Nutrients where they belong – it’s a phrase we use often to help explain what we do. We manufacture many of our fertilizers with a carbon base, which helps then enter quickly into the soil life food chain. Once there, it is far more likely that the nutrients will stay in the soil life, in the plants and, ultimately, in the food produced on that farm. It is also far more likely that they won’t end up in the atmosphere or water supply.
That phrase – nutrients where they belong – means different things to different people.
To producers, it generally means less waste. And less waste means a chance at better profits. One of our founders, Gary Zimmer, sees it this way. Whenever he sees maps showing dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico – the result of excess phosphorous and nitrogen runoff – he doesn’t view it as an environmental issue. He sees it as waste. “A bunch of farmers wasted money,” he says, “by applying nitrogen and phosphorous that ended up in the river. It left the field without being used as intended. That’s a waste of money.”
To producers, it also means higher yields. The goal is not necessarily to reduce their spending per acre. The goal is to reduce the amount spent per bushel of food grown. When nutrients are kept where they belong – in the soil life and in the plants – they lead to healthier, more robust plants. That, in turn, leads to higher yields.
To consumers and to food processors, it means they get better tasting and more nutritious food. Oats grown with our fertility have had 30% increases in protein content and beta glucans (the soluble fibers that allow a food to be called “heart healthy.).
To land owners, it’s a reminder of our focus on soil life and healthy soil. We work with our farmers to generate yield increases in their current season, while building the farm’s long-term productive potential as well. This is a process that often involves the use of cover crops to scavenge and restore nutrients between growing seasons.
To conservationists, hunters, anglers and others, keeping nutrients where they belong means rivers can be restored after decades of nutrient loading. It means greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming can be greatly reduced. Because it leads to higher yields, the phrase also means valuable wildlife habitat can be protected or restored – when farmers make current farms more productive, they reduce the demand for new ag lands, and allow poor-yielding lands to be restored as wildlife habitat.
The phrase indeed means many things. And that, in itself, is a reminder: All things, especially when it comes to farming, are connected.