If you join the Million Acre Challenge, you’ll begin to see themes emerge. One of the most important of these, which you’ll hear us talk about over and over again, is the value of cover crops. Cover crops are planted intentionally during gaps in cash crop production, and can have a huge impact on a farm’s soil health, water quality, yield resilience and biodiversity. If well-managed, they can even help sequester carbon and decrease inputs of fertilizers and pesticides, leading to improved farm profitability. You can see why we think they’re so important!
Here in Maryland, farmers are able to apply for grants from the Department of Agriculture to help offset the costs of planting cover crops (see the official announcement below). One of our favorite resources to help farmers decide which cover crops to plant for any time slot or purpose is the Northeast Cover Crops Council Decision Tool. Green Cover Seed also has a fun ‘SmartMix’ app that can help guide your thinking about how to best use cover crops to benefit your farm. This definitely won’t be the last time you hear the Million Acre Challenge team talk about cover crops – but we hope you consider planting some this year while the time is right!
First Thursday Soil Health Hub Meeting
July 1 at 7 a.m. | Register here
Drop in with the MAC team monthly, every first Thursday, for the networking and farmer-to-farmer connections you’ve been asking for. Bring your soil health questions and inspirations. These meetings are for farmers and those who support them. All production systems and all scales are welcome, and the agenda is intentionally unstructured to give you time to check-in with others. Whether you’re asking questions, helping answer them, or just listening in, this is your time to get into the nitty gritty of soil health how-to for your farm. Free.
Soil Health to Go!
July 14 at noon | Register here
Are you ready to make your acres count? We’ve launched our enrollment survey and are excited for you to Join the Challenge! In this month’s half-hour lunch & learn session, we’ll walk you through our enrollment process, providing opportunities for live support as we go. Get your questions answered in real time, and show your support for healthy soils by becoming a Million Acre Challenge farmer.
Soil Health Hubs
Regional Soil Health Hubs are where growers connect with each other to explore practices, strategies, and opportunities to make farmland more profitable and resilient through healthier soil — we hope you will join us!
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After 20 years of the “typical” Washingtonian life, Judy Gifford decided it was time to go back to her roots. She had grown up on a small dairy farm in Connecticut, but, after college, Judy pursued a career in government. She worked on the Hill and for different agencies over two decades, until she realized she belonged back on the farm.
- UMD Extension is offering workshops to help urban growers learn about pest, disease, and soil management to get the most out of their high tunnels (or hoop houses). Learn more here.
- Experienced, intermediate, and new farmers, would you benefit from working one-on-one with a consultant – accounting, legal, logistics, insurance – to improve your farm operation? Future Harvest will be awarding 30, $1,000 vouchers for consultations to take place between September 1, 2021 and April 1, 2022. Applications are due July 18. Go here to learn more and apply.
- CutFresh Organics is offering a workshop on their grain rotations, soil health practices and goals, and storage considerations on July 26. This workshop is the first half of a two-part Grain Series exploring what it will take to make local, organic grains a viable industry in the Chesapeake region. Learn more and register here.
- A new interactive infographic from USDA – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education explores what soil health is and the practices that build soil health.
- Learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s proposal to invest over $700 million in conservation programs on Chesapeake watershed farmland!
- NC Cooperative Extension is hosting a virtual summer workshop series on soil health, exploring the breadth of research and management strategies. Find out more and register.
- Register today for the Soil Health Institute’s virtual annual meeting that will take place August 11 and 12.
- Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are teaming up with the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to raise awareness for soil health and show more Virginians why they should be “4TheSoil.” The 4TheSoil campaign kicks off on Wednesday, June 23 – National Soil Health Day. This celebration recognizes soil professionals, farmers, and growers who are focused not only on conservation but also on feeding and enhancing our global soil health.
- This year’s Maryland Department of Agriculture cover crop sign-up runs July 1 through July 16, 2021. Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity to apply for grants to help offset seed, labor, and equipment costs to plant cover crops in your fields this fall to protect water quality and help build your soil’s health. Applications will be posted on MDA’s website beginning July 1. Learn more.
- There are lots of practices in addition to cover cropping that are eligible for Maryland Agriculture Cost Share program funding as well, including silvopasture, hedgerows, pasture management, and many more! Learn more here.