Celebrating Earth Day from the Soil to your Kitchen
Article by Zoe Banfield
Above: Program Coordinator Alex Haban checks out a truck load of mushroom compost from a farm visit to Hamakua Mushrooms. She will take it back to her homestead in Mountain View to improve the soil in her green house which she built with a grant from the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) which helps to fund land stewardship projects for farmers and individuals.
The way that societies produce, distribute and eat food currently contributes up to 37% of the greenhouse gas emissions that are rapidly warming our planet and threatening the balance and viability of life on earth. Last year, DA BOX ran a four week challenge created by the non-profit Food Print that suggests ways that we can reduce our "food print" or the negative environmental impact of our participation in the global food system. These suggestions range from the simple: eat more local food, to the broad: educating yourself about systemic issues in the food system and how they might be addressed by policy, technology and social movements. If you'd like to participate in the Foodprint challenge again this year, check it out here.
If you subscribe to DA BOX, chances are you are already reducing the carbon impact of your diet. Many of the farmers that we source our produce from practice climate friendly agriculture by using conservation agriculture, minimizing the amount of chemical inputs that they use on their farms, and incorporating agroforestry into their farm systems. Check out this infographic below from our friends at the Hawai'i 'Ulu Cooperative that explains the climate impact of replacing staple items such as rice with locally grown, regenerative crops such as 'ulu and cassava.
Soil is the second-largest global carbon pool after the world's oceans, holding more carbon than the atmosphere and all vegetation combined. This means that the soil can release an enormous amount of carbon into the atmosphere (through deforestation, over-grazing, and excessive plowing) or it can be an incredibly powerful carbon sink that absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in its physical form. Healthy soils can be achieved through agriculture styles described above which include methods such as reduced tillage, large scale composting, agroforestry, silvo-pasture and more.
What can we do to build healthier soils?
On a political level we can all pay attention to and advocate for local and national policy that makes it easier for farmers and individuals to practice soil conservation on their land. On a personal level we can keep on doing what we're doing by composting our kitchen scraps, planting trees, and supporting local farmers and businesses who do their part to care for the earth and mitigate their climate impact. While the enormity of the problems caused by climate change are daunting and will take monumental global effort to mitigate and adapt to, sometimes doing our part can be as satisfying as getting our hands in the dirt or as sweet as digging into some creamy, delicious 'ulu chocolate mousse.
Below Bob from Hamakua Mushrooms loads up Alex's truck bed with his mushroom compost which he sells and gifts to gardeners, farmers and institutions across the island. Thanks Bob!