By Kathlee Freeman

It’s a new year and with it comes the United Nation’s declaration of 2015 as the International Year of Soils (IYS). IYS, which officially kicked off on World Soil Day in December 2014, will raise awareness and provide education on the impact of soil health on human lives, promote policies that support soil health and encourage sustainable soil practices.

So, why dedicate an entire year to dirt? It turns out, dirt is a huge deal and it’s under threat. Soil degradation, or the decline in soil health due to multiple factors like deforestation, overgrazing and use of agrochemicals, affects 33 percent of the world’s topsoil. That means that topsoil is being depleted faster than it can be replaced and the quality of the soil remaining is diminished.

The loss of topsoil and healthy soils can lead to a host of problems like exacerbating the effects of climate change, polluting waterways and making it hard to grow food. With the global population estimated to reach 9.1 billion people by 2050 The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that food production will need to increase by 70 percent to meet this demand, and we’ll need healthy soil to make it happen. As FAO deputy director general of natural resources, Maria-Helena Semedo, explained to Scientific American,Ninety five percent of our food comes from the soil.”

Here in Chicago, we know about the importance of soil first hand. While so much soil has been contaminated by our region’s heavy industrial past, Chicago’s gardeners and farmers throughout the city are working in different ways to make the soil safe and nutrient-laden. Just to mention one initiative, at AUA we are part of a collective working on creating smart policy which will allow for increased composting in the City.

Events are planned worldwide to celebrate and promote the International Year of Soil. If you’re looking to get involved, the Soil Science Society of America created monthly themes to investigate a different aspect of soil. January’s theme is Soil Sustains Life and includes information about the soil process, activities for educators and videos. You can also support sustainable agriculture and help spread the word about the importance of soil. Finally, be sure to check AUA’s Event Calendar to see what is happening locally.

To quote FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silvia, “I invite all of us to take an active role in promoting the cause of soils during 2015 as it is an important year for paving the road towards a real sustainable development for all and by all.”

Happy International Year of Soils!

Kathlee FreemanKathlee Freeman is an advocate for just food systems and sustainable agriculture. In addition to working in nonprofit development and marketing, she is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Food Tank: The Food Think Tank. She received her undergraduate degree from DePaul University and is currently pursuing her graduate degree at the University of Missouri – Columbia.





AUA welcomes blog contributions from Chicago’s diverse urban agriculture community, including AUA members and non-members alike. Since AUA is a coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses that strives to represent the broad interests of it constituency in a democratic and transparent manner, it is important to note that the views expressed on the AUA Blog do not necessarily represent those officially endorsed by AUA.