Healthy Soil: How and Why We Rebuild Soil Health
As Farmer Lee Jones has long said, the goal of The Chef’s Garden is to farm as well as our grandparents and great-grandparents did. In this post, we’ll take a quick look back in time before pinpointing where all started to go wrong in our country’s farming—and then share info about how we’re continuing our focus on rebuilding and maximizing healthy soil on our farm through regenerative farming techniques, with highly encouraging (dare we say incredible?) results.
In short, here’s why this is so important:
Healthy Soil leads to Healthy Crops, which leads to Healthy People and an overall Healthy Planet.
The soil that we build through a combination of science and love is where we grow our flavorful farm-fresh vegetables that have 300 to 600 percent more in nutrients than the USDA baseline. These results were originally discovered through our agricultural research lab and then independently verified.
Seriously! Three hundred to six hundred percent more in nutrients, which is what helps lead to healthy people.
Now, here’s a brief look back in time.
History of Soil Health
“When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.” (Daniel Webster)
For thousands of years, people have recognized the importance of healthy soil. Going back about 3,400 years, in the Bible, Moses asked members of his tribe who were investigating Canaan to answer these questions:
“How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor?”
About a thousand years later, Hippocrates recommended that, when evaluating someone’s health, to think about the ground surrounding that person: “whether it be naked and deficient in water or wooded and well-watered.”
In the late 1700s, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur in his Letters from an American Farmer wrote, “Men are like plants; the goodness and flavor of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow.” By the 1800s, some farmers in North America “recognized a link between agriculture and an enduring society. Therefore, humans did recognize to at least some extend the importance of soils to overall human health,” although “this recognition was based on casual observations leading to logical conclusions rather than scientific investigation.”
This historical information we’ve just shared comes from an in-depth look at soil, published in Soil Journal, which also notes how, in 1900—perhaps the era of some of our great-grandparents—increasing numbers of people began to realize how the health of soil influences human health. In 1921, in Studies in Deficiency Disease, Robert McCarrison shared his conclusion: that soil fertility “determined the vitamin content of food crops grown in it, and therefore influenced human health.”
So, 100 years ago, McCarrison already knew and shared this vital truth.
What went wrong?
It’s never our goal to criticize another farmer. We do, though, want to point out the differences between the conventional farming that became the norm during the 20th century to boost yield with the regenerative agricultural techniques we use at The Chef’s Garden, ones that our grandparents and great-grandparents would have accepted as normal. They’d simply have called it “farming.”
In a recent blog post, Bob Jones Jr. described conventional farming in this way: “You can think of conventional farming as a mining process where the soil becomes more and more depleted.” And this naturally led to a decrease in the quality of the crops grown in that soil.
Studies of the nutrients found in vegetables in 1940 and then again in 1991 show the rapidly decreasing nutrition found in them. Here are some of the results:
Boiled broccoli has 75 percent less calcium.
Carrots have 75 percent less magnesium, 48 percent less calcium, 46 percent less iron, and 75 percent less copper.
Potatoes have 30 percent less magnesium, 35 percent less calcium, 45 percent less iron, and 47 percent less copper.
Scallions have 74 percent less calcium.
Boiled spinach has 60 percent less iron and 96 percent less copper.
Watercress has 93 percent less copper.
The data from 1991 is now 30 years old, so it’s reasonable to assume that nutritional deficiencies may be even more significant today.
“The story of family farming underscores a legacy of sustainability.” (Amanda Zaluckyj at AgLife Daily)
Now, compare conventional farming techniques with the regenerative agriculture that’s at the heart of The Chef’s Garden daily life, and the differences quickly become clear. As Bob, Jr. shares, “With regenerative farming, the soil gets healthier and healthier each and every year. We accomplish this through the strategic use of biodiverse cover crops that encourage the microbiological population in the soil. This is what unleashes the soil’s native population, given that this diversity hasn’t been killed off.”
Bob, Jr. points out, what took fifty years to kill won’t come back in an instant. “But,” he adds, “enriching the soil is the right thing to do—and we do it precisely because it’s the right thing to do.”
The result? Mineral rich vegetables that are delicious and nutritious, ones that you can have shipped directly to your front door.
Farm-Fresh Vegetables, Delivered Direct
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” (Masanobu Fukuoka)
After comparing mineral content of our vegetables to USDA baseline nutrient density results, we received the wonderful news that has been independently verified. As mentioned near the start of this post, we are growing flavorful, farm-fresh vegetables with 300 to 600 percent more in nutrients than the USDA baseline. Doesn’t this sound like what you’d like to feed your family?
If you’re already a customer, thank you very much! We appreciate it more than we can say. New to our farm? Consider our Best of the Season Box. Depending upon the season, our farmer’s market delivery box may contain a mix of fresh lettuce and greens, a mix of root crop, potatoes, cruciferous, sweet potatoes, and the best micro greens and herbs. Seasonal favorites are added when available.