I read the quote above the other day by Joel Salatin, whom I have mentioned in these articles recently. It brings home something I have believed in for the past 40 years back to the forefront, that we as a civilization, depend on such a thin blanket of life called topsoil, to grow a great percentage of our food crops that feed the world.
I watch, often in amazement, how industrial farming has, over the years, gone from caring about the soil and the necessity for it’s health, to caring more about the crop that grows in it. Fertilizers are developed to be quickly absorbed by the plants to promote quick growth, bypassing the original interaction between soil, bacteria, organic matter and the plant itself. As more crops are grown, year after year, soil nutrition and viability is depleted, leaving the soil as nothing more than a foundation for the plant to support itself. Broken is the complex relationship once shared by plant and soil.
Sustainable farming and gardening makes this relationship a priority and not only protects those fragile few inches we so depend on, but renews and invigorates the soil and brings it’s role back to prominence. Soil is alive. The combination of water, air, minerals and organic matter are the host to numerous forms of life from bacteria to worms and insects that all contribute to the breakdown and release of nutrients, ready to be absorbed by the roots threading their way into the living sponge we call topsoil, humus or compost. By focusing on soil health and structure, our efforts are rewarded with healthy nutritious crops. When we focus on the crop, and neglect the soil, more artificial fertilizers are needed, plants become weaker and more susceptible to insect and disease attack, roots aren’t encouraged to go deep into the soil because there is nothing there to attract them, thus shallow rooted crops need more water and the soil becomes just a support system to the plant rather than a feeding reservoir and important player in the health of the crop.
Your local farmers, using sustainable farming practices, are our stewards of the soil. Talk to them about it and how they build their soil to grow our food. Get to know farmers like you know your children’s school teachers, after all, they are feeding you and your children and are a key link to your health, our community’s health and our planet’s health. Support them!