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Healthy soil focus of California organic conference

The two-day gathering kicked off with a bang with two informational seminars

“Advanced farmers and agronomists know farming a crop is as much about farming the soil as it is the crop that grows out of it,” Diane Wu, Co-Founder and Chief Science and Technology Officer of Trace Genomics told more than 700 organic farmers that gathered in Monterey at the Annual Organic Grower Summit last month.

The two-day conference kicked off with a bang with two informational seminars for organic producers focused on a new soil health initiative, the prime focus of the educational event.

“We called them intensives, two and a half hours of deep discussion about how all farming, organic or conventional, starts with the soil. The first subject discussed was strategies to reduce risk through organic soil health practices,” said Tonya Antle, Organic Produce Network Co-Founder and Executive Vice President.  “Soil health is always a really import subject matter.  Before you get to plant health, you need to make sure you’ve got the right soil that is healthy.”

Presented by the OPN and California Certified Organic Farmers, the summit also featured more than 90 exhibitors on the trade show floor of the Monterey Conference Center.

California Department of Food and Agriculture Undersecretary Jenny Lester Moffitt addressed the general forum and offered her insights into the importance of good soil health. A fifth generation California walnut farmer, she told the crowd “soil health is something that is near and dear to my heart, and an important issue for every California grower.”

“Organic farming is a growing industry and not just in California, not just in the country, but around the world, a $3 billion industry nationally of which California has cornered 40% of the organic market,” she noted. “It’s really an important time to be in the organic and specialty crop industry.”

A national push

Nate Lewis, a Contract Consultant formally who served the Organic Trade Association as their farm policy director and a former certification coordinator for the State of Washington Department of Agriculture, talked about the national push toward healthier soils.

“Organic production practices fix carbon in the soil – they take carbon from the atmosphere and put it back in the soil, proven by research at Northeastern University and supported by the Organic Center, which tested over a thousand soil samples from all across the country and compared those to samples from conventional farms, proving that organic production practices create a sustainable, healthier soil full of micronutrients,” he told attendees.

Renatta Brellinger co-founder of California Climate and Agriculture Network followed Lewis and shared her thoughts on the soil health initiative.

“We work collectively with a coalition of partners to provide resources to farmers and ranchers to encourage them to use organic soil practices in their operations that provide climate benefits. Through our coalition of partners and other groups invested in climate benefits we are also working to help Sacramento legislators understand how farmers can help develop policy to achieve that objective of helping to address the current climate crisis,” she said.

Those in attendance also discussed the California Healthy Soils Program, which stems from the California Healthy Soils Initiative, a collaboration of state agencies and departments to promote the development of healthy soils on California's farmlands and ranchlands.

The HSP has two components: the HSP Incentives Program and the HSP Demonstration Projects. The HSP Incentives Program provides financial assistance for implementation of conservation management that improve soil health, sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The HSP Demonstration Projects showcase California farmers and rancher's implementation of HSP practices.

The next round of grants and incentives will be available in late January with grant application deadlines due in March. Visit here to learn more about the next round of assistance.  

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TAGS: Soil Health
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