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
- Owl’s Nest Farm: Building the World She Wants to See through Regenerative AgricultureThis past winter, the Food Tank Summit put on their conference in Washington, D.C. focusing on “Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders.” Among the panels of passionate young food leaders was Fair Farms’ very own farmer advisor, Liz Whitehurst of Owl’s Nest Farm. Liz has been a partner of ours for a year now, ...
- Fair Farms Talks Soil Health at Annual Farm Aid ConcertA few weeks ago, Fair Farms joined tens of thousands of music fans, farmers, advocates, citizen-scientists, foodies, and food and farming non-profits from across the country at the 32nd Annual Farm Aid benefit concert. For those of you who haven’t heard of Farm Aid, it’s the annual concert—first organized in 1985 by Willie Nelson, Neil Young, ...
- Organic Farming a Powerful Solution for Climate ChangeStudy Reveals Organic’s Huge Potential in Capturing Carbon Organic soil is better at storing carbon dioxide and keeping it out of the atmosphere, according to a recent study from Northeastern University and The Organic Center. The study found that organic soil has a “26 percent greater potential for long-term carbon storage,” making organic farming a powerful solution for ...
- The Dirt on Maryland Composting InitiativesCounty Programs Hope to Divert Food Waste from Landfills According to the USDA, 30-40% of the food in our country goes uneaten every year. That’s equivalent to $165 billion dollars that Americans throw in the trash can. Food production is a resource-intensive venture, and pitching such a large amount of food squanders the energy, land, and ...
- Press Release: Gov. Signs Healthy Soils LegislationGOVERNOR SIGNS HEALTHY SOILS LEGISLATION TO HELP FARMERS AN LIMIT CLIMATE CHANGE New program would promote healthy soil practices among Maryland farmers Annapolis, Md. — Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation establishing the new Maryland Healthy Soils Program. House Bill 1063, sponsored by Del. Dana Stein (D-Baltimore County), directs the Maryland Department of Agriculture to provide farmers with research, ...