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 incentive 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.
Projects & Campaigns
- Take Action: Expand Maryland’s Cost-Share ProgramTake Action Now to support the expansion of the Maryland Agriculture Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program (HB687/SB597)! Maryland spends approximately $30 million per year for conservation measures on farms. About 80% of these funds pay for “annual” management practices while payments for cost-effective, longer term practices like pastures and forest buffers are drastically reduced. Farmers interested ...
- Fair Farms Legislative Priorities for 2020With a new year comes new priorities for the Fair Farms campaign to focus on in the Maryland state legislature. We hope that you will be an involved participant in the legislative process this session. Write and call your legislators, submit testimony, and support bills by talking with family and friends and encouraging them to ...
- Healthy Soils: A Climate Change SolutionAgriculture is in a unique position to climate change. Our current agricultural system produces 9% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest report from 2017. Globally, this sector alone produces almost a quarter of emissions. While our farming system contributes to our changing climate, it also has the opportunity ...
- Farmer Spotlight: Keith Ohlinger, Regenerative Farmer“His passion for agriculture and living things is unbelievable.” Farming is in Keith’s Ohlinger’s blood— his family has farmed for almost 400 years. Even as a child, he knew that farming was his future. Keith and his wife now own Porch View Farm LLC, a 22 acre farm in Western Howard County that raises diverse, heritage ...
- Maryland Farmers for a Green New DealWritten by Alexis Baden-Mayer, Organic Consumers Association The Green New Deal is the first Congressional proposal to tackle climate change that includes strategies related to food and farming. The Green New Deal would “. . . secure for all people of the United States for generations to come: clean air and water; climate and community resiliency; healthy food; access to ...