To create food systems that are healthy for both people and the planet, it’s imperative that we invest in local food economies. Buying from nearby farmers and ranchers builds community, encourages seasonal eating, and connects us to the land. Buying locally also empowers you to ask important questions about how your food was grown, or even visit the farm to learn more about it yourself.
Here are a few questions to ask your local farmers with regards to their soil health practices:
1. How do you keep your soil fertile? Do you add compost? Do you practice no-till agriculture? Do you use cover crops?
Taking care of the soil can be a complex process. In general, look for farmers who are keeping the soil covered, avoiding major soil disruption, and closing the nutrient cycle naturally through the use of animals and compost.
2. Do you use synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides?
Some farms may require the use of synthetic inputs as they build up the soil’s fertility, but ultimately these chemicals should be avoided. Many pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers destroy soil life and make their way into both the foods you eat and the water you drink.
3. Do you rotate crops
Every crop has a different nutrient requirement. By rotating them around the farm, you can ensure that fields don’t become deficient in one nutrient or another.
4. Who works on your farm?
Support farmers who view and treat their workers as a vital part of the team. Avoid enterprises that are exploiting farmworkers for cheap labor.
It’s incredibly rewarding to connect with local farmers and reap the benefits of locally grown, nutritious, and community supported food. By supporting farmers who care for the soil, we can advance the regenerative food movement–creating consumer demand for food grown in a way that is increasing the carrying capacity of arable landscapes.
Do your research, ask questions, and participate in the local food movement in a way that makes a real and tangible difference.
Here are three ways to support farmers and ranchers near you:
1. Sign Up for a CSA or Farm Box
The acronym “CSA” is short for “Community Supported Agriculture”. Participants “subscribe” to the harvest of a local farm or a group of farms. In this way, everyone participates in the risks and benefits of local food production. By paying an upfront cost at the start of the season, you receive a weekly supply of whatever fresh foods the farm has to offer–and sometimes even additional items like soaps, honey, and even flowers! CSAs are a great way to connect with a local farmer and enjoy fresh, seasonal produce each week.
2. Go the Farmers Market
Going to the farmers market each week is a great way to connect with the community and support local farmers. Ask questions about soil health practices and where and how the food is grown. See how much of your weekly grocery shopping you can get done, while also supporting local producers in the process!
3. Donate to the Kiss the Ground Farmland Program
Plenty of farmers and ranchers want to improve their soil health practices and are looking for resources, education, and community support. The Kiss the Ground Farmland Program is engaging with land stewards in a way that better equips them to make context-specific decisions and adapt their management practices to benefit the financial, ecological, and social conditions on which their agricultural operations depend.
The program is funded by a combination of corporate and individual donations, grants, and collaborations between local farms and restaurants. Make your contribution today and help a farmer or rancher in need!
No matter where you live, there are almost certainly local producers in your area growing organically and raising grass-fed meat–hopefully in a way that is also regenerating land, restoring biodiversity, and feeding the local community. Local food is generally better for the planet (depending on how it’s grown), and it also often provides you access to a wide variety of delicious vegetables, fruits, herbs, and meats. Connect with your neighbors, experiment with new crops, varieties, and flavors, and help contribute to a future we can all feel excited for!
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FARMERS, RESTAURANTS & SUPPORTERS
The Kiss the Ground Farmland Program funds training and soil testing that supports producers (farmers and ranchers) in transitioning landscapes and adopting management practices aligned with the principles of regenerative agriculture.