Like most Gen-Xers, I grew up learning about overwhelming environmental problems: the destruction of tropical rainforests, the pollution of our oceans, rivers and air, the disappearing ozone, and what was then called “global warming.” We were taught about these horrible acts of humanity that, as kids, we had no power to change.

Of course, we tried anyway! We formed environmental clubs, planted trees, and set up recycling bins around school. We cried over the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the poaching of the mountain gorillas. We wrote “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” on every trash bin. But it all felt so pointless.

No wonder Gen-Xers are known for our cynicism and jaded attitudes – nothing was changing despite our “think globally, act locally” bumper stickers and the problems were just getting worse.

But, for the first time in this age of rampant capitalism, I feel a glimmer of hope. It is reported that “millions” turned out for Friday’s global youth climate protests. And this time, the youth aren’t taking it on themselves to create the change so desperately need, they are pleading with politicians and world leaders to take decisive actions. After all, what is the point of school if there is no secure future?

The youth are right – they can’t do it alone! We need quick, dramatic action from our politicians— the Amazon is literally burning!

I also believe in the importance of the Real Organic Project in this global call to action. The farmers that have joined us understand the effects of industrial agriculture and the abuse of our soils in the environmental crisis. In response, they have put soil health at the center of their farming operations. For livestock, they are rotationally grazing perennial pastures, and for vegetable production they are using cover-cropping, strip-tilling, mulching, and composting.

ROP inspectors, Ralf and Forrest, have also reported on the central role of soil health in the minds of the farmers they visit. Early in their travels, they visited Jonathan Parson at UProoted Farm on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Jonathan has wanted to farm since childhood and when the time became right, he did. Ralf comments, “He read the books, did the research, then set the hoe to the land and began. We got to see their operation just a year in. It is pretty awesome!”

Watch the UProoted video here

Ralf Carestia, Jon Parson, Allison Vroman, Joe Fairbanks and Forrest Town at UProoted Farm.

Ralf Carestia, Jon Parson, Allison Vroman, Joe Fairbanks and Forrest Town at UProoted Farm.

Raised beds full of compost produce healthy crops at UProoted Farm.

Raised beds full of compost produce healthy crops at UProoted Farm.

Jonathan Parsons talks farming with Ralf Carestia at UProoted Farm Michigan

ROP inspector Ralf Carestia and Jon Parson discuss soil health at UProoted Farm.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University reports that “the Earth’s soils contain about 2,500 gigatons of carbon— more than three times the amount in the atmosphere and four times the amount in all living things.”

It’s our job as farmers to protect this carbon sink. It’s the goal of the Real Organic Project to highlight the farmers that are doing just that!

Maybe this next generation will be the one that insists on an end to bare soils and chemical farming. We can begin by showing them the way!

Yours in the dirt,