"What we do on the few square feet of land, or few square acres of land in our small businesses, or in our department at the university, or on our farm, or wherever it is, that's where the change is going to start," said Ari Weinzweig, CEO and co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Weinzweig joined us on the podcast in episode five and episode seven to explore how building healthy organizational ecosystems relates to building healthy soil ecosystems.
Both need diversity to thrive.
When we are "4 The Soil,” we follow four core principles of soil health. The fourth principle is to energize with diversity.
Using different crop species and integrating livestock enhances biological, chemical and physical aspects of the soil. It improves the whole system.
What does it mean to energize the soil with diversity?
Diversity energizes the soil biologically, chemically, and physically.
"One of the things we now better understand is just how important the living fraction of the soil is," said Chris Lawerence of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Lawerence joined us in the second episode of our podcast, 4 The Soil: A Conversation.
"The organic matter [is] what makes dirt into soil. It's what differentiates topsoil –the darker, more pliable, more crumbly topsoil– from subsoil."
When we are “4 The Soil,” we follow four core principles of soil health. The third principle is to maximize living roots.
Maximizing living roots throughout the year fuels biological activity, aids nutrient cycling, and contributes to improved soil structure.
What does 'maximize living roots' mean?
"Science is helping us understand the way we feed the soil is not just by applying compost or manure or organic matter to the surface," explained Lawrence. "Those living roots of plants actually pump out food for microorganisms that live in association with crop roots."
"I think no-till has been a conservation practice that has stood the test of time," says Dr. John Galbraith, soil scientist at Virginia Tech in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences.
Dr. Galbraith joined us for episode four of our podcast, 4 The Soil: A Conversation, and described the importance of minimizing soil disturbance.
"Some of the farmers can actually show an economic benefit as well [as environmental benefits]," said Dr. Galbraith.
When we are “4 The Soil,” we follow four core principles of soil health. The second principle is to minimize soil disturbance, biologically, chemically, and physically.
What does it mean to minimize soil disturbance?
Physically, this means avoiding over-tilling and over-working the soil. Tillage of any sort affects the soil structure and aggregate stability. By minimizing this type of disturbance, we encourage nutrient growth and healthy habitats for worms and microbes.
Soil is more than the dirt under our feet and the ground we stand on. It’s a living ecosystem and it impacts our world in more ways than we might think.
We can all be for the soil so let’s take care of it.
4 the Soil is a campaign by the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to raise awareness of soil as an agricultural and natural resource. By caring for the soil, we can build healthier communities, stronger economies, and a more resilient landscape.
Why does the logo have the number 4?
While soils are complex, taking care of it can be simple. We follow four core principles of soil health:
Each principle builds on each other. We can start with one and implement each as we grow.
Building healthy soils might seem like a massive undertaking. Everyday it faces, erosion, compaction, nutrient imbalance, acidification, pollution and decreased water retention. But we can help.
So where on earth do we start?
Start where your feet are and where you live, work, and play.
All of us have direct and indirect efforts on the soil. Whether we maintain acres of farmland, an urban garden, or routine lawn maintenance, or when we purchase produce and meat at the store, we all influence soil health. Notice how you interact with soil in your daily life.
Whether you're a farmer, a conservation professional, nature lover, or a food lover, you can support soil health.
Check out our podcast "4 the Soil: A Conversation" hosted by Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch, and Eric Bendfeldt. Join the movement to care for our living and life-giving soils.
About the Blog
Join the movement! 4 The Soil is a campaign by the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to raise awareness of soil as an agricultural and natural resource. By caring for the soil, we can build healthier communities, stronger economies, and a more resilient landscape.