Blue background. Illustration of a plant growing in brown soil. Text reads: The future is soil!

The Future Is Soil! Here’s What We’re Doing to Improve Soil Health on Caring Dairy Farms

Did you know that one of the secrets to fighting climate change and creating a more resilient planet is right below our feet?

Yes! Healthy soil has enormous benefits to the planet and to everyone and everything that calls it home. That’s why we’re excited to share the news that the University of Vermont (UVM) recently conducted a statewide survey and found that soils on Caring Dairy farms were healthier, on average, than soils on other Vermont farms.* 

Here’s how Caring Dairy farmers made it happen—and why it matters.

Cow to Cone

At Ben & Jerry’s we’ve talked for a long time about how we care about our ice cream from cow to cone. What does that mean? Well, it means that everything is connected—sometimes in unexpected ways.

Makes sense that cows need good food (a.k.a. “chow chow”) to be healthy, and that crops grown in healthy soil are more nutritious. To way oversimplify things, healthy soil = healthy cow chow. No surprises there.

But the more we looked into the importance of improving soil health on Caring Dairy farms, the more we realized that the benefits of healthy soil extend far beyond cows. Healthy soil = healthier planet.

Our Approach to Healthy Soil

We worked with our Caring Dairy farms to develop a three-part approach to improving the health of their soil.

  1. Cover Cropping

    Planting a cover crop, rather than allowing fields to lay bare after harvesting, keeps nutrients in the soil, reduces soil erosion and runoff, and increases biodiversity. Cover crops can be incorporated into the soil during the next planting season, enriching it even further.

  2. Crop Rotation

    Planting the same crops in the same plot of land year after year can decrease soil health and fertility and increase the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Rotating crops leads to better long-term soil health. (For Vermont dairy farmers, this usually means rotating between corn and grass—and sometimes adding a third rotation of alfalfa or clover.)

  3. No-Till Farming

    Some farms till their soil every year, breaking up vegetation and aerating the soil. This can leave soils vulnerable to erosion and destroy the soil biology. No-till farming leaves crop residues on the soil, which UVM’s research has shown significantly increases the soil’s stability and resistance to runoff. No-till farming also requires less fuel usage than tilling.

Healthy Soil Benefits All of Us

Obviously, we could talk about soil health all day! (We actually could: We love this stuff.) But why should anybody else care about it? Because healthy soil:

  • Reduces the amount of carbon that escapes into the atmosphere, which fights climate change and keeps the world habitable
  • Is more resilient to extreme weather, helping farmers be resilient too, which means they can keep growing the food we all need to survive 
  • Reduces the risk of erosion and reduces pollution, keeping our land and waterways clean

We’re All In This Together

As an ice cream company, we take our responsibility to support our farmers, protect the environment, and fight climate change seriously.

In mid-July, we saw the effects of climate change up close. Our home state of Vermont was devastated by three days of extreme rainfall that flooded towns and villages and damaged countless farms. Building climate resiliency into our farms isn’t a choice—it’s a necessity. All of us, whether we know it or not, depend on healthy soil for our survival.

Caring for the planet gives extra meaning to everything we do. We hope you feel the same way.

* Caring Dairy farms had an average soil-heath score of 89.35; the average score across all farms in the study was 83.87.