Saving Our Soil…One Billion Microbes at a Time

“We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

The Dirt

Soil microbes are hard to see and understand, yet we know that they have a significant impact on plant health, your health, and the Earth’s health. New microbial research and technologies are beginning to change how we understand and direct the soil microbiome to increase soil fertility and plant health, which then help our understanding of your microbiome.

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Pouring algae on the soil, sequencing soil DNA, and measuring soil diversity are just a few of the new technologies used to keep our soil from becoming just ‘dirt’. And it seems as though diversity is the key. When I hold a teaspoon of healthy soil in my hand I squint and try to see the billions of microbes. Apparently, in this little amount there are more microbes than all 7.8 billion people on earth today. This handful has greater diversity than all the animals and insects in the Amazon Rainforest. This is a powerful group made even more exciting when you think they originated from our celestial bodies.

Since the beginning of time, these soil microorganisms are fungi, insects, bacteria, algae, and more than happily coexist in the soil. They control soil pathogens, reduce disease outbreaks, keep plants nutritious and resilient, give plants the power to pull carbon out of the air, make land less prone to wind and water erosion, clean and filter water, and are a source of human medicines.

As a D2D reader, you have likely read about the projected increase of the global population to 9 billion people in just 30 years. That means more fruits, vegetables, and row crops needed to feed more animals and more humans. To achieve this growth, the traditional thought has been that farmers will need more and more pesticides and fertilizer to eliminate bugs and increase their yields. Or do they?

A Booming Agricultural Microbial Market

New entrants in the biostimulants space. Sources: iSelect Funds, IDTechEx.

Think of the microbiome in the soil like the one in your gut. Similar to your health, plants need diversity in the soil to keep you healthy and strong. Microbial technology is a serious solution that uses bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoans, and yeasts instead of conventional agrochemicals.

Companies in this niche produce biostimulants. These include biopesticides, which are natural materials like canola or baking soda that eliminate pests, and biofertilizers, natural fertilizer compounds such as manure, algae, or decayed material that increase the availability of nutrients to the plants.

Additionally, since microbial crop protection poses fewer risks using than conventional pesticides, the EPA generally requires less data and has shorter review times before the various solutions can be used in the field. This reduces the timeline to development by years and the cost of product development by millions of dollars.

According to Research and Markets, the global agricultural microbial market is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 12.5% and reach $11 billion by 2025 from approximately $6 billion in 2020.

Innovations in the microbiome tech space have to address the challenges of soil needs.  The goal is to increase yield and reduce pests, and weeds with less chemical inputs – all while enhancing the soil microbiome. While this is a highly fragmented market, it is dominated by just a few players.

Innovations in soil microbiome technology

Here are four examples of new technologies that make our soil healthier…

AgBiome partners with the microbial world to improve our planet.  Started in 2017, the company is focused on discovering and developing innovative biological and trait products for crop protection. On March 23rd, Mosaic Fertilizer Company and AgBiome announced a collaboration to develop biological alternatives for soil health.

AgBiome is sequencing a library of microbes sourced from environmental samples from across the globe. As of today, the North Carolina company has more than 90,000 sequenced microbes and identified 3,500 insect control genes from that collection. Their technology can discover microorganisms and proteins that kill insect pests, fungal pathogens, and weeds.

For instance, Howler, the first of AgBiome’s biological fungicides, harnesses the power of the plant microbiome to create an efficacious fungicide with multiple modes of action that provide preventative, long-lasting activity on a broad spectrum of soilborne and foliar diseases.

Biome Makers measures the biological quality of soil to deliver agronomic insights to farmers. Based in Sacramento, Biome Makers was created to solve a fundamental problem facing the future of food: How do we recover the microbial diversity in today’s modern agriculture system?

Using an AI system, Biome Makers assesses the health of a field based on a farmer’s current practices as well as the soil functionality for any crop. What is the right soil microbiome community for a specific farm and farmer?

Working with Bayer and about 70 other ag input manufacturers, they will help farmers understand what works well and how it affects their soil’s health. It’s about measuring crop health and functional biodiversity by using DNA sequencing and intelligent computing.

Their team reads more like a Silicon Valley group with experts in genetics, software engineering, microbiology, agronomy, and data science. We are not in Kansas anymore…

Pivot Bio provides a clean alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. In April 2020, the company raised $100 million co-led by Breakthrough Energy and Temasek. Their technology reduces nitrogen fertilizer and increases crop yields.

Fully half of the world’s food supply is dependent on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, yet overuse, misuse, and runoff can bring serious environmental impacts such as dead zones and C02 emissions. Our atmosphere is 78% nitrogen – and the only crops that can take it out of the air and convert it into a nutrient are soybeans, alfalfa, and cowpeas.

Wheat, corn, and rice don’t have this ability – therefore they need fertilizer.  As Pivot Bio explains: “Nitrogen is essential to life. It’s a building block of proteins, DNA and amino acids. When plants have the right amount of nitrogen, they grow well and yield abundantly. Pivot Bio makes nitrogen fixation as natural as breathing for the microbe. Microbes inhale nitrogen gas from the atmosphere and release ammonia to plants. Enabling nitrogen-producing microbes as a crop nutrition tool for farmers will transform agriculture.”

MyLand replicates algae in native soil to grow as fertilizer. “Building strength beneath the surface,” explains Board Member, Bill Buckner, in reference to the company’s purpose. MyLand takes live, native microalgae from the farm to improve soil health, increase crop yields, and capture carbon.

Each farm has its own naturally specific algae – just like we have our own gut microbiome. MyLand technicians go out and take samples and isolate which algae are the most suitable for multiplication. They grow the algae in small vessels with lights and correct temperature. They make millions of cells and it is put back in the soil through the farmer’s irrigation system.

As a result, farmers use approximately 25% less fertilizer, 15% less water and reduce tillage by 40%. Voila, yield increases by about 25% and revenue by 40%.

Beyond farming and onto human health

Direct contact with the soil is key. When my oldest son was just a toddler, he was my garden helper. He would happily eat handfuls of dirt and my pediatrician assayed my worries and told me it was good for him. Now I understand why. As humans have evolved over time, we have had a close relationship with the earth first through hunter-gatherers then through farming, and now to our children crawling and running around the garden.

Humans and soil share common bacteria such as lactobacilli which breaks down our food and soil’s organic matter. We can even look to soil to give us new antibiotics that would kill multidrug-resistant pathogens such as MRSA.

But for more than half the global population living in cities and suburbs, this gut connection to the soil is missing. We primarily receive our microbiomes from the food we eat.

The above chart illustrates the difference in human contact with the soil from pre-industrial days to today.

Hot topic: The link between soil health to human health

We eat what we sow, so to speak. The essential nutrients, such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, that we need to thrive as humans come from the soil (originally from the stars). In speaking with Dr. Stephen Wood, Sr. Scientist of Agriculture and Food Systems at The Nature Conservancy and Lecturer at Yale, “Very simply, plants receive their micro and macronutrients from the soil.

“In order for humans to thrive, we receive those same nutrients that come from the plants.” Dr. Wood highlighted studies undertaken in parts of Africa that show a correlation between low selenium and zinc in the soil with low levels in the blood of the local population who ate the local rice.

But he is quick to point out that this is not as simple as low levels of nutrients in plants equate to low levels of nutrition in humans. While there is emerging research, the actual evidence where “soil management impacts human health through changes in crop nutrient densities is small.”

In Africa, where nutrition and food scarcity are real issues, studies have been done but the correlation is not always strong. The chart below shows the inconsistencies of zinc in the soil versus in the corn, cowpea, millet, and sorghum.

Even so, we want healthy, not degraded soil, to produce a higher yield of crops to feed a growing population. It is because of the nutrients in the soil that the plants receive their nutrients. While industrial fertilizer gives specific nutrients to help crops grow, increasing the organic matter helps build the microbes in the soil to increase yield.

Regenerative agriculture practices such as cover cropping, no-till farming, and adding livestock from time to time all help increase the diversity and abundance of microorganisms.

How do changes in microbial soil affect the future?

There are benefits to increasing the microbial content of soil – but it is not a perfect science. The added microbes only live in the soil for about three months and can easily be taken over by other microbes. They are hard to apply – which is tough for small holder farmers. Finally, if too much is applied for too long, they can saturate the soil of salts and nutrients.

That said, the technologies keep improving. If we can grow our food with healthier soil and less fertilizer runoff and create better nutrients in our plants and soil we will have a healthier planet and healthier people.

5 Things to Know About TikTok’s Liquid Chlorophyll Trend

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week!

Liquid chlorophyll has wholly taken over the popular social media platform, TikTok. Users are adding liquid chlorophyll to their water every day to take advantage of its supposed ‘benefits.’ But is this viral trend healthy or just hype?

5. Chlorophyll is a green pigment

Chlorophyll is what makes plants and veggies, like spinach, green. Chefs even use the substance to make their pasta or other foods green.

As far as nutrition goes, chlorophyll does contain some important nutrients. It contains vitamins A, C, K, and E, magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium. It also has essential fatty acids. Chlorophyll is necessary for photosynthesis in plants and keeping plants healthy. But, chlorophyll supplements, including liquid chlorophyll, are actually copper chlorophyllin, meaning they contain copper instead of magnesium. This is because copper can be detected in the plasma when absorbed.

4. Our skin loves it

Much of the research done on chlorophyll is to see its effects on our skin, as both an acne treatment and anti-aging in women. It’s been shown that chlorophyll as an ingredient in topicals can reduce signs of aging and help with acne.

However, keep in mind that these studies used a topical sodium copper chlorophyllin complex, not liquid chlorophyll that is going viral on social media. Many of them combined the chlorophyll complex with retinols as well. So, if you want healthy skin from chlorophyll, a topical may work better than the liquid version.

3. It may decrease your risk of cancer

Once again, maybe not the liquid kind.

Studies have shown that consuming chlorophyll in vegetables, with its antioxidant properties, may reduce cancer cells’ size and have anticancer effects. However, we have to point out that most of these studies used green vegetables, which contain many other good nutrients along with chlorophyll.

2. It is anti-inflammatory

Many studies have shown that chlorophyll can reduce inflammation in the body. One study reported that chlorophyll a and pheophytin, a magnesium-free chlorophyll, from leaves effectively reduced inflammation in rats.

Vegetables, especially leafy greens, are anti-inflammatory, so this should come as no surprise.

1. To obtain these benefits, eat whole foods too!

While liquid chlorophyll and other chlorophyllin supplements can be a great source to fill the gap in our diets, it is so much more important to eat whole foods. Our bodies absorb the nutrients from whole foods better than they do from a supplement or liquid.

Also, taking too much of one supplement can harm you, according to Harvard Health. It’s recommended that we eat four servings of green vegetables a day, but the amount of chlorophyll we should consume is not regulated. Furthermore, chlorophyll supplements are not regulated either, so their doses vary.

Learn more about how to pick the safest supplements for your body here.

Greek Turkey Meatballs

Looking for something YUM for dinner, a side dish to elevate your entrée, or healthfully satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out our list of tried and true recipes  – you won’t be disappointed!

Want some free D2D stuff? Post a photo of your creation on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

Pair this recipe with a glass of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.

Inspired by Let’s Dish Recipes. 

5 Regenerative Ag Trends for Earth Day

Carbon markets for U.S. farmers renewed focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and novel new agricultural practices make this year’s list, according to Nate Birt, Vice President of Trust In Food, a Farm Journal initiative.

Now in its 52nd year, Earth Day presents an annual opportunity to spotlight this big blue ball all of us call home. And because we’ve only got one, it’s particularly important to the world’s farmers, ranchers, and growers who depend on its natural resources to grow the food, fuel, and fiber that powers our lives.

At Trust In Food, we often look for opportunities to step back from the farmgate and look down the gravel road to where the U.S. food and agriculture industry may be headed. As I recently discussed in a Regenerative Agriculture webinar with global experts convened by, this year represents a unique moment for advancing this year’s Earth Day theme, Restore Our Earth™.

In no particular order, here are five regenerative ag trends that will make this year’s Earth Day one to remember:

Trend 1: Carbon Markets For U.S. Farmers Are Accelerating

As my colleague Rhonda Brooks writes on, quoting one Iowa farmer, the “wild, wild west” of carbon markets continues to build momentum. It’s exciting for producers because they could finally get credit—and make money—from the ecosystem services they provide, such as sequestering soil in farmland and rangeland.

On the other hand, it’s daunting because farmers have heard plenty of empty promises about all kinds of whiz-bang ideas in the past that didn’t hold water. No one knows exactly where we’re going, but it’s clear the Biden administration sees a role for USDA in the carbon space, as do many private sector organizations working on various links of the carbon market value chain.

Trend 2: Remembering And Celebrating The Indigenous Roots Of “New” Regenerative Practices

Despite the recent wave of articles, social media posts, and documentaries lauding the marvelous attributes of healthy soil, don’t be fooled: This hype is merely elevating knowledge we’ve had, in many cases, for thousands of years – at least among indigenous communities that too often have been marginalized. Check out this National Farmers Union post for some great examples of the rich regenerative agriculture legacy of Indigenous Americans or this collection of essays compiled by USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) on the countless contributions of Black Americans.

The science of soil continues to improve, and organizations such as American Farmland Trust and Soil Health Institute are dedicating themselves to advancing our knowledge of how to preserve and build this precious resource. In making such progress, we recognize we wouldn’t be here without those cultures that have preserved and grown our knowledge of regenerative over millennia.

Trend 3: Continued Expansion Of Conservation Approaches To Encompass Systems And Organizations

The recent announcement that USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has developed new frameworks to address conservation needs on western U.S. rangelands is just one of many examples of how government agencies are partnering with state and local stakeholders to advance stewardship. This should be cause for excitement among people like me—wildlife aficionados who love natural spaces and are eager to contribute.

USDA’s announcement signals broad interest in collaboration among many organizations with different specialties and interest areas for a shared good: preserving and building the resilience of ecosystems that create stronger rural communities, wildlife habitat, and overall ecosystems.

Trend 4: Novel Conservation Practices Beyond Cover Crops and No-Till

It used to be that cover crops and no-till were all the rage in conservation circles. They still are—and they both have an important role to play in building soil health and reducing erosion. Yet organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy also are working hand in hand with farmers to emphasize edge-of-field practices such as vegetated riparian buffers and wetlands.

Not to mention that perennial grains in development by organizations such as The Land Institute could continue benefiting farmland year after year while providing scrumptious alternatives to your dinner plate.

Trend 5: Renewed Focus on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Ahead of this year’s United Nations Food Systems Summit, organizations such as mine at Trust In Food are taking a new look at the Sustainable Development Goals (commonly called the SDGs) and exploring how these worldwide aspirations can unlock new market opportunities for U.S. farmers.

As my colleague, Jay Vroom, chair of our Advisory Board, shares in this post, goals such as improving water quality and reducing hunger are squarely priorities of the American farmer—not to mention consumers—and can serve as lenses for further honing the sustainability of working farms and ranches to meet the demands of global food buyers.

Is there another regenerative ag trend you’d like to see me write about in future posts? Email me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Climate-Smart Farming Paves the Way Toward Carbon Negative

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The purpose of AgMission, a 2020 partnership with the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action (USFRA), is to collect the best research data related to greenhouse gases (GHGs). FFAR funds pioneering scientific research in critical areas of our food and agricultural systems. To support AgMission, FFAR is currently funding over $50 million to support climate change research. USFRA supports sustainable food systems through its broad network of U.S. farmers and ranchers.

To make intelligent decisions about bettering soil health and reducing GHGs in the atmosphere, AgMission will create a massive research platform that provides farmers the intel to farm according to the most effective and applicable carbon sequestration practices. Farmers have long known how various conservation practices protect the natural resources they rely upon for a living and which ones contribute to their long-term financial success.

But making decisions about sustainability and profitability requires more than a collection of ideas; it all begins with good, solid facts.

And that’s what AgMission wants to create.

How is this supposed to work?

Each year, 33.1 billion metric tons of GHGs hit the atmosphere globally, with 5.1 billion coming from the United States. China emits the most – sending up to 10 billion metric tons. Of course, this is not all terrible, as we need carbon to survive.  Without it, our landscape would look more like Mars. Carbon is found everywhere on Earth and is even 18% of our body weight.

According to NOAA, when carbon dioxide (CO2) goes into the atmosphere, about 50% remains there, while 25% is absorbed by plants and trees and 25% by the oceans. If farmers and ranchers could absorb at least 10%, it would certainly help the soil while removing GHGs.

2 million U.S. farmers and ranchers are responsible for growing our food and keeping us fed and healthy. They are environmental stewards for 44% of U.S. land. Globally, it’s more like 38%.

They have proven to be remarkably efficient and productive in delivering an amazing array of foodstuffs the world depends upon.  But rather than bask in the gratitude of a hungry world, farmers and ranchers have faced what seems to be relentless criticism – if not an outright attack by some – for contributing approximately 10% of U.S. carbon emissions and 36% of methane.

As you can see from the chart, crop cultivation, a.k.a. tilling the soil, and deforestation is the most significant contributor to GHGs, with livestock methane emissions as a close second.

Is it possible to bring ag-related GHGs down to a negative 4%? 

AgMission thinks so. If all the farmers in the United States adopted soil-smart farming systems such as no-till, cover crops, rotational grazing, manure management, methane-reducing animal feed, and variable-rate fertilizer application, then the soil would be healthier and more carbon would be pulled from the atmosphere.

Recently, The Nature Conservancy, with participating organizations such as the University of Oregon, Ohio State University, Woods Hole Research Center, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian, led a study to determine natural climate solutions for the United States.

They estimated farmers could reduce GHG emissions equivalent to 21% of what the U.S. emits each year. This is 11% more than what is estimated that the agricultural sector emits in the first place!






“The majority (63%) of this potential comes from increased carbon sequestration in plant biomass, with 29% coming from increased carbon sequestration in soil and 7% coming from avoided emissions of CH4 and N2”





For this to succeed, collaboration among all climate-oriented agricultural scientific researchers, as well as support from the global farming and ranching community, is critical. That is why AgMission will spearhead this effort with over $50 million in funding the research. This database for all farmers and ranchers will help them determine which carbon-sequestering methods would best suit their farm, crop, weather, environment, and soil health.

Sequestering carbon benefits the atmosphere, but also the soil. Think of soil like the foundation of a house. Carbon, like the wood frame, provides physical stability for the soil that improves oxygen, water drainage, and retention while reducing the risk of erosion and nutrient leaching.

What do farmers think?

Is it realistic to put this pressure on the farmers? Will they participate in the carbon exuberance? Rather than be offended, farmers and ranchers have responded with their usual ‘can-do’ spirit by supporting efforts to improve their practices to protect the environment and promote sustainability.

AgMission will consider this initiative to be successful if the land farmed and ranched becomes resilient to future climate-related shocks and stresses, food productivity increases, and the food supply chain is secure. This is a huge opportunity – and responsibility for farmers and ranchers across the country.

I spoke with two inspiring farmers, Meredith Ellis, a cattle rancher from Texas, and Anne Meis from Nebraska who grows corn, soybeans, and cattle, as well as serving as Chairwoman of USFRA and board member of the Nebraska Soybean Board. What did they think of AgMission’ s big hairy audacious goal (BHAG)?

Do you think about carbon sequestration when you farm?

Meredith: I ranch for the soil. We are part of a pilot program where our carbon is measured by the Ecosystems Services Market Consortium, a subsidiary of the Soil Health Institute. Our ranch is sequestering 2,500 tons of carbon (after enteric emissions) each year – equivalent to taking 551 cars off the road.

Anne: Every day we think about soil health. Our livelihoods depend on better production and healthy soil. Our goal is to grow crops and to continually try to regenerate that healthy soil.

What do you think about monetizing carbon?

Meredith: I am a progressive farmer and believe in the five principles of soil health, water quality and water quantity downstream, carbon, and biodiversity. When you can commoditize these products, then it will turn the farmer’s eye to more than just beef, rather focusing on additional products such as carbon, water, and biodiversity.

Everyone I have talked to wants to be part of the solution. But I am fearful of policy markets that can miss their goals. For instance, the California cap and trade policies were not incentivizing the conservation of existing grasslands and forests. So it was easy to sell that land, develop it, and release the carbon back into the atmosphere. Another example is the Black Land Prairie in Texas – it used to be 12 million acres. Now it is only five thousand.

Anne: The idea of measuring carbon is highly fragmented. We need an organized system so all this work can really take hold. This is the goal of AgMission.

Do you think farmers would find AgMission’s database as a valuable tool for best soil health practices? 

MeredithData sharing is absolutely critical for collaboration across all disciplines. The more information I have, the more accurate and effective my decision-making process can be moving forward. I urge everyone not to underestimate the enormous amounts of data we ranchers collect that can help greatly in our national and global sustainability goals.

Current data and modeling show my cattle operation is a carbon sink. Now let’s take the next step and answer the question: Why? What is giving me the biggest bang for my carbon buck and how can I improve that number?

Anne: USFRA and FFAR are leading the efforts to gather the science to measure carbon capture. Farmers work in a wide variety of soil types and ecosystems. There are many practices that contribute to healthy soil, efficient water use, and conservation. Farmers have always relied on science to help them make best practices decisions for their unique farms and now others are seeing value in the contributions farmers can make to ecosystem services.

Let’s hope this system evolves as incentive-based and not regulatory. Farmers want to use the best tools for best soil health practices for the best outcomes.

Data-sharing is a critical component of AgMission’ s objectives. How do you and other farmers feel about sharing their data? 

Meredith: I feel like the research community has not put enough effort into understanding the nuances of our operation and the data we collect and why. If anything, I feel a great urgency to share my data with the scientific community, specifically my biodiversity observations as it relates to our dwindling historic grassland and forestland ecosystems which my cattle all home. As willing as I am to share my data freely, I feel the need to remind the scientific community of the decades of knowledge and decision-making skills in a number of areas necessary to become a land steward. Ranchers have to maintain a rich dialogue with scientists and policymakers throughout the decision-making process in how to move forward – or any effort made behind a desk without a producer’s input will likely fail.

Anne: We are constantly analyzing our data and measuring our soil. We know there is a hesitancy among producers that data will be taken from them and then used to restrict and regulate us. That should not be the case. For instance, telling farmers that certain spots on their farm need to be restricted on specific fertilizer or pesticide regulations. We don’t want someone behind a desk telling us how to farm.

5 Ways to Ensure What You Read is Scientifically Credible

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week!

Because of the internet and social media platforms, information spreads in a split-second, reaching thousands of users in minutes. However, this means that false news spreads just as fast. If you’re wondering how to know if what we read is accurate and credible, we’re here to help!

5. Check the references

Information that’s scientifically credible will have references to peer-reviewed articles. This means that multiple institutions have verified the research to be accurate. They’re also found in accredited medical journals, written by professionals with credentials in their related industry, or cite credible sources like government organizations and universities.

It’s a good idea to start here when trying to determine if something is credible. If there are no references cited, it’s probably best to ignore that article.

4. Is there bias?

Checking for bias is another critical first step when deciding if something is credible or not. One way to do this is to check if the organization is cherry-picking data. This means that they’re only using current and outdated data that supports their specific agenda and ignores anything that conflicts.

Another way to check for bias is to see if there’s a political pull. Any site can have an agenda, even if they don’t explicitly state it. Read the “About Us” page to see an organization’s policies, actions, campaigns, donors, and lobbies they promote.

3. Do other sites use the same facts?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if research is reputable. Looking at other websites to see if they use the same research is an excellent way to check. It can also help you determine if an organization uses credible, peer-reviewed research because this research will be cited repeatedly.

It’s also a good idea to see how an organization is using the facts. Are they describing them the same way they were described in the research, or are they using it to support their own agenda?

2. What does the article look like?

Every article should have a few things: an author, a title, and quality writing. If it’s not clear who wrote the article, it could have been written in-house to promote an agenda. The same is true if there are no references at all. Credible organizations will cite their information from scientific studies or other well-known, credible sources.

The quality of writing should also be good. That means no typos, wrong words used, poor grammar, etc.

1. How much do they spend researching their cause?

And, how much do they spend on marketing that information?

All non-profits must publicly disclose their financials on their website. For example, EWG’s Statement of Activities page states that 13% of their expenses went toward marketing and fundraising. But, if you dig deeper, their Functional Expenses reveals a higher figure where each subcategory has its own marketing expenses. This compares to only 2% of their expenses going to research and data.

For an organization that releases a list that leads people to fear certain foods, there is not much research happening there.

Check out the full Discerning Dozen below:

Regenerative Ag in Your Own Backyard

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When Steve Hall bought his 43 acres of farmland in the Appalachian foothills more than a decade ago, he quickly discovered the difference between his dreams and farming reality. The land wasn’t as productive as he had hoped. “More rocks than dirt, really,” he remembers. But he talked with knowledgeable local producers. He sought out experts. He experimented, observed, and learned.

And in the intervening years, a lot has changed – the productivity of his land, and the attitudes of a lot of people who think and act like Steve.

Moving Beyond Gardening

Today, Steve and his two sons operate “Hall’s Regenerative Agriculture”, a consulting company that provides hands-on help for an increasing number of home farmers from the city, suburbs, and elsewhere on how to make their own contribution to the growing focus on sustainability and regenerative practices.

Colin Hall (left) and his father, Steve Hall, work with an expanding roster of clients to apply basic regenerative ag principles to home landscaping and gardening. Photo courtesy of Sonya Mull.

“I’ve worked with bank presidents and average homeowners,” Steve notes. “But they all seem to want the same thing – to use whatever space they have responsibly, not just to look nice or produce a little food. They want to feel like they are doing something worthwhile for the earth we all share.”

Steve has helped clients with as little as one-tenth of an acre, to some with dozens of acres, or more. “I help some folks in rural areas,” he observes, “but more and more it’s people in the suburbs, and even some in the city. It’s about the attitude and awareness people have of our world and our environment, more than how much land they have to work with.”

“The interest in this isn’t really so much a flood as a rising tide,” he notes.

Most of his clients, he says, look for diversity in plants, trees, and other growing things that not just produce some food but maintain the health of the larger ecosystem. “You see some strange combinations sometimes,” he adds. “You want perennials that come back year after year, giving up something edible but also co-existing with each other to replenish the ground and maintain a healthy balance.”

Making the right choices can mean having food from your own land “nine, and maybe even ten, months of the year in this area,” he notes. Maybe just as important, some of these planting configurations will continue to generate environmental benefits that span 50 to 70 years – and maybe more.

On this day, his clients are Ted and Sonya Mull, and their son Connor and daughter Avery. Ted is a medical doctor, his wife a nurse, and his kids two typical suburban high school students. They contacted Steve after realizing their plans to do some landscaping improvements could have a lot more than cosmetic value.

Short-Term Work for Long-Term Results

“It dawned on all of us that what we were doing was more important than just planting a few bushes, or getting our garden plans in order,” Ted reflects. “Maybe it was the effect of being locked away and having so much time to reflect. But we saw a chance to do something more important – something that mattered a lot more than how our place looked.”

Adopting the regenerative approach to home landscaping and gardening led to the addition of a wide variety of plants, all with beneficial environmental qualities.

Making their own small contribution to a healthy and sustainable environment was just the starting point, according to both parents. Ted explains, “Today, it’s so easy for us to forget what it takes to produce the food we eat every day.” He continues:

“We don’t see the effort and the expertise that goes into growing the food we need. Doing this helped remind the kids exactly what it takes to produce food. It teaches them about how connected we all are to the earth and how important it is to make sure we keep that earth healthy and thriving.”

“Covid has been tough on all of us,” Sonya adds. “There’s the isolation and distance from other people, of course. But for kids, there’s also the sense that things are out of control, that the future isn’t what it once seemed to be. Doing this has helped them see a kind of regeneration through nature. We’re doing things that speak to the future – a better future. It sounds kind of like Mary Poppins or something that usually will make teenagers roll their eyes. But they have gotten into this. It’s been great for them. For all of us.

Avery, in fact, soon enlisted friends from school to be part of the regenerative project. Together, they planted trees, shrubs, and other growing things. And as they did so, they talked with Steve, and they learned about the environmental value of the things they planted.

The mix of plants and trees proved to be more diverse than anyone had considered. Beyond the usual suspects of cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and other backyard garden staples, Steve advocates lots of berries – currants, goji berries, sunchokes, pawpaws, and more. Black walnut, pecan, maple, apricot trees — “and lots and lots of blueberry plants and apple trees,” Steve adds with a hearty laugh. “People love those, they are good for you, and they are critical to balance in so many situations.”

To the right: Avery Mull, Gabby Sutcliffe and Sarah Katy found that a home landscaping project could be valuable both to a sustainable local environment and their own understanding of regenerative agriculture. Photo courtesy of Sonya Mull.

Every situation is different and demands some thinking and careful planning. “The big thing is to understand how all different types of growing things interact with each other and the world around them,” Steve notes. “It’s a dance…planting the right things in the right places and treating them right. It’s thinking not just about right now but what happens next.”

Steve’s parting advice? “Don’t just go stick some things in the ground and expect to get the results you want. Think about it. Do some research. Ask somebody who knows more than you do. What you are doing is important, so take the time to do it right.” He also provided some great tips to introduce regenerative ag in our backyards, no matter the size…

10 Simple Tips for Home Regenerators:

  1. Plant trees in pairs to promote effective pollination
  2. Always place taller plants to the north so smaller plants get the sunlight, too
  3. Use eco-friendly sun-blockers to control weeds (cardboard, hemp mats, cocoa mulch, burlap)
  4. Don’t skimp on nitrogen fixers (such as beans, clovers, and lupins)
  5. Consider investing in a simple device to monitor nutrient levels in your soil
  6. Diversify what and when you plant to help stagger your harvests
  7. Monitor your water use carefully to avoid overwatering and water waste
  8. Consult your local ag extension agent or gardening expert to find out what is right for your situation. Also, ask about micronutrient accelerators — plants that help gather micronutrients and minerals important to local soil replenishment.
  9. If you use commercial products to nurture or protect your plants, always follow label directions closely
  10. Observe what works well and what doesn’t. Take good notes and learn from them. Share them with your neighbors.

For a more comprehensive look at how to make your home gardening and landscaping more regenerative, check out this “Food Forest” article at Modern Farmer.

Need more help or have a comment for Steve? Contact him at

Spicy Sausage & Veggie Orzo

Looking for something YUM for dinner, a side dish to elevate your entrée, or healthfully satisfy your sweet tooth? Check out our list of tried and true recipes  – you won’t be disappointed!

Want some free D2D stuff? Post a photo of your creation on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

Pair with a medium-bodied red wine, like Chianti, Sangiovese, Montepuliciano, or Zinfandel.

Celebrating World Health Day: 5 Foods to Add to Your Diet

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week!

April 7th is World Health Day. To honor this day, we’re going to check out some foods to incorporate into our diet to ensure a healthy heart, mind, and body.

5. Flaxseed

Some refer to flaxseed as a “wonder food” because it may be able to decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Flaxseed has a rich omega-3 fatty acid content, making it a great way to reduce inflammation in the body. It’s also high in fiber and protein.

Incorporating flaxseed into your diet is easy. You can add a spoonful to smoothies, oatmeal, and more. We like to add it to our apple and blueberry oatmeal!

4. Black Beans

Black beans have become more popular over the last few years as a plant-based alternative to animal protein. This is because just one cup of black beans has around 15 grams of protein. Black beans aid in digestion due to their high fiber content and are essential for preventing diet-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

If you’re following a plant-based diet, black beans can be a great protein source when paired with other foods, like rice.

3. Avocados

Avocados are one of our favorite foods, and not just because of their taste and versatility. Avocados are full of healthy fats, including heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, helping keep us full and aiding in inflammation reduction. Besides fat, avocados contain high amounts of potassium and fiber.

Our favorite way to eat avocados is on our toast in the morning with a slice of tomato. And, if you’re worried about the high-fat content in an avocado, read our article on the benefits of healthy fats in our diet.

2. Salmon

Salmon, similar to avocados, is also full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It’s is also rich in protein, vitamins B12, D and E, and selenium. Salmon is considered a brain food and nootropic. It helps maintain brain function due to its high DHA density and can improve the brain’s ability to send and receive messages.

Just 3-4 ounces of salmon a week is enough to see these benefits. Are you looking to spice it up a little? Try throwing it in the air fryer! Get the recipe here.

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are one of the best foods to incorporate into your diet for a myriad of reasons. First, blueberries contain a ton of antioxidants and micronutrients, including iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and more. They are low in calories but high in fiber, helping to keep us full throughout the day, and are vital in lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol.

Blueberries are also an anti-inflammatory food, meaning they can help boost our immune system, lower our risk of diet-related illnesses, and even improve brain function. You can add them to smoothies, snack on them throughout the day, or throw some frozen ones in a bowl with milk. The possibilities are endless!

Covid’s Effect on New Tech in Our Food System

On the run? LISTEN to our post!

Grocery delivery has boomed since COVID hit. Gone are the days of waving at the milkman from the kitchen window as he dropped your glass milk containers off for the week. Recent innovations will soon allow online supermarkets to bring food to your door in a sophisticated, temperature-controlled, bacteria-killing environment. How will they maintain perfectly chilled meat, produce, dairy, and other perishables?

The New “Big Box”

Walmart offers an option: together with HomeValet, they are testing temperature-controlled smart boxes that can be stationed outside your home so your groceries are delivered contact-free at any time of day, even without having to be home. According to HomeValet, the UV-C LED disinfection method creates “an inhospitable environment to microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, molds, and other pathogens.”

To the right: the smart box technology uses a UV-C light inside the box, where items are sanitized before removal to ensure cleanliness before you bring them inside.

Like HomeValet, many grocery retailers are experimenting with different ways to meet growing consumer demands, like providing online ordering, mobile apps, and QR (Quick Response) codes that let consumers pick up goods curbside, drive-through, via same or next-day home delivery, or even in secure lockers at convenient locations. While these options are exciting to see and are a welcomed change in efficiency and safety, they have significant implications for the greater supply chain.

Supply Chain Disruption Demands Flexibility

Here’s some context: shifts brought on by COVID-19 have put tremendous pressure on (and new opportunities for) our food supply chains. According to a customer research study, 54% of consumers bought fresh food online this past year, and 70% of shoppers intend to continue online grocery shopping for the foreseeable future.

What’s more, over 100,000 restaurants and bars in the US have closed permanently due to COVID, according to the National Restaurant Association. Fewer restaurants, lower bar-food demand, rising demand at the grocery store, and new delivery options create a market where grocery supply chains must be more flexible than ever.

Flexibility needs to come in many shapes and sizes: personal shoppers must know how to pick out the perfect tomato, shipping and packing technologies should be designed to handle last-minute shifts in distribution networks, and inventory planners need to keep track of what will be stocked in-store and what can ship directly to consumers. It is surmised that this need for elasticity will remain a critical component of a successful supply chain, even long after Covid has gone away.

We’re probably not taking off our masks and heading to concerts anytime soon. These changes may last years, making grocery delivery here to stay for the foreseeable future.

E-grocery businesses can only be effective if automation at the warehouse and distribution centers have the capability to shift from a business-to-business channel to a direct-to-consumer model. With 80% of consumers having grocery-shopped online since the start of Covid, being able to shift from one channel to another is critical. Significant automation is needed for delivery as well. With over 40% of essential items now being ordered online (think toilet paper), the delivery portion of supply chains has to accommodate larger volumes, as well as extra hours for cleaning and sanitizing.

A Look at Several Solutions

Now picture yourself picking up your favorite soup, and it’s the last one on the shelf. Behind you comes a little self-driving robot, scanning labels on shelves, checking stock levels, and alerting employees of low inventory. That is exactly what Simbe Robotics has developed. Schnucks Markets in the Midwest is one of the first to use the technology.

Meantime, Broad Branch Market — in partnership with Starship Technologies — has integrated their automation system with six-wheeled self-driving robots that have sensors aiding delivery to customers.

Almost 2,000 Walmart stores use Brain Corp’s robots to clean and sanitize, opening up employee hours for the workforce to focus on stocking and shipping online grocery orders.

Knock, knock! Who’s there? Robots with your food order!

Some major grocery chains are partnering with inventory management kings to help with grocery shipping and fulfillment. Amazon assists with same-day delivery at Whole Foods and Kroger’s, which are both rapidly expanding their networks to meet rising grocery delivery demands.

Other fulfillment solutions include the expansion of robotic handling. Albertsons Co., for example, has created a series of “micro fulfillment centers” providing a scalable model for rapidly filling thousands of grocery orders daily. These are large warehouses with integrated picking, packing, and shipping robots that provide more efficient work than human workers can offer in-store. The centers store popular items that have historically bottlenecked at a shipping level due to shipping delays. Having this type of inventory in an automated store warehouse has helped to avoid that bottleneck and helped turn the product around to consumers faster.

Thank goodness I can find my two-ply and burger meat in-store anytime now!

Narrowing the Transit Window

For the first time, in 2019, a self-driving truck delivered goods from Cupertino, CA to Quakertown, PA, almost 3,000 miles away., based in California, has developed this truck to help out when there’s a shortage of drivers and provide a touchless option.

Talk about a change from the neighborhood milkman, now we will be waving to cars with no drivers! I’ll take it if it means increased safety, and increased turnaround time!

Much like the fulfillment challenges, narrowing the time to get products from the processor to the warehouse to the distribution center to the grocery to the consumer has created logistics strains. With next-day air shipping raising expectations for greater speed and “panic buying” necessitating a need for quick processor-to-retailer turnaround to keep shelves stocked, the previously ‘easy’ delivery planning is a thing of the past. Having speed-to-shelf also depends greatly on having inventory in the right locations, and having those locations align with available trucking capacity.

The ground-based transportation industry, which moves goods from processor to retailer to consumer, is under unique stress. They are dealing with staffing challenges due to nationwide emergency drivers needed elsewhere, drivers leaving the industry for higher-paying jobs with better benefits, and drivers making important decisions about pausing their employment to preserve their health amid Covid concerns. Trucking connects all links in the food chain.

Agility with Inventory

The key to addressing each link in the chain is to have end-to-end inventory visibility. This allows the entire supply chain to react quickly to demand without chain-wide disruption. A major component to this is labor flows and resource allocation—or identifying how to be most efficient. This will allow for our food orders to reach us faster and increase our likelihood of reordering. One way grocers are doing this is by cutting their product offerings. Because consumer brand loyalty has all but gone out the window with COVID — with over 75% of consumers having changed brands during the pandemic due to convenience, or availability — consumers are now just taking what they can get as grocers are implementing a more streamlined product offering.

According to a report cited by Food Dive, “the average number of product offerings in grocery stores declined 7.3% during the four weeks ended June 13 … The drop came across a range of product categories, with frozen down 8.5%, deli slipping 7.7%, meat posting a decline of 7.1%, and dairy falling 6.6%.” For example, some grocery stores now offer only four choices of toilet paper, where prior to COVID they carried about 40 varieties.

By trimming away less profitable products that may be more complicated to produce and/or ship, factories and distribution networks can cut down on labor and time. Room on grocery store shelves is then opened up to products and inventory that is more reliable and can quickly meet consumer demand. A good example of this comes from PepsiCo, which decided to stop producing one-fifth of its products during COVID for efficiency reasons and will maintain a 5% reduction in its Frito-Lay snack division.

5 Things to Know About AquAdvantage Salmon

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite of information or want to drop some knowledge on your dinnertime companions, here’s our Featured 5 of the Week!

AquAdvantage Salmon, created by AquaBounty, is the first genetically-modified salmon approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Here is what we need to know about this GM salmon.

5. It’s more sustainable and unique

AquAdvantage Salmon grows much faster than conventional salmon, therefore, getting to the market in less time. This is the most significant difference between the two. AquAdvantage Salmon takes 18 months to reach maturity, while conventional salmon takes anywhere from 36 months to 7 years, depending on if they’re farmed or wild.

4. It was approved in 2015 but not sold in stores

Many consumers don’t know that the FDA approved AquAdantage Salmon in 2015 after it underwent a mandatory premarket FDA safety evaluation. In 2016, a bill was passed that banned its importation and sale until the FDA published labeling guidelines. After, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the GMO labeling rule, which became effective on February 19, 2019. When this took place, the FDA deactivated the import ban, and the salmon was finally allowed to enter and be sold in the U.S.

3. It’s safe to eat

No evidence indicates AquAdvantage Salmon is harmful. The FDA concluded it’s as safe as eating conventional salmon because, after some analysis, they found the GE salmon to be the same as traditionally grown. However, if you are allergic to fish, do not consume the AquAdvantage Salmon.

2. They cannot mix with wild stocks of fish

Some are concerned that AquAdvantage Salmon will escape and interbreed with wild salmon. However, this is not possible because AquaBounty uses multiple, redundant biological, geographical, and physical containment measures. To learn more about the measures in place, click here.

1. It’s better for the environment

AquAdvantage Salmon is better for the environment for several reasons. First, it has a lower carbon footprint with over 95% of the water recycled and less transportation required. It has a better chance of survival because it grows faster, avoiding danger during vulnerable stages. It does not require any chemicals or antibiotics because it has a reduced risk of infection given its controlled environment. And, it requires 25% less feed, leading to a better conversion rate.