In the introduction to one of the books contained in what he calls “The Dirt Trilogy,” geologist David Montgomery explains that what we’re learning today about soil is revolutionary. “[Microbes in soil] shaped our past, and how we treat them will shape our future in ways we are only beginning to understand,” says Montgomery.
The more scientists understand, the more they realize how much all of life on Earth depends on what goes on in our soil. For farmers who have relied on sustainable or regenerative methods to produce food, new discoveries only expand the evidence of what they already knew – that healthy soil means healthy people and a healthy environment.
Organizations like Quivira Coalition and Holistic Management International have wonderfully successful programs teaching farmers and ranchers how to manage their land to build the soil. Now, the Council for Healthy Food Systems is developing a program to expand soil education for the general public, to build a movement toward more regenerative agriculture to heal the earth and feed its residents. The resulting benefits are clear: clean water, reversal of global warming, and improvement in human health.
In the summer of 2021, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) posted a request for comments and hosted three public meetings, gathering information to improve its incentive program for voluntary community management of flood risks. The program, called the Community Rating System, encourages practices that exceed the minimum requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program.
Utilizing the research from its “Beneath Our Feet” project, the Council submitted formal comments to FEMA on Sept. 21, 2021. Our goal was to increase the agency’s focus on building soil health to reduce flood emergencies. We describe a number of ways the program can boost the ratings for communities that include farms and ranches utilizing cover-crops, chemical-free no-till and reduced till, use of soil amendments that improve soil microbiology (such as compost and compost teas), and managed rotational grazing.
In our “Beneath Our Feet” project, we tackle several aspects of soil health, beginning with its role in water retention and drought mitigation and moving on to address the correlation between soil and human health, an analysis of the dearth of great research on soil health, the ability of soil to reduce flooding, and much more. Each topic we address begins with a summary article, from which we will build a variety of educational materials: videos, social media campaigns, children’s programs, and more. We hope you will share our information and suggest materials we can provide to you to help spread the knowledge!
Article #1: Soil’s Role in Drought Mitigation
Article #2: Healthy Soil = Healthy People
Article #3: Barriers to Research & Policy
Article #4: How Soil Health Impacts Flooding