Healthy Soils

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.

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    President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “ 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, ...
  • Climate Change and Agriculture: A Problem Too Hot (and Cold, and Wet, and Dry) to IgnoreClimate Change and Agriculture: A Problem Too Hot (and Cold, and Wet, and Dry) to Ignore
    By Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Every day, farmers and ranchers across the country battle against the realities of climate change. Southern farmers contend with severe floods. Extreme heat and drought plagues farmers on both coasts. Farmers and ranchers from all regions have faced damage to their crops and animals due to rapidly changing ...
  • Healthy Soil: A Solution for Combating Climate Change and BeyondHealthy Soil: A Solution for Combating Climate Change and Beyond
    Probably more than anyone, farmers understand the importance of healthy soil for higher crop productivity, better water absorption, and a number of other reasons.  However, not everyone realizes that healthy soil can also help solve one of the greatest crises facing our time and, in the wake of the Paris Climate Summit, a hot topic ...

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