Maryland’s Million Acre Challenge: How Consumers Can Promote Soil Health

Maryland’s Million Acre Challenge: How Consumers Can Promote Soil Health

Healthy soils are foundational to a robust food system and a thriving environment. Sustainable soil management can also be an important tool in mitigating the effects of climate change, since certain farming practices may have the capacity to pull greenhouse gases from the atmosphere into the soil where they are captured in service of sustaining the organic matter within.

There is growing interest by governments, NGOs, and nonprofits to research and invest in healthy soil practices to restore ecological systems. There is also opportunity for consumers to demand the implementation of these practices by navigating their pocketbooks toward sustainably-produced products. Million Acre Challenge founding partner Fair Farms has pulled together tips for consumers who want to spend their food dollars in ways that align with their environmental values. 

  1. Eat seasonally

Purchasing in-season produce is fresher, more nutritious, and often cheaper as foods are more abundant in their respective seasons. Foods harvested in-season also add to the biodiversity of soils, while practices such as mono-cropping (the practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land) strip soils of their nutrients and reduce their productivity. 

Check out this Seasonal Food Guide to find out what is in season near you.

  1. Look for local and sustainable

We advocate for purchasing food locally when possible, and encourage consumers to shop at local farmers markets and/or CSAs that specifically commit to sustainable farming practices. Shopping at local farmers markets enables us to guide where our dollars go and grants us direct access to our farmers and growers. 

Use this map and this guide to locate nearby farmers markets and grassfed meat producers; this list of Black-owned farms and this list of CSAs in Maryland will also be useful, along with this Chesapeake Buy Fresh Buy Local Guide. Additionally, find your local Mom’s Organic Market for sustainably-sourced ingredients. 

  1. Be curious, not judgmental

Ask your farmer questions, but leave them open-ended. Ask how they are stewarding their land and how their season is going, what they are proud of on their farm, and what their greatest challenge is. Stay curious. Recognize that truly regenerative production doesn’t follow a blueprint, but looks different on every farm.

  1. Ask about regenerative practices 

Regenerative agricultural practices contribute to building soil fertility and health, promoting water retention, increasing biodiversity, and sequestering carbon dioxide. 

They may also help farmers become more profitable and resilient, improve animal welfare and worker health, safety and empowerment, and contribute to a strong and healthy farm economy. Ask your local farmer what regenerative production means to them – and stay open minded, recognizing that their version of regenerative may look different from your own. Regenerative practices may include cover crops, crop rotation, composting, rotational grazing, tillage reduction, and many more.