by Soil Health Champion 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. Over one hundred ranchers, farmers, land owners and educators have already 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. 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. 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 working to grow and support the statewide Soil Health Champions Network. We’re hosting the NM Soil Stewards Facebook group, as well as meetups and webinars for Champions and others. Champions often share their soil health journey on the NM Healthy Soil Blog: you can read their stories here.
In partnership with the Seeding Regenerative Agriculture Project, we hold frequent field days at member farms and ranches. We come together for peer-to-peer networking, knowledge sharing and hands-on learning. These gatherings always involve a shared, locally sourced meal. Find upcoming field days and events here.
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 Champions Network?
Please sign up here to receive a simple application form.