The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) defines soil health as “the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.”
Investing in Soil Health has very real environmental and economic benefits. It requires an alignment of land ownership and farming to facilitate investment in soil health. At Gård it is part of what we do. The reThink Soil Health paper provides a good overview of the benefits of investing in soil health.
Farmer / owner historically have been the best stewards of the land. In the past most farmers lived on the land, farmed it and cared for it. Things are changing. There is a growing disconnect between land ownership and farming. According to the USDA, the long term trend of fewer farmers and larger farms continues. Approximately 25% of the farmers are considered large farmers (2,000 acres or more). These large farmers now farm over half of the 400 million acres of crop land in the United States. As farms grow in size, an increasing percentage of the land is rented, typically under reactively short-term (one to three years contracts). Many fear that this growing disconnect between land ownership and the farming is resulting in a lower level of stewardship of the land, and in some cases, “mining the soil”.