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Soil… Is it Really That Important?

President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “[A] nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”  His assessment holds truth because healthy crop production depends on healthy soil.

Why should we care about soil? Isn’t it just the dirt that plants grow in?

Soil actually contains more forms of life than what is living on the surface. It may not be common knowledge, but soil is made up of a very complex and diverse web of living organisms.

Due to soil erosion — when topsoil is worn away by natural forces, the improper use of fertilizers, and other intensive modern agriculture practices – about 75 to 85 percent of the earth’s arable topsoil is lost.

In the United States, the rate of soil erosion is 10 times faster than the rate of replenishment. Given this figure, some studies predict that all topsoil will be depleted in 40 years

Healthy soil is not just necessary to produce fruits and vegetables, it’s also essential for crops to maintain their mineral content – which has significantly lowered over the past fifty years. From 1985 to 2005, beans, apples, and potatoes each lost between 60 to 90 percent of their vitamins and minerals. Unfortunately for people, the loss of minerals in our food also means a loss of flavor, a shorter shelf life, and less nutritional value.

Healthy soil is also important to combatting climate change.  If we continue current intensive industrial farming practices, the soil will continue to release water and carbon back into the atmosphere. A healthy soil will keep more carbon and water in the ground, while also removing carbon dioxide – a leading source of atmospheric change. In drought-ridden farming regions, the soil’s ability to retain water is especially critical.

Although conventional industrial agriculture models of farming are not soil-centered,  our future food and environmental security demand that we start replenishing our soil rather than destroying it.

Farmers across the region, including our amazing Fair Farms partners, have chosen to follow a soil-centered farming model and have reaped some really great benefits. This type of model allows farmers to realize higher profits – as a healthy soil means higher plant yield and faster growing plants. In fact, healthy soil increases yields by more than double those of modern industrial farming practices!

With a healthier soil, crops are virtually immune to disease and insect attack – the presence of pests actually means that the soil’s fertility levels are low.  This translates into less money spent on harmful pesticides and insecticides, while providing healthier and more natural foods for you and me.

We at Fair Farms would like to put a spin on Roosevelt’s quote – ‘a nation that restores its soil restores itself.’ As more farmers and policies focus on soil-centered farming practices, we will begin to do just that.

Source: A New Paradigm: Soil Centered, High Yield Intensive, Nutrient Dense Farming by Michael S. Locklear (2016)

 

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