Sustainability – It’s About Feeding the Soil


One of the important shifts in understanding, for consumers – as well as growers, is  to recognize that the healthiness and flavor of the food on our plates is the result of choices made even before the seeds were put in the ground.

kawanuifarmAnd one of the elemental pieces of wisdom being passed from organic farmers to fellow growers – farmers as well as ornamental gardeners – and to the consumer is that it is the HEALTH of the SOIL that  is the best measure of sustainability

Two of Hawaii’s pre-eminent organic growers say in their workshops

“Remember, you are GROWING  SOIL, not just plants. With healthy soil, the plants will grow themselves” 

Gerry Hebert and Nancy Redfeather, Kawanui Farms, Honalo, South Kona

Why Feed the  Soil?

Below is a chart adapted from Eliot Coleman’s “The  New Organic Grower” to help us understand the foresight of intentionally building healthy soil versus the short sight of just ‘feeding the plants’ with chemical inputs that try to compensate for lifeless soils.

Organic = Feeding The Soil

(creating healthy soil resources for current and future crops)

Conventional = Feeding The Plant

(synthetic support for only the current crop/no resources to help future crops)

  • Soil fertility is a biological process                 
  • Only the nutrients removed from the farm as crops need to be replaced.
  • Nitrogen is not purchased because it is supplied by symbiotic and non-symbiotic processes.
  • Inputs are purchased in their least processed and least expensive form.
  • 75% of the nutrient value of all feed consumed by animals is returned in manure as nutrient input to the farm.
  • Soil fertility is an imported commodity.
  • All nutrients required to “create” a crop are purchased from off the farm.
  • Nitrogen is a very important purchased input.
  • Inputs are purchased in their most processed and expensive form. Solubility and availability of these inputs is considered a chemical process performed on an industrial level.
  • All feed is a pure expense; animal manure is treated as a problem rather than an asset.

Sustainable w/ long term benefits



The Gift

Feeding the soil creates a lasting resource that we can enjoy food from today and that is also a gift to future generations of farmers – AND diners! Healthy soil today – even healthier families tomorrow, a good, practical farmer-to-consumer motto to live by.