A Case for Soil Health
by Rich Adeyemi
Head Farmer & Educator
Rio Grande Community Farm
“To help our Earth, we must start with the soil.” ~ Grace Gershuny
That time of the year is here again! The time when we dream of all the wonderful crops we will grow come spring. Many of us are busy poring over seed catalogs that came in the mail, fascinated by the new varieties that have just been added, choosing and ordering and excited about how our farms and gardens would look like and what they will bring forth. But there is something seemingly less exciting that we often overlook and do not dream about – the state of the environment where these seeds will grow.
The soil is our most important resource – the world’s hope for continuous food supply. Unfortunately, the soil is often taken for granted, “treated like dirt,” by the very people whose sustenance directly depends upon it. Each passing minute, the soil is assaulted, suffocated, contaminated, exploited, poisoned, mistreated and depleted.
In the midst of spring and summer, we move from one task to another and usually do not have time for the soil. I’m here to make a case for the soil because late winter is a good time to think about it.
My case for the soil is to encourage us to begin to take proactive steps toward:
1. Eliminating the toxins we add to the soil because they will end up in our bodies thereby increasing the risks of contracting chronic and terminal diseases. Choosing to grow food organically is one way to do this. This choice will inspire us to understand soil biology and ecology – to adopt practices that make us concerned about the future state of our health, that of our children, and of their children after them.
2. Preserving and conserving soil biodiversity. You will probably appreciate the soil more if you scoop a teaspoon of that world and put it under a magnifying lens until it collides with your own world. What you will see may amaze you – snails, mites, millipedes, worms, ants, and living webs of creeping fungus, each with their own niche to add flavor to that world. They remind us of what is going on beneath our feet so that we can be active participants in stewarding their precious lives.
3. Recycling wastes (rather than just dumping them on the soil.) The magnitude of the pollution and contamination of our environment, particularly the soil, can be overwhelming for us. Perhaps we feel powerless to do anything about it. No one is powerless. Begin where you stand – whatever the size of the land you currently occupy. If you don’t know how, I’ll encourage you to join forces with those who are actively working to restore soil health through food waste recycling. Reach out today to get involved! Don’t sit on the fence, begin now, a little at a time.
4. Feeding the soil, not the plant. I hope you read that. Industrial farming practices are tailored towards feeding the plant at the expense of the soil. The conventional agricultural focus is on eradicating and/or eliminating anything termed to be “inhibiting” plant growth and yield because the goal is profit not posterity. You and I already know that this is not sustainable. We must move away from the profit motive and towards building soil health.
Consider what is already happening: extreme rainfall (or no rainfall at all in some cases); unusually strong winds; increased soil erosion; widespread pollution of surface and groundwater; increased soil compaction; loss of soil tilth, and reduced biological activity, to mention only a few of our environmental challenges. Many of these issues have been caused by the failure of our pervading agricultural practices to prioritize soil health.
Here are a few practices we can adopt to improve soil health:
- Start a Worm Bin
Irrespective of where you live or the size of your space – house, apartment, condominium, garage – you can turn your kitchen and garden wastes into a high fertility worm castings that can be added to your growing pots and garden soil. Time and space does not allow me to describe this practice in-depth, but you can attend our February 10th Worm Composting and Soil Health workshop where everything worms will be dissected. (RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to attend)
…to be continued