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Some of the most successful businesses operating today are the ones that built on what came before them in a respectful manner, while also being innovative by tailoring their approach to changing industries. For example, the introduction of streaming services over the past decade has seen traditional video rental stores being phased out, as sites such as NetFlix and Stan acknowledge the traditional need of being able to access movies in your home, while innovating their services by granting customers access hundreds of new programs with the press of a button. In short, these businesses combine tradition with innovation, by granting people the freedom to watch movies in their homes and on the go, with new technology bringing the experience directly to them.

 We at ‘Til The Cows Come Home understand that you need to employ this approach in order to flourish in an industry. That is why we are firm on combining traditional business practices and needs – improving the living conditions for animals has been an important topic for decades, and will continue to be – with innovative business solutions, such as our Rent an Animal campaign (https://tilthecowscomehome.org/services-goat-hire/), where farmers can contact us and rent goats, cows and chickens for the day, in order to get their grazing needs met while not having to take on the responsibility of owning these animals.

When Tradition Meets Innovation You Get Good Results

It is clear that a successful business employs innovative approaches in order to streamline traditional needs, so that they continue delivering the same goods and services, but in a more efficient manner. This approach also works with soil management, as the best soil is that which is nurtured for, treated, and cultivated with love, care, and innovation. 

Like a well-managed business, soil is a living system and has both traditional and innovative properties — We at TTCCH and other land managers work within the constraints of the inherent properties of soil to change the dynamic proper¬ties. That is, we respect tradition by looking at how soil has been managed successfully in the past, while introducing innovative techniques to get the most out of the soil’s dynamic qualities. For example, by implementing changes in the type and amount of soil carbon in an environment we are then presented with an opportunity for soil improvement. 

        An analogy that works on both a literal and figurative level

Like a successful business, soil needs to be nurtured and tended to with a combination of traditional and innovative approaches in order to maximize soil health, which can be defined as the capacity of a soil to function in both natural ( plant growth and decomposition) and artificial environments (water filtration and erosion resistance). The combination of these factors means that traditional (natural) and innovative (artificial) factors work at complementing each other, and playing off of each other’s strengths, and co-supporting these strengths in order to mitigate weaknesses. 

At TTCCH we are so interested in soil because it is the foundation of life, environments, and all good businesses, and we believe in the philosophy of establishing things from the ground up, and nurturing and caring for things so that they are able to grow and thrive, and accomplish great things. For example, were it not for well-cultivated soil, cows would be denied the opportunity to save the planet (https://tilthecowscomehome.org/holist-managment-how-cows-can-save-the-planet/) and even the most successful business would falter, because without good strong organic roots on which to build your business, it is destined to crumble. 

Get Your Hands Dirty to Make the Environment Clean

Soil organic matter encompasses all organic components of the soil system. This includes living and dead plant and animal tissue, as well as excretions and soil microbes. Soil organic matter is typically a small percentage of the soil but has a very important role to play in soil health, disease suppression, drought resistance, water quality and quantity and long-term farming viability. Carbon is the primary component of Soil Organic Matter (SOM), accounting for approximately half of the molecular weight. Nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and other plant nutrients make up the rest. 

While plants do not take up any significant amount of carbon from the soil (instead they get it from the air), or¬ganic matter is the food and energy source for soil bacteria, fungi, worms and the rest of the soil food web. When it comes to managing for soil health, it is actually the organic soil carbon that is of interest. Soil organic car¬bon was once a part of a living organism and will be again someday. Soil microorganisms (nematodes, bacteria, fungi, etc.) rely on organic matter as a food and energy source. These microbes break down complex carbon-based molecules in crop residues and manure like cellulose, lignin, fat and protein into smaller components. As a result, nutrients are made available to plants, and carbon dioxide is released as a byproduct. The bacteria responsible for the most rapid organic mat¬ter decomposition is aerobic (require oxygen). 

A successful business owes its good fortune to effective planning and preparation, and the cultivation of soil is no different. Tillage, the cultivation of land so that you can have soil and crops grow on it, is a pri¬mary factor in loss of soil carbon and declining soil health. 

Here’s why, tillage in¬troduces oxygen into the soil, stimulating microbial activity. This burst of microbial activity leads to increased rates of organic matter metabolism in the soil and subsequent loss of soil carbon as carbon dioxide. Plants cannot use the nitrogen or many of the other nu-trients in organic matter until the microbes break it down. The process of releasing nitrogen from organic matter is known as mineralization. Bacteria in the soil are also responsible for the conver-sion of ammonia to nitrate, the preferred form of nitrogen by most plants. Both processes require oxygen and warm temperatures. This is why plant-available nitrogen may be limited in saturated or cold soils. Changes in soil carbon can be measured in the lab or in the field. The simplest method requires only a shovel while more advanced methods involve laboratory analysis. By dig-ging a small hole and taking note of the colour, smell and structure of the soil you can tell a lot about soil carbon status. A soil with more carbon will be darker in colour, have a stronger earthy smell. 

You may also notice more earthworms and deeper roots. Laboratory soil tests will typically include soil organic matter (as a per¬cent of soil by weight) along with micronutrients. Watching how this number changes over time can be very informative, especially if you are making any changes to crop¬ping systems. Effective soil management may seem like a dirty business but that couldn’t be further from the truth, as you are helping yourself and your land, helping the environment and helping others in the local community. Look, managing soil might get your hands dirty but when dirty hands lead to a cleaner earth (https://tilthecowscomehome.org/we-get-by-with-a-little-help-from-our-friends-regenerative-rescue/), it is well worth it. 

If you liked getting the lowdown on effective soil management from the ground up, please support us by reading through our other blogs to learn more about TTCCH, and what we are striving for. Further, if you are moved by our cause and now feel like contributing something to help us make strides towards our goals, please donate to us via our secure PayPal: https://wwww.paypal.me/tiltheherdcomeshome

By Donna Wild

Edit by James Briggs