A Healthy Farm Starts with Healthy Soils
Soil is the very foundation of life on farms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls it “a living and life-giving substance.” More than just dirt – it is a complex mixture of minerals, organic material and nutrients. Fertile, healthy soil is vital to grow the wholesome farm foods we depend on. Soil is also incredibly important to climate change – healthy soils capture carbon and prevent it from reaching the atmosphere and contributing to the greenhouse gas effect that is warming our planet.
Much like we must tend to our own personal health if we hope to lead long, fulfilling lives, we must also tend to the health of our soil to preserve and protect it now and in the future. Many factors can damage our farm soil, such as harsh chemicals or over-tilling.
During the 2017 General Assembly Session, Maryland passed first-of-its kind legislation to incentivize farming practices that contribute to healthy soils. The legislation defined “healthy soils” as the continuing capacity of soil to:
- function as a biological system
- increase soil organic matter
- improve soil structure and water and nutrient holding capacity; and
- sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The new Maryland Healthy Soils Program, supported by the state Department of Agriculture, is charged with providing these incentives, such as education, technical assistance and funding, to farmers in order to help them implement farm management practices that contribute to healthy soils and capture carbon.
Fair Farms advocated strongly for the legislation and celebrated the bill’s passage. But, there’s more work to be done. There is no funding allocated for the program and it does not yet have a clear directive.
For Maryland to truly protect our vital farm soils and combat climate change, we must ensure that we incentivize proven practices that are sustainable and meaningful. Fair Farms is committed to staying engaged with our partners to bring the vision of this legislation to reality and work with state agencies on this exciting new program.