Soil have been taken for granted, ignored and abused throughout history of man-kind. Through much of our history we did not know better. Plants grew and we harvested the bountiful food the earth provided. Working the soil gave a higher production and when the returns diminished, mankind would move on to the next field. Little did early mankind know that agriculture was depleting the soil and that a sustainable soil management could prevent this from happening.
We can do better
We can no longer claim ignorance. We understand soils and the role of organic matter to provide good soil structure, water drainage, water holding capacity, diverse and abundant populations of microorganisms and a regenerative nutrient supply. We now also know that organic matter or carbon in the soil can help reverse global warming by taking carbon dioxide from the air and locking it long-term in the soil. When we build up organic matter in the soil we are creating healthy soils. Compost and mulches when used wisely can be effective tools in creating healthy soils.
When we work the soil by digging, plowing, discing we break organic matter, expose it to air and accelerate its decomposition. Unless we replenish organic matter and adopt soil management techniques that build organic matter we will be depleting the soil. Soil depletion is no longer a luxury we have. We have to focus building healthy soils by minimizing soil disturbance and adopt low or no-till soil management.
California is leading
California has made great strides in diverting organic matter from landfills. Yard debris is now mostly being composted or turned into mulches. New efforts are underway to also divert food scraps from the landfill. Manures are also being looked at to manage in a more sustainable regenerative manner to protect water and reduce emissions of methane and nitrous oxides. As a result we are producing more and more compost and mulches. In 2015, for the first time in California history, Governor Brown introduced a line item in the budget for healthy soils. These are exciting times we live in.
West Marin Compost has long worked with the Marin Carbon Project to further carbon farming. Recently, West marin Compost supplied the compost for 17 new carbon farming demonstration plots throughout California to further our understanding about carbon farming.
Creating healthy soils here and now
We invite you to start building healthy soils in your backyard, on your farm in your landscape. Creating healthy soils is a win-win proposition. We are taking materials that were formerly seen as polluting wastes and turn them into soil building resources. As we build healthy soils we conserve water, improve soil structure, grow large diverse populations of bacteria and fungi, and provide a regenerative nutrient cycling program. Together we can make a difference.