Publishers' Note—Fall 2016

Publishers' Note—Fall 2016

Written on

August 17 , 2016

For the past several years now, we’ve composted our garden and kitchen scraps. With increased success, we’ve watched apple cores and tomato vines metamorphose into a rich, dark, crumbly hummus. As participants in this process, we’ve observed with amazement that our soils comprise a varied and complex world unto themselves. And the cycle of life is on full display as we transform this year’s waste into the foundation for next year’s growth.

This process of breaking down and building up is also evident in the epic formation of our topsoil—the 2 to 8 inches of the Earth’s crust on which we walk, play, and work. Taking more than 100 years, and by some accounts 500 years, to form a mere inch, this living structure nurtures and supports all life. It is home to microorganisms, small insects and vertebrates, bacteria, carbon, and water—all vital ingredients to sustain life.

We often hear about human beings having a negative impact on the environment, but humanity can have a positive impact, too. In this issue we explore three positive ways that our actions can build, enhance, and preserve our soil, the foundation of all life.

In our last publishers’ note, we touched on a practice known as regenerative agriculture; in Vermont the legislature has been exploring the idea of a certification process for farms where this kind of agriculture is practiced. In this artice, writer and farmer Katie Spring digs deeper into what is meant by regenerative agriculture and its many benefits.

We offer an article on Hügelkultur, a centuries-old gardening practice that takes its cue from the decomposition that occurs naturally in forests. The article chronicles author Angie Knost’s experiences and insights using this system in her own backyard. By ceding our control to nature’s perfect system, we can turn poor soil and unproductive lands into beneficial and valuable ones.

Tropical Storm Irene, in 2011, provided a wake-up call and an opportunity for a group of folks in southern Vermont; click here for the article. Small Acts Permaculture (a group that we are members of) joined with federal and state entities and the local conservation commission to plant a riparian buffer on three parcels of flooded land in Saxtons River. By minimizing erosion and keeping soil in its place, these efforts will pay off by providing a verdant and durable habitat for wildlife while also protecting downstream land from unwanted sediment buildup.

Longtime and respected Vermont farmer Jack Lazor, writing about his love for the soil in the summer NOFA-Vermont newsletter, shares these thoughts, which we fully support: “The greatest lesson that I have learned in all this time is that the Earth comes first. Be generous in your dealings with Mother Earth. Be a giver instead of a taker. You will be paid back in interest many times over if you love the land and do right by it.”

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Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape ties into larger questions of sustainability and the future of our food supply.