In 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations called the world’s attention to family farming. This coming year, we’ll all be celebrating soil.
A third of the world’s soils are degraded, and you know as well as I do that our food doesn’t grow in the air. Between the FAO’s International Year of the Soils and the “Common Vision Statement on Cover Crops and Soil Health” that 40 ag groups recently sent to the USDA, there might be a few more members of the general public who start to see that us sustainable-farmer, save-the-soil types aren’t crazy.
Groups around the world are getting involved in this soil celebration—everything from India’s International Conference on Natural Resource Management for Food and Rural Livelihoods to Scotland’s Cereals in Practice crop research day. Here in the U.S., the Soil Science Society of America suggests we keep this party going all year long by offering a series of 12 monthly soil-related messages:
- January: soils sustain life
- February: soils support urban life
- March: soils support agriculture
- April: soils clean and capture water
- May: soils support buildings/infrastructure
- June: soils support recreation
- July: soils are living
- August: soils support health
- September: soils protect the natural environment
- October: soils and products we use
- November: soil and climate
- December: soils, culture and people
I honestly can’t tell you which one I’m most excited about. (I’m totally serious—I love this dorky stuff.) In addition to educational materials they’ve developed, SSSA members will come to your group and talk about these soil topics for free. You can request a speaker for your group, and starting Jan. 1, 2015, teachers can download materials for Kindergarten through 12th grade. You can watch and download a free video each month, too. January’s is less than three minutes long, and I thought it was pretty educational, plus not boring.
Free Film This Week!
Until Dec. 12, 2014, the documentary Symphony of the Soil is streaming free on the FAO website! Pop some (organic) popcorn and get some folks together to watch and discuss.
Terrifying Soil Stats
Working on a small-scale, organic farm, I certainly see the difference between well-loved soil and over-used soil. I’ve written articles for Hobby Farms about soil. I’ve gone to seminars, read books and watched films. In short, I’m not entirely uneducated. So I was shocked to learn a few things from the FAO:
- At the rate of soil degradation we’re seeing now, by 2050, the amount of productive land per person will be one-quarter of what it was in 1960.
- It can take up to 1,000 years to form 1 centimeter of soil.
- More than 12,000 acres of soil are lost every year.
- Sustainable soil management could allow the production of 85 percent more food.
Now I’m back to bugging my friends to compost, making careful soil-management plans for next year and spreading the word about the International Year of Soils. Join this soil celebration with me!
Read up on more about soil on HobbyFarms.com:
- 6 Soil Problems and Amendments to Fix Them
- 5 Weeds Actually Helping Your Soil
- How to Read a Soil Test
- 4 Ways to Nourish Your Soil During a Drought
- 7 Creative Ways to Balance Excess Soil Nutrients