"It's not the 'cow' it's the 'how,’” said Nicolette Hahn Niman, rancher and author of Defending Beef on Episode 22-6 of the podcast 4 The Soil: A Conversation. “The 'how' is the management, the 'cow' can be destructive if not properly managed, but she can also be extremely beneficial."
In building health from the soil up, we discover how intricate ecosystems connect. We gain numerous co-benefits from applying the four principles of soil health management, and one of them is increasing the health of livestock.
Have you ever seen a field with standing water after a rainstorm, then dried up in the heat of summer? It might seem normal, particularly as we experience more extreme weather patterns.
But what if the soil could retain more water, store it deeper, and use it when necessary?
Healthy soils work like a sponge. Rather than becoming saturated in the rain, healthy soil is better able to absorb rainfall and save it for a drier time.
"When you rebuild soil, [you are] increasing the carbon content in that soil," said John Piotti, Chief Executive Officer of American Farmland Trust. Piotti joined us on 4 The Soil: A Conversation for Episode 22-2 to talk about how better soil increases productivity.
"And where does that carbon come from? Well, it comes from the atmosphere. It's brought down through the wonders of photosynthesis, and then stored in the soil," said Piotti.
Building soil health breeds numerous benefits. One co-benefit is sequestering carbon, which strengthens our world's climate resilience and improves nutrient cycling in the soil.
"If you don't take care of the soil here, the soil won't take care of you," said Robert Spiers Jr., a seventh generation Virginian farmer of Spiers Farms, LLC.
Virginia farmers face major fertilizer shortages this year. While soil health takes time to build, the long term impacts can lead to many benefits, including less fertilizer inputs as nutrient cycling improves and soil biology is enhanced.
Erosion washes away topsoil on farms, shrinks coast lines, dissolves islands in the Chesapeake Bay, and harms our backyards.
"After our house construction, the bare earth area behind the house was not protected from erosion. Runoff from the driveway had created runnels and channels through the area," said Lance Koth, a Civil Engineer and consultant for over thirty years.
Koth dealt with erosion control in development projects around Virginia, and he found similar issues in his backyard. He wanted to build a space for his family to enjoy, and part of the solution meant caring for the soil.
When we are "4 The Soil," we gain many co-benefits, including erosion control.
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.