A Short Post on the Importance of Soil

I never imagined soil could be exhausted. But we’ve overrun, overgrown and exhausted everything else on the planet. Why not our soil too?

In a recent Financial Times piece called Why Brexit Could Boost British Farming, landscape designer Kim Wilkie brilliantly wrote:

“The secret is in the soil. Think of soil as a biological community of living organisms rather than a chemical supply depot and the whole approach to farming changes…The health of the soil directly affects the health of the food it produces and the bodies that eat it.”

It’s this last line that feels most important.

Soil quality across the earth has seriously declined over the past half century as there’s been a huge increase in the use of chemicals to increase food production. We may get more to eat but at what cost? These chemicals pollute the ground, pollute the water and – perhaps most importantly – pollute our bodies.

But we’re not riding the nuclear bomb like Slim Pickens in Dr. Stangelove just yet! There is hope! From the same FT article:

“A farmer in Virginia, Joel Salatin, has been managing livestock and poultry on his land with remarkable results. He has increased the soil organic matter on his farm from 1 per cent to 8 per cent over the past 50 years. Salatin believes that “all it takes is a move of 1 per cent of organic matter nationwide, to sequester all the carbon that’s been emitted since the Industrial Age — in fewer than 10 years we could return to pre-1960 atmospheric carbon levels with this kind of approach — moving the animals every day in rotation”.

We ignore soil because we ignore most things we don’t see. And many of us live in places where farming is not part of our daily lives. Until we sit down for dinner, that is.

My family (and most likely yours) is totally dependent on farmers like Salatin. With seven billion of us now on the earth, forward thinkers like him need to be supported in their efforts or there simply won’t be enough food to go around.

Soil has been described as “the substance of transformation”. We must now transform our way of thinking about it for the health of our planet.

Art Gurwitz
Founder & CEO, AREENA

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