One thing we try to stress on this show is that your soil health journey is going to look different from others based on your goals. Those goals may include trafficability, weed suppression, water infiltration, livestock integration or a whole host of other potential and very worthwhile goals.
Keeping these goals at the forefront of your mind is helpful in determining which practices may be right for you. It’s also nice to see incentives popping up from government, organizations, and companies to help assist farmers in building healthier soils. While these incentives shouldn’t take the place of the goals you have for your farm, they can help de-risk the process of pursuing more soil health building practices. Today’s guest works with large food and beverage companies that want to do their part to improve the soil of the farmers that produce their raw ingredients.
Elizabeth Reaves is the Senior Program Director for Agriculture and Environment at the Sustainable Food Lab. She works with large multinational food and beverage companies to help connect the commitments they’ve made to climate, regenerative agriculture and/or alleviating poverty in their supply chains to direct investment on the ground with farmers. She shares insights into how they’re viewing soil health and what approaches they’re taking to support farmers on this journey.
“The place that we most often like to start is taking our company partners to visit farmers in a particular place. And those are often some of the most powerful learning experiences because they get to have a real conversation with farmers and they get to not just hear what the farmers’ challenges are, but also what farmers have already done and tried and what they're testing and innovating.” -Elizabeth Reaves
Hosting stakeholders on the farm “are often the most transformative moments for our companies in terms of really understanding….the things that we need to provide in terms of program support” to producers. For all of the talk about soil health, it’s so incredibly vital that the people who are offering incentives and voicing their opinions and visions have those grounded in what’s actually executable at the farm level. For Elizabeth and the Food Lab, they need to take these teachable moments and convert them into both short term and long term outcomes.
“What we know doesn't work is pushing a set of standards. And I think most of the companies, at least the ones that I work with, really want to figure out how to pull a whole system to change at scale. So I'm really optimistic that through partnerships, between companies, with organizations like NDSU, the farmer networks that they're building and the farmers that they can reach, that we actually start to see some of that real tide change.” - Elizabeth Reaves
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