Soil health is more than a buzz word – it’s what stands between us and a hungry future. By investing in the people and practices that steward our soil resources, we’re ensuring that future generations have access to healthy food and the means to grow it.
KPI: Percentage of contracted farms implementing extended crop rotations
KPI: Percentage of contracted farms integrating cover crops every year
Organic Farming IS Soil Health
A certified organic farmer is required to follow the regulations(1) laid out and enforced by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). These regulations directly address soil health and mandate that organic producers farm in such a way that they “improve the physical, chemical, and biological condition of soil and minimize soil erosion.” Through creating organic markets, increasing the number of delivery points receiving organic crops, and providing education and support to transitioning and organic growers, we’re growing organic acres and contributing to increases in soil health throughout the country.
The science connecting organic agriculture to soil health is growing steadily, as outlined in a 2015 review article titled, “Soil Health and Related Ecosystem Services in Organic Agriculture” by Abbott and Manning.(2) The benefits of crop rotation are well documented in all production systems, and in organic, extended crop rotations are necessary to remain certified.(3) According to 205.205(a-d) in the regulation, a crop rotation must maintain or improve soil organic matter, provide for pest management, manage deficient or excess plant nutrients, and provide erosion control.(1) Pipeline Foods is able to buy most, if not all, of the crops grown in an organic rotation, allowing a farmer to do what’s right for their land and for their bottom line.
A Healthy Planet & Resilient Food Systems
Global climate change is the issue of the millennia and without direct, and persistent action will have dire consequences for every biotic community on earth. One proven strategy to mitigate climate change is to farm carbon by adopting production systems that sequester carbon, successfully store it and ensure soil health that allows soils to remain the second largest carbon sink, next to oceans, on our planet.(4)
A changing climate also challenges our ability to continue to grow crops as predictably as generations past. Extreme wet and dry weather are less and less of a surprise every year. The good news is that healthy soils are more resilient to changing conditions, enabling more moisture to be stored, better drainage, and diverse microbial communities to thrive, thereby supporting the crops we grow.(3,4,5) Through healthy soils and careful organic management, we’re investing in a healthier planet and more resilient food system.
Adoption of Regenerative Farm Practices
Through our Farm Profit Program, we provide tools and resources that help farmers see and seize the opportunities in organic and non-GMO agriculture. Through education and consultation, Pipeline Foods equips farmers with the resources necessary to farm for soil health, and through long-term contracts and transition loan products, we bring organic transition within reach.
In 2018, Pipeline Foods began spearheading the Organic Agronomy Training Series (OATS), a science-based train-the-trainer program that brings together university, non-profit, industry, agency, and farmer partners to create a groundswell of knowledgeable agronomists and consultants able to support transitioning and organic growers.(6) Our investment in this program benefits the entire organic industry and the farmers who are the lifeblood of our work.
Connecting the Farm to Food Companies & Their Customers
Our Ag Impact Team connects food companies to farmers by capturing on-farm data, analyzing it, and communicating it through easy-to-understand, high-impact reports and compelling stories.
Through our Ag Impact Survey, we’re able to characterize large sections of our supply chain by soil health practices used - including cover crops, livestock integration, extended crop rotations, and reduced tillage practices, among others. Pulling on-farm data through to the end-user demonstrates the entire supply chain’s commitment to soil health and supports the decisions that the farmer makes. Our ability to quantitatively measure practices that result in soil health also gives us the ability to create continuous improvement programs that can chart progress as it’s made on hundreds of thousands of acres.
5. Clark, M. S., W. R. Horwath, C. Shennan, and K. M. Scow. 1998. Changes in Soil Chemical Properties Resulting from Organic and Low-Input Farming Practices. Agron. J. 90:662-671. doi:10.2134/agronj1998.00021962009000050016x