In this week’s episode, Mary and Emma talk with Amanda Cather from The Million Acre Challenge, a nonprofit organization that helps Maryland farmers build soil health, increase farm profitability, and improve water quality – while making farms resilient and active in the face of climate change. Their farmer-focused collaborative uses soil health science, economics, education, and incentives to achieve their mission. Amanda's early training in pre-med led her from an interest in equitable food access to a career path in urban agriculture, and ultimately to running her own farm raising grass-fed livestock. Now, alongside the team at Million Acre, the goal is to achieve one million agricultural acres in Maryland using healthy soil techniques by 2030, while sharing best practices and making healthy soil connections throughout the Chesapeake watershed.
Throughout the episode, Amanda shares her knowledge surrounding the effort. She educates us on the industrial versus ecological models, and introduces us to the multiple factors that affect the way farmers must approach soil improvement. She stresses the importance of listening to farmer’s voices and supporting their journey, as well as, fighting for systems that reward good stewardship and value biodiversity. She explains there are multi-pathways to healthy soil and no one way to achieve the goal. The key to progress in this effort is maintaining curiosity and communication along the way, and remembering that healthy soil (good dirt!) is the foundation of everything.
Listen to our conversation below!
1:30 - Mary and Emma check in to see how Plastic Free July is going!
4:00 - Amanda Cather of Million Acre Challenge
Let’s get into the episode:
5:45 - Amanda introduces herself
11:00 - What is the Million Acre Challenge?
20:30 - Connecting to the issues
23:30 - Incentivising soil health and funding the transition
27:00 - Nutritional quality of crops
34:00 - Equity
43:00 - Lobbying to change
48:00 - Engaging with farmers
50:00 - What does the Good Dirt mean to you?
- Million Acre Challenge
- IG: @soilchallenge
- The Land Institute
- Plow and Stars Farm
- Guidelight / Patagonia Report
- Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Soil Health BenchMark Study
- UMD Organic Grains Transition Project
- American Farmland Trust
- Soil Health Institute
- Maryland Department of Agriculture
- The Farm’s Project
- The Real Food Project
- The Agriculture Resilience Act
- Fair Farms Pledge
- Lady Farmer
- The ALMANAC