by Rachel Carter
“Farm in nature’s image” was the takeaway message shared by Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist at the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) and keynote speaker at the fifth annual Farm to Plate Annual Gathering. Held annually at the end of October, the Gathering is the one time each year when the entire Farm to Plate Network comes together to reflect on what has been accomplished and plan for the challenges that lie ahead implementing Vermont’s food system plan.
Archuleta engaged the 250 Farm to Plate Network members in attendance at the Killington Grand Resort with a soil stability demonstration, comparing no till versus tilled soil when immersed in water. The tilled soil rapidly came apart while the no till soil retained its form. The health of the no till soil is maintained by principles such as cover cropping, integrating a diversity of plants and animals, and reducing chemical, biological, and physical stress. Archuleta impressed upon Vermont’s farm and food sector industry leaders an understanding that the social and ecological context of the food system provides vast opportunities to cleanse the water that runs through it, grow healthy food, and provide for flood protection.