Healthy soil combats climate change, promotes biodiversity and supports food production. However, to create food systems that are healthy for both people and the planet, it’s imperative that we invest in local food economies. Buying from nearby farmers builds community, encourages seasonal eating, and connects us to the land. Buying locally also empowers you to ask important questions about how your food was grown, or even visit the farm to learn more about it yourself.
Questions to ask your local farmer
If you live in a city and do not have direct access to a local farm, farmers markets are an excellent place to connect with people from the region. If you shop in supermarkets, the most important step you can do to promote soil health is to buy organic and as local as possible. Like this, the use of pesticides during production is minimized and most likely healthier soil practices are used.
If you have the chance to buy your food directly from a farm or farmers market, why not take the chance to find out if the practices the farmer uses are actually promoting soil health? So here are a few questions to ask your local farmers with regards to their soil health practices:
- How do you keep your soil fertile? Taking care of the soil can be a complex process. In general, look for farmers who are keeping the soil covered, avoiding major soil disruption through tilling, and closing the nutrient cycle naturally through the use of animals and compost.
- Do you use synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides? Many pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers destroy soil life and make their way into both the foods you eat and the water you drink.
- Do you rotate crops? Every crop has a different nutrient requirement. By rotating them around the farm, you can ensure that fields don’t become deficient in one nutrient or another.
- Who works on your farm? Support farmers who view and treat their workers as a vital part of the team and not those that are exploiting farmworkers for cheap labor.
By supporting farmers who care for the soil, we can promote consumer demand for food grown in a way that is promoting soil health. Thus, do your research, ask questions, and maybe even create your own healthy soil in your backyard!
How about a movie?
Do you want to learn more about how the soil works, how it stores and releases carbon and what practices promote healthy and carbon-rich soil? The documentary Kiss the Ground, released in 2020 and available on Netflix, can help you out! They also provide plenty of content and even a communication tool kit to foster global initiatives to advocate for soil health on their website.