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. 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.
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. This is why Fair Farms is part of a new collaborative project the Million Acre Challenge.
Projects & Priorities
- 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 ...
- Video: Regenerative Ag. in Frederick CountyFair Farms had the chance to visit Holterholm Farms, a regenerative dairy operation in Frederick County, and speak with Dr. Ray Weil about the benefits of regenerative farming for soil health and water quality. Ron Holter and his family are helping to show that regenerative agriculture is beneficial for not just our soils, water quality, ...
- More Farmers Moving Away from PlasticultureBy Jane Bloodworth Rowe We’ve all heard about how plastic is filling our landfills and contaminating our oceans. Plastic is not biodegradable, and it can break down into microplastics that wash into the oceans, pollute the water, and threaten marine life. However, many people may not be aware that agriculture is heavily dependent on plastic products. Plastic ...