Honor National Soil Health Day with Us
June 23, 2020 is the second annual National Soil Health Day, a day when we can collectively recognize soil as the essential resource it is. This is when we can acknowledge how “soil, plant, animal and human health are intricately linked and the sustainable use of soil affects climate, water and air quality, human health, biodiversity, food safety, and agricultural production.”
You can discover more about the importance of healthy soil in the two short videos below:
If what you see appeals to you, then you may decide to read and sign the National Soil Health Day Resolution.
The Chef’s Garden Philosophy
“All life,” Bob Jones, Jr. says, “begins in the soil and, without healthy, vibrant soil, nothing else we do matters very much. Healthy soil is at the root of all healthy plants, so everything we do at the farm is meant to regenerative the life in the soil. It’s at the very foundation of our farming practices at The Chef’s Garden.”
And, although National Soil Health Day is still a fairly new day to commemorate, we’ve been sharing news about the importance of soil on our blog for many years now. For example, several years ago, Farmer Lee Jones shared his thoughts about the smell of freshly turned earth, something like no other scent in the world.
There’s more! Much more.
Regenerative Farming for Healthy Soil and Crops
For many years, we used the term “sustainable farming” to describe our responsible agricultural practices that focus on soil health. In 2015, though, increasing conversations began taking place about how to define that term—and, through them, we recognized that we go far beyond sustainability at The Chef’s Garden.
Our goal, you see, isn’t to keep the ecosystem stable. It’s to cause our soil to become even healthier than what it was before, to grow produce that’s even more flavorful and nutritious. And that’s when we began to refer to our practices as regenerative agriculture. You can read more about the transition in the language we use in our post, Sustainable Farming Versus Regenerative Farming.
It’s Time to Stop the Madness
“While fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are commonly thought to be high in essential nutrients, the majority of today’s produce and grains are grown in depleted soil, doused with pesticides, and stored for long periods of time (all the while being sprayed with more insecticides and fungicides) before being sold . . . some modern nutritionists believe that, in the midst of all this plenty, many people in the West are starving—for the basic nutrients that were once in our everyday food.” (What’s in This Stuff?)
We’re not here to criticize any other farm’s agricultural practices. Instead, we’re looking at how the need for more food production has led, step by step, into practices that have depleted the country’s soil.
To grow more food to meet the needs of more consumers, many farms used chemicals to increase yield—but that ultimately made the crops more vulnerable to pests. Some farms then experimented with using even more pesticides, which damaged the nutritional value of crops while further depleting the soil.
These nutritional deficiencies began being quantified way back in 1940, and we cover some specifics of that timeline in our post, Our Farming Philosophy: Regenerative Farming for Healthy Soil and Crops.
Researchers continued to measure nutritional deficiencies after that baseline work was done and, by 1991, they were onto round five, with that data showing how nutritional values had changed from 1940 to 1991. (This also raises the question of how much more damage has been done in the almost-30-year period since 1991!)
Here are some highlights:
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.
Our commentary? Just read the heading of this section of the post. It’s time to stop the madness! Let’s return to what Mother Nature has always intended.
Role of Cover Crops
One way that we farm in harmony with Mother Nature at The Chef’s Garden is through the use of cover crops. We in fact consider these the most important crops of all because they nourish the soil, and so that’s what we grow on two thirds of our 400 farmable acres each growing season. It’s also a focus of our research and development department.
“Soil is no different than we are,” Bob says. “Soil is living and breathing, and you have to treat it as such. It needs food, air, and water to be able to be productive. And, if you really want it to be productive, you’ve got to give it rest. The same things we need.”
Cover crops such as rye, buckwheat, and alfalfa are grown and then gently worked into the soil to add in organic plant matter. Soil-dwelling microorganisms break down this plant matter, which then become available for future crops to use as food.
“It’s kind of a composting process when you look at cover crops,” Bob adds. “It’s the flow of energy from the sun to the cover crop, from the cover crop to the soil, and from the soil to the microorganisms, from the organisms to the vegetables. The organisms are feeding off of the root exudates that are a product of photosynthesis, converting soil chemistry to a form that the plant can take back up. We’re putting a diversity of plant organic matter back into the soil to be decomposed by the organisms that are in the soil naturally, as long as you haven’t put something on the soil to kill those.”
Cover Crops and Carbon Sequestration
Without getting too deep into the subject, cover crops also play a key role in managing climate change through a process known as carbon sequestration. Here, we’ll share the steps of the process that Bob described in our post titled Benefits of Cover Crops, Carbon Sequestration & Regenerative Farming.
At The Chef’s Garden, we plant seeds for vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, microgreens and more.
Through the miracle of photosynthesis, the sun provides nutrition so that these plants can grow, while the water from the planet hydrates them.
We gather in the seasonal fruits of the harvest throughout the year.
People can eat delicious and nutritious meals.
After harvesting, farmers at The Chef’s Garden plant cover crops to build our soil up to a degree that’s even healthier than how we found it, a key way to give back to the Earth.
Via these cover crops, Mother Nature offers up yet another of her gifts through the process of sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide. This amazing process helps to “offset greenhouse gas emissions, such as the carbon dioxide emitted by cars, power plants and other burning of fossil fuels. The soil has significant potential to store carbon and to mitigate the effects of climate change.”
Digging Even More Deeply into Soil Science
Here’s an even more in-depth look at the crucial role that healthy soil plays in our lives—and, even this is still scratching the surface of the subject.
Farm Fresh Vegetables Delivered Directly to You
If you’d appreciate having delicious and nutritious farm fresh vegetables delivered directly to your home—vegetables that were regeneratively farmed in healthy soil—then here are our home delivery options. You can find tips on how to use them here, along with unique recipes using fresh vegetables.
Also check out our world-class food safety procedures.
Consider buying a box for yourself and a box for a friend! We’d be honored to become your personal farmer.