I bet you haven’t spent much time thinking about soil- I hadn’t either until I learned that soil worldwide is being degraded at such a rate that we have less than 100 years left of useful soil for food production if we don’t change our ways (1). Soil is an unsung hero to us, the earth, and for our climate. A member of the Food and Agricultural Organization, which is a part of the United Nations aimed at defeating world hunger, called soil “the basis of life” (2). In short, healthy soil equals healthy people and healthy planet.
At Spud, we have always valued people and planet as a top priority which is why we have paid special attention to where our food comes from and where it goes if we’re not able to sell it. With this perspective driving our decisions as a company, we have learned some pretty neat things about why healthy soil matters and how we as individuals can all positively impact soil even if we never step foot on a farm.
We want to share these learnings with you so that we can all participate in World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. This day, on June 17th, is about bringing public awareness to desertification: the degradation of soil around the world due to human activities and climate variations (3). Let’s celebrate- today and everyday!
The value of healthy soil
Although soil seems like a lifeless substance that only provides a base for plants to grow, it is actually so much more than that.
- – Soil has the power sequester (remove from the atmosphere) carbon – the leading greenhouse gas contributing to climate change (4).
- – Soil can strengthen our environment’s capacity to defend itself from natural threats, such as storms (5).
- – Healthy soil directly enhances the nutritional quality of our food- According to food academic Michael Pollen, “crops grown with chemical fertilizers grow more quickly, giving them less time and opportunity to accumulate nutrients [from the soil]” (6).
This list could go on, but I won’t get too nerdy about soil science with you today. In short, soil has the capacity to do some amazing things, but it is only possible if it is healthy.
What impacts soil health?
Through these practices, soil’s nutrients are able to be replenished at the same rate that nutrients are being used or taken out by plants. This is the basic definition of sustainability!
- 1. Reducing tillage (ie. mixing up of the soil less)
- 2. Crop diversity (ie. planting different things in the same field or changing up where the crop is planted every season)
- 3. Using natural fertilizers like manure instead of chemical fertilizers
- 4. Using alternative ways to get rid of pests, such as using nets to cover crops instead of using chemical pesticides
How you can make a positive impact
By shopping with Spud, you are voting with your dollar for a food system that treats soil with the value it deserves. At Spud, we support healthy soil in three main ways:
- 1. We only sell food that is produced from farms that use sustainability-focused agricultural practices, like the examples listed above.
- 2. In Alberta, we give our organic food waste to farmers to use as natural fertilizers for their fields or animal feed, and then we sell the food they grow on Spud.ca!
Blue Mountain Farms
- 3. In B.C., we give our organic food waste to Hop Compost which makes some of the most nutrient-rich compost on the market, and then we sell it on Spud.ca for customers to use on their own veggie gardens!
Treating our soil properly to maintain its health is not only vital to our well-being now and in the future, but it is easy to do and the benefits are endless! As a Spud community, we proudly create a food system that can feed generations to come and does not do so at the expense of our earth.
If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, click below to learn more!
- 1. Monbiot, G. “We’re treating soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mistake, as our lives depend on it” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/25/treating-soil-like-dirt-fatal-mistake-human-life
- 2. Arsenault, C. “Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues”. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/
- 3. United Nations. “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 17 June.” Welcome to the United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/events/desertificationday/index.shtml.
- 4. Lal, Rattan. “Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global climate change and food security.” science 304.5677 (2004): 1623.
- 5. Doran, J. W., and M. Safley. “Defining and assessing soil health and sustainable productivity.” Biological indicators of soil health. New York: CAB International (1997):120.
- “Soil Erosion and Degradation- Overview” World Wildlife Fund. https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/soil-erosion-and-degradation
- 6. Pollen, Michael. “From Quality to Quantity,” In Defense of Food. 2008.