 3 percent up to 5 to 5.5 percent. He says the increased organic matter allows his land to store more water during winter rains, reducing the need for irrigating the 57-acre farm, and has also prolonged the life of his aging lemon trees. While Sayer probably won't apply for a grant since he's already cover cropping, he's supportive of the program. "It's a really great way to help people adopt these practices," says Sayer. "I think, in time, the improvements in soil can be reflected in the bottom line."