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. 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

Latest Posts


  • Healthy Soils: The Center of All ThingsHealthy Soils: The Center of All Things
    By Liz Whitehurst Owl’s Nest Farm, Upper Marlboro I think soil is amazing, and if I could talk about it all day, I’d be thrilled. In my mind, soil is the center of all things. At Owl’s Nest Farm, our top goals are to increase soil organic matter and be financially sustainable. As a Fair Farms partner, I’m ...
  • Dirt! The Movie at Maryland Hall: Standing Room OnlyDirt! The Movie at Maryland Hall: Standing Room Only
    Fair Farms and Annapolis Green co-hosted a sold-out screening of the movie, “Dirt! The Movie” at Maryland Hall on Wednesday, March 8. The movie, which can be viewed online here, showcases the benefits of healthy soils and explains how we can all support better growing practices through our consumer buying habits. Before the show, Fair Farms partners ...
  • 2017 Maryland Legislative Priorities2017 Maryland Legislative Priorities
    Fair Farms is following a wide array of legislation in the Maryland General Assembly, which is holding is 90-day session through April 10, 2017. We hope that you will be an involved participant in the legislative process this session. Write your legislators, submit testimony, and support bills by talking with family and friends and encouraging ...
  • Soil… Is it Really That Important?Soil… Is it Really That Important?
    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 ...

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