December 3, 2015
On Thursday, December 3, the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and the Farm Foundation, NFP announced the creation of a new Soil Health Institute, to be headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The Institute is an offshoot of an ongoing effort known as the Soil Renaissance.
According to today’s press release, “The Soil Health Institute’s mission is to safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of the soil. It will work directly with conventional and organic farmers and ranchers, public- and private-sector researchers, academia, policymakers, government agencies, industry, environmental groups and consumers–everyone who benefits from healthy soils.”
The Institute will act as a hub for researchers and practitioners to share information and collaborate. It will have five areas of focus:
In the early stages of the Institute, the founders hope to facilitate a national soil health assessment to establish a baseline measurement of soil health in the U.S.
The Noble Foundation has committed an initial $20 million of 10 years to get the Institute off the ground; however, the plan is to leverage that investment to win support from additional foundations to greatly increase that number.
The Institute is in the process of hiring staff, and is also putting together a board of directors that will include a broad range of stakeholders, including both organic and conventional producers. The two foundations plan to keep the Institute’s staff small, instead tapping the expertise of researchers and practitioners from around the U.S. and beyond.
Soil health has been a central organizing principle for sustainable and organic agriculture since the beginning. There was a time not all that long ago when the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition advocated for a soil health focus for federal farm conservation efforts and did not get much traction from the government or broader agricultural community. It is therefore particularly exciting to see the enhanced interest from foundations as well as the public and private sectors in this vital topic for the future of farming, food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and environmental quality. We look forward to reporting more on the new Institute as it evolves.