Beneath Our Feet: Soil’s Language of Connection - American Farmland Trust

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Beneath Our Feet: Soil’s Language of Connection

In the thaw of the unusually warm winter in Illinois, the scent of the soil slowly returning to action after its winter slumber fills the air on my afternoon walks. During this transition, I am reminded of the interconnected world that exists inches under my feet. I have thought deeply about the concept of how soil acts as a connector. There is beauty in how soil intertwines with the natural processes of the Earth. Across the agricultural landscape of the world, communities have come together around soil in creative ways. Now, faced with the challenge of creating tools for climate resiliency, soil advocates are connecting and aggregating in the movement toward a sustainable future.

This theme of soil as a connector allowed me to delve into conversations with strangers during my time at the 2024 Marbleseed Conference in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Marbleseed, formerly known as  MOSES (Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service), organizes the largest organic farming conference in the United States. For the past 35 years, the Marbleseed conference has drawn a wide range of farmers, experiences, and backgrounds in agriculture. American Farmland Trust (AFT) is a proud sponsor and has allowed me to connect with a range of folks over our precious resource, soil. I had the opportunity to connect with healers who are utilizing the connection to the soil as a tool for somatic healing, farmers who work to understand their role in protecting soil fertility, and students who are curious about protecting soil as a climate resiliency strategy. These varying conversations are all ways people across agriculture are skillfully connecting their own expressions and creativity to bring more awareness to the multitude of ways soil supports and connects us.

This theme continued into March when I had the pleasure to join friends, former colleagues, and the AFT Midwest team, at Chicago Food Policy Action Council’s 19th Annual Food Justice Summit. On a rainy, overcast day in Chicago, the summit space shined with eager participants ready to delve into a day of envisioning new food systems. A new space for AFT, returning for a second year as a sponsor, the summit is fertile ground for attendees to exchange meaningful knowledge, build deep relationships, and have powerful conversations on how to envision our food future together. This year’s theme, Climate Resilience, emphasized the potential of the food system to address climate change. A central component of this potential is—the connection to the soil and to each other. AFT Midwest region’s work in the realm of soil health allowed us to speak to summit participants about how the topic of soil health affects all communities in urban, peri-urban, and rural settings.  Based on these conversations, our team began to brainstorm ways our work could overlap with urban farmers’ needs. As the Midwest team continues to expand our work, the great connector soil continues to create pathways for conversation and partnership in new spaces.

These two months were filled with connection, reflection, and action across the Midwest that began with simple conversations about protecting our soil. These conversations have since catalyzed into new ideas and directions for the Midwest team’s work. In the spirit of moving into new spaces, AFT Midwest will host our first workshop in Minnesota on perennial bioenergy crops, another tool for supporting soil health and climate resiliency. Other opportunities on the horizon are AFT’s presence at various lobby days, field days, and conferences to continue to advocate for soil health.  As the AFT Midwest region continues to work with soil as a connector, it is important to recognize that this reconnection to soil will not be created overnight. It is up to us, as soil advocates, to become aware and reflect on our personal connections to soil. With that reflection, we hope to continue bringing new and innovative relationships to grow the protection of soil not only by the acre but also by the inch.

About the Author
Rachel Lechuga

Midwest Outreach Specialist

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