by Christina Allday-Bondy
Care for the soil is one of the unifying themes among different schools of ecological land management –be it regenerative, organic or biodynamic agriculture, planned grazing, AMP, Holistic Management, Permaculture or just plain good stewardship. In biological monitoring we check (among other things) the percent bare ground, evidence of animals, hints of soil movement/erosion, changes in plant species and numbers of perennials. All of these relate to the five soil health principles: 1) maintain soil cover; 2) minimize disturbance, and inputs (which speaks loudly to our financial plan;) 3) keep a living root; 4) maximize biodiversity; and 5) farm with animals. If you are engaged in stewardship and an advocate for soil health – or willing to be – read on.
In cooperation with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) the NM Healthy Soil Working Group is looking for land stewards in New Mexico to participate in the Soil Health Champions Network. Just in the last few months, dozens of ranchers, farmers, land owners and educators joined this growing association of peers.
The NACD created the Soil Health Champions program to identify advocates for soil health across the United States and its territories. (So wherever you live in the US you can join the Champions Network.) “Champion” is intended to emphasize advocacy and continuing curiosity about soil health more than mastery. There is so much to learn! Soil stewards and scientists make important discoveries every year.
Each Champion is associated with their conservation district. A board vote is not required, just an informal agreement to participate. Member Champions and their districts receive quarterly emails with information about the activities of Champions across the country.
In return, Champions receive membership in an exclusive network, a quarterly soil health bulletin, and national recognition for their work in soil health in NACD publications. In New Mexico, the Healthy Soil Working Group is hosting a Facebook group, monthly meetups and webinars for Champions and others.
Also in support of the Network, NACD holds educational conference calls, provides technical and promotional resources, and offers scholarships to Champions to attend topical meetings. NACD also manages a closed Facebook group in which members can share photos, videos, articles and updates on their extraordinary work to improve America’s soils.
Champions only have a few responsibilities: practicing soil health principles, outreach in their communities and sharing their activities with NACD. Advocacy can take many forms, for example, (virtual) farm tours, coffee shop meet-ups, workshops, kids programs, neighborhood meetings, or simply sharing on their website or at their market booth that they are a soil health advocate, to name a few.
I’m sure, like mine, your desired future includes both a healthy human community and a healthy ecosystem. The Soil Health Champions Network provides an opportunity not only for outreach, but also for learning and sharing insights with your local community while being connected to the larger soil health movement.
Interested in joining the New Mexico Soil Health Champion Network? Please sign up here for more information.