Stewards of the Soil

By Joannée DeBruhl

There is much debate about which farming methods can grow the most -  organic vs. conventional. There is no debate about which one is better for the land and the soil. Organic growing methods are all about improving the soil.

Healthy soil is dark and richly full of earthworms and other microorganisms. In a single tablespoon of this rich dark soil, there are over 50 billion microorganisms which are essential to healthy soils because they affect its structure and fertility, which in turn affects the health and nutrition of the crops we grow there.

The concept of organic farming and soil health has been around for millennia. Indigenous people around the globe have cultivated the land for centuries and have created methods of water management, crop rotation, intercropping, companion planting, pest control and other methods to create and maintain healthy soils. 

Beginning in the 1940s, broad-spectrum pesticides (i.e. poisonous to entire groups of organisms) started to be used in farming. The high levels of residual toxicity and the indiscriminate use of many of these broad-spectrum pesticides resulted in significant harm to both the environment and human health. It also started killing our soil.

The big push to go back to natural farming methods and eliminate the use of chemicals became popular in the 1970s and the term organic farming started its journey to where it is today. Organic farmers continue to build on the methods used in the past to improve soil health and increase the depth of the topsoil. Healthy soil holds and maintains moisture longer so we use less water for irrigation. It is full of soil organic matter and living organisms which help bring nutrients to the crops so they are happier and less stressed by diseases and pests. Crop yields increase as the soil gets healthier. Healthy soils equal healthy crops equals healthy farmers because organic farmers do not apply poisonous broad-spectrum chemicals onto their fields. 

Being an organic farmer myself, I love learning new methods of improving the soil’s health. I love knowing that the soil under my fingernails is healthy and good for me, not causing me harm. Lastly, I get to taste, smell and eat all the healthy goodness from the soil in the crops that I eat at my table.

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