PLENTY SUMMER 2020 | Page 36

The Million Acre Challenge BY AMANDA CATHER This is a fertile time to refine our vision and choose the ways in which we wish to continue walking our paths. Today, we can choose where to direct our attention, and reformulate the principles that will oversee the rest of our precious time here on Earth. Today, we can choose to go beyond the individualism and competition of business as usual to recognize the interdependence that weaves all life, that right now knocks so clearly at the door. Today, it is possible to counteract apathy and indifference by forging an attitude of respect and reverence for other beings and for ourselves, however small our steps may be. Today, we are able to choose the path of vulnerability and courage to express what is really important to our hearts. It’s time. - adrián villasenor-galarza The moment that confronts us now, as we struggle with the COVID 19 pandemic, is remarkable. We are trying to find the new way forward. Business as usual is not an option. And our so-called “new normal” makes new things possible. Our agricultural system was already under pressure—and now, even more so. Falling prices for farmers, rising prices for consumers, extreme weather conditions, and concerns about safety and consistency in our supply chains have resonated across farms of all sizes and production methods. Severe shocks to the system, whether in the form of a sudden pandemic or the slow-moving catastrophe of climate change, show us the urgent need to build resiliency within our agricultural economy. Over the next few years, partners in a new project called the Million Acre Challenge will work together to try to connect the already existing dots and build the missing links in a regional food system that can better support our farmers and our communities. Today, we can begin that work with the most fundamental component of any farm: the soil. The health of the soil on a farm is foundational to the vigor of the crops it grows, the robustness of its ecosystem, and the financial well-being of its farmer. Agricultural soil health is a critical component of global and local efforts towards sustainability PHOTOS COURTESY OF Dr. Ray Weil From mountain pastures to sandy Eastern Shore fields, the health of Maryland’s agricultural soils is critical. 36 plenty I Summer growing 2020