Stewardship — taking care of the land — starts with taking care of the soil, the foundational resource in any land-based agricultural system. Today, many of the soil conservation practices that are promoted to farmers and landowners — buffer strips, grassed waterways, sediment dams, etc. — are really only addressing the symptoms of a degraded soil resource: issues like soil erosion; sediment/nutrient loading in lakes, rivers and streams; compaction; disease; and pest problems in crops and livestock.
But in the past decade or so there has been an expanded and growing consciousness about soil as a living, biological universe that needs particular conditions in order to function well and in a regenerative way.
An increasing number of farmers, natural resource professionals and scientists are focusing on treating soil as a long-term investment. They are working to implement management practices and cropping systems that support and enhance soil biology as the primary means of restoring the soil to a healthy state of function. They are proving that there is a need to test and implement practical and profitable ways to enhance soil health while meeting our economic and quality-of-life goals as individuals and as communities.
The Land Stewardship Project, through such initiatives as the Chippewa 10% Project, the Southeastern Minnesota Cover Crop Network and the Bridge to Soil Health initiative, is working with farmers, natural resource professionals and scientists to promote agricultural systems that treat soil health as a long-term investment, one that can pay dividends in terms of a healthier landscape, thriving farms and vibrant communities.