I had the pleasure to participate in a “Farmer Drive-in,” organized by NOFA/Mass and hosted by our fabulous state senator Jo Comerford, this week . A number of farmers came in to speak in support of the Healthy Soils Bill that is currently bottled up in committee. Below is the text of my mini-speech, and at the bottom is a list of legislative priorities that you can call and support!
“My name is Jeremy Barker Plotkin. I am one of the co-owners of Simple Gifts Farm in Amherst, MA. We grow about 10 acres of vegetables and raise cows, chickens and pigs on a community-preserved property in North Amherst.”
“We came on to this farm to find the condition of the soil in a fairly run-down state. We have very intentionally built our crop production system around the principle of building soil fertility and soil heath through rotating our productive land through pasture, cover crops, and forage crops. We have seen a marked improvement in the productive capacity of the soil due to our management. We are embarking in the next few years on a new round of commitment to soil health by reducing our tillage and by adding strips of trees and shrubs throughout our fields. These methods of cropping can ultimately add some resilience to our systems since healthy soils can ameliorate the impact of both drought and heavy rain. But in the near term, it costs us money to put in these practices, both in concrete costs, and in terms of taking land out of profitable vegetable production. The healthy soils bill would give farmers support to serve the public good of reducing soil carbon.”
“Farmers are on the front lines of the climate crisis. It is not hard to imagine that from the perspective of the fact that we work outside and are dependent on the weather for our livelihood. We have seen in recent years a historic drought in 2016, and a 2018 season when we received 2 years worth of rain in about 8 weeks. We also see increasingly mild winters, with increasingly unpredictable cold snaps, which open up possibilities of winter production, but also great risks for those systems.”
“What is less obvious is that we can also be on the front lines of reversing climate change. The loss of soil and of soil carbon is a twin crisis to the burning of fossil fuels, but it is a problem that is much more reversible. Soil building cropping systems have the potential to suck carbon out of the soil; the term soil health is practically synonomous with coil carbon. We have passed the point where merely reducing carbon emissions can avert the climate crisis, but seqestering carbon has the potential to reverse that damage. Passing the Healthy Soils Bill will be a great step forward in helping farmers in the state heal our planet.”
Here’s what you can do:
Healthy Soils Bill: Here is a link to a fact sheet on the Healthy Soils Bill. The number of the bill on the fact sheet is the one that didn’t pass last year; the current one is S.2404. If you are in Senator Comerford’s district, call her and thank her for supporting the bill and hosting the event! She has been a great advocate. If you are in another State Senate district, call your Senator and ask them to move the bill out of committee and to support it when it arrives. You can also call your State Representative and ask them to support the bill when it comes to the House. There is also a funding request for the Healthy Soils Pilot Project to develop reccommendations for how the program will be configured when it finally comes into being.
Other Priorities :
The HIP program has again been suspended starting in late-February, and running into May. The Legislature is ready to fund the program, but the Department of Transitional Assistance wants the program to be a seasonal program. Contact DTA Commissioner Amy Kershaw and let her know that hunger doesn’t take a break for the winter, and that some farmers are also still active and ready to fill that need.
On-Farm Composting. Ask your legislators to oppose SB 435, which would pose some onerous restrictions on the composting operations that farmers have on their farms.
Thanks for the support and for everything that you do!