Soil Health: The Spark of a National Movement


Steven Rosenzweig, a PhD Candidate at Colorado State University, recently wrote an article titled, “How a new way of thinking about soil sparked a national movement in agriculture.” In the article, Rosenzweig details how Ray Archuleta and many others within the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began thinking about how to change agriculture in a way that would allow farmers to avoid the “double squeeze” of rising inputs costs and declining returns. Thus, in the 1990’s, the soil health movement was born. Rosenzweig explains the movement below:

“Known as the soil health movement, it is a management philosophy centered around four simple principles: reduce or eliminate tillage, keep plant residues on the soil surface, keep living roots in the ground, and maximize diversity of plants and animals. Some immensely successful farmers have ascended to celebrity status in the agricultural community preaching these principles. They are growing more food while drastically reducing their use of inputs like herbicides and fertilizers, which is the ultimate strategy for becoming more profitable.”

Ray Archuleta has now reached over 100,000 farmers and ranchers in the U.S. with his soil health message. Rosenzweig describes how Archuleta has been able to distill his message to farmers, captivating them with just a few clumps of soil that each tell a story about soil structure and its relationship to soil health:

“The implications of Archuleta’s demonstrations are obvious to food producers, who see the fate of their acres in those clumps of soil. The message is powerful, and producers drive home knowing that soil is alive, that it can be sick or healthy, and that healthy soil can do some pretty amazing things — like make a farm more resilient to drought, sequester enormous amounts of carbon, reduce erosion and support an ecosystem that’s teeming with life.”

Read Steven Rosenzweig’s article to learn more about the soil health movement and how it’s shaping the future of agriculture.

ILF_Badge_Multi_LGIf you are interested in implementing soil health practices, you can find more information about soil conservation, cover crops, and more at our website. Find an ILF Farmer Partner in your area who might have experience with a conservation practice you’re interested in trying, or attend an upcoming field day to learn more about conservation practices.

Julie Whitson