| MegaFood | December 4, 2018 |
Our soil is under siege by destructive farming practices, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
When people ask us why we’re so passionate about the quality and integrity of our supplements, we tell them it’s because we know where our whole food ingredients come from — straight from the soil, cultivated by trusted farmers who share our commitment to organic and regenerative agriculture. By using their food in our products, we share in their pride.
That said, we have a vested interest in having plenty of fertile soil for our farm partners to utilize. When contemplating limited resources, soil likely isn’t the first one to come to mind. And yet, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the Earth’s topsoil can sustain fewer than 60 more annual harvests. After that, says the UN reports, the topsoil will be too stripped of nutrients to grow any more food, rendering soil useless as a medium for growth.
To understand how we landed in this predicament, it’s important to first understand the science of soil.
How soil works
Plants use sunlight to photosynthesize carbon from the air and turn it into plant sugars.The plants pump some of these sugars down into their roots, where they feed microorganisms that use that carbon to turn rock materials, such as sand, silt, and clay, into soil. The presence of this organic matter makes the soil like a sponge; it holds more water, which promotes plant growth and a vibrant watershed.
That’s why healthy soil looks dark and rich. At MegaFood, we just adore the dark, rich stuff!
The problem is that scientists have seen a sharp decline in healthy soil. The chief culprits are farming methods employing the use of herbicides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, and intensive tilling, to squeeze more productivity out of an acre at the expense of its long-term health. For example, synthetic herbicides like glyphosate, which are used to kill weeds, can also kill the beneficial microbes on which soil so heavily relies. This means that the plants that grow there -and the livestock that eat the plants- take in fewer minerals. Move on up the food chain and we, too, are consuming less nutritious food as a result.
Soil, not sand
Tilling may be a venerable way to prepare fields for new crops and keep weed growth under control, but it’s also proven to weaken the topsoil and leave it vulnerable to erosion by wind and water. Combined with chemical inputs, over-tilling makes the earth look dry and crumbly — kind of like sand. While we all agree that sand is a lovely place to bury your toes at the beach, we know it’s a lousy place to try to grow food.
When we say the world needs better nutrition, we’re thinking about the people on this wide planet. But we’re also talking about the plants, and the soil. For when we talk about improving the quality of our food, the soil naturally comes first.
Treat it like gold
Offering an entirely glyphosate-free product line, and sourcing our whole food ingredients from like-minded farmers, are just some of the ways we’re choosing to honor the soil for the gold that it is, not the dirt it’s been treated like. It’s why we’re leading a consortium of companies to petition the EPA to ban the use of glyphosate as a drying agent, or desiccant, for basic crops like oats; everyday crops that are on most families’ breakfast table. We don’t want weed killer near our food, nor do we want it robbing our soil of nutrients it needs; the nutrients we need.
To reclaim the ground on which our future heritage depends, tending to our soil is a crucial first step. And just as we need to understand the role soil health plays in the big picture of our food system, we also need to understand the role of farming, and the complexities of our agricultural system, before we can chip away at a solution.
In the meantime, here are 5 ways to empower farmers in your community.