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Thoughts from the Farm: the Soil Movement

Dear friends and local food eaters,

I am writing to you today about what's being called "the Soil Movement". I have recently been reading the book Kiss the Ground by Josh Tickell, which I found at my local library (the Newport public library is amazing for a small rural town!).

I've been loving this book.

I've stuck in a hundred sticky notes, all of which are things that were new to me, that I wanted to share with you.

Obviously, I can't share all of them, but I really do want to highly recommend and share the premise of this book because I think it is so important.

First, a review:

I believe that the title, and cover design, are unfortunate; to me, they belie the significance and depth of this book. While the Rumi quote that it is taken from, "There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground" is a personal favorite, I almost didn't take this book home, because it seemed a bit hippie-ish.

Not at all. In my opinion right from the beginning of the book, the science and history presented here is clear, in depth yet concise, and fascinating. And honestly, entertaining too. It is written in that memoir/travel-adventure style that is so easily readable.

The main theme is that carbon has been released into the atmosphere by a variety of human activity, primarily agriculture AND it's not the end of the story; we can still put it back.

It is our current world agricultural system that is both the driver of all things apocalyptical (desertification, climate change, soil depletion, food shortages/political unrest/famine/war), AS WELL AS the solution to restore carbon back into soil (and health to people and communities). Agriculture has the greatest potential to do this, along with but more significantly than switching to all renewable energy.

Some points he explores that have been educational to me:

  • The United Nations Convention on Climate Change - what it was really about (money, not solutions), and who was really creating change (French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll and his simple plan to put carbon back where it came from.)

  • Nitrogen use for plant growth - the origins (Nazi scientists), history, current use, and effects.

  • The connection between climate change and agriculture - how desertification is created, and we are creating it now by diminishing water cycles.

  • The demand for change - the rise of organic foods, and what the science proves about organic vs. conventional farming.

  • The history of how our country's soil: what happened on the Great Plains, to what used to be a land of deep soils, permanent pastures and forests, and loads more ruminants than we have now. How we've mined the soil to a nearly unproductive state.

  • The connection between livestock growth and climate change - meat consumption in America, and some contrasting stories of how it is raised and the implications of that on soil and carbon.

  • Recommended diet and food sourcing to support carbon building agriculture, and how this fits in with the individual consumer as well as chefs.

I really thought I understood most of this, but I understand it way more now. So many eye-opening moments.

Below is a short (and awesome) trailer video for the book. I am not trying to SELL the book. I am merely highly recommending it as a good read and an important concept to be aware of, understand, and share with others.

"The soil is alive."

"Our soils under conventional agriculture are almost completely devoid of microorganisms."

"These chemicals are used at rates that would have been inconceivable 20 years ago."

"2/3rds of the world is turning to desert."

"We are literally killing ourselves with the food production system we have today."

"Time is running short, we need to do something now."

"Through agriculture, we have unleashed carbon from the land and it is now up on the atmosphere... soil health.. can bring that carbon back down and put it in the ground."

"Drawdown ... year to year reduction in carbon in the upper atmosphere. When you achieve drawdown, within 20 years you have cooling."

"There can be a permanent agriculture that regenerates resources."

"By definition you can't have delicious food without something going very very right in environmental stewardship and soil health."

"Healthy soils lead to a healthy plant, healthy animal, healthy human, healthy water, healthy climate."

"It's not a campaign, its a movement."

"Which model do you want your food to be produced from? It's a pretty simple answer to me."

What more can I say?

Thanks for supporting local foods, soil health, and replenishing carbon to our soils,

~Brooks and Anna

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