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Building Bioregional Food Systems Post-COVID 19: The Northeast Healthy Soil Network & the power of regional food system reform consortium work

COVID-19 has reminded us, perhaps as never before, that we need an overhaul, not only of our health care system, but our food system as well. [1]  As a steady stream of studies and articles point out, a priority of future] food system policy should be to support the emergence of local and regional, diversified, healthy food and farming systems, derived from fertile, carbon-rich soils.

Over the course of 2019, I helped to coordinate a network of food system stakeholders in the Northeast, as a researcher at the Tufts Global Development and Environment Institute.[2] This network, now called the Northeast Healthy Soil Network (NEHSN), held a symposium in late February, right before the coronavirus pandemic put an end to most public gatherings in the US. This growing network of Northeast farmers, farm organizations, food system nonprofits, agricultural research labs and state governments has come together to discuss how we can channel badly needed funds and resources to regenerative farmers in the Northeast region who are promoting biodiversity, holistic livestock management, and other healthy soil management[3] practices on their farms.


The agricultural policy strategies proposed by NEHSN members[4] parallel those of many other farmers across the nation’s various regions. They are aimed at agricultural subsidy reform, proposing that our food system should incentivize not a small handful of specific crops, but rather the production of a wider variety of foods and crops, which would not only feed greater numbers of Americans with affordable, nutritious food, but also engender healthy ecosystem services such as soil erosion prevention, water conservation, watershed cleanup, and biodiversity. An incentive payment system for healthy soil farm management could become the first government-backed fund stream for this healthier system of farming.[5]

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