The Soil Health Institute marked a milestone today as it announced the appointment of 13 members to its first-ever board of directors.

The board, the first of its kind, features representatives from all areas of agriculture and farming practices, including organic and conventional operations, row crops and specialty crops, and native and improved-pasture cattle ranches. Four full-time farmers have been currently named to the board.

"Ensuring we have healthy soils is one of the most important, yet challenging, jobs of our time," says Bill Buckner, chairman of the board. "To accomplish this critical goal, we brought together leaders from across the agriculture sector. Most importantly, this board is comprised of a diverse mix of farmers and ranchers, who are experiencing the critical nature of keeping our soils healthy."

The Institute expects to ultimately add an additional nine directors with six of those being farmers/ranchers. The board also includes soil research experts, as well as environment, conservation and industry leaders. "We have assembled a board of visionaries with different perspectives," Buckner says, "all of whom are working toward one common goal — improving soil health."

Board member V. Larkin Martin, a row crop farmer from Northern Alabama, provides first-hand insight from the farming front lines. She wants to know as much as she can about her soils, so she can not only make good business decisions for her farm, but make sound environmental decisions that benefit everyone.

"Farmers have to live with the risks of variable weather conditions and variable soils. We can't control the weather, but we can control how we take care of our soil," Martin says. " We would benefit from having more information about soil health in general, as well as practical information about how it can be improved through farmer practices.

"The Soil Health Institute's vision is to go beyond simply measuring the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in our soil, but to understand the importance of organic matter, microbial interactions and more. We need the Institute to help identify and coordinate this research and transfer that insight to farmers in a useful format, so we can make the best possible decisions for the land."

Members will work together and challenge each other to help solve our soil health challenges. The full list of current board members includes:

  • Bill Buckner, President/CEO, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation
  • Neil Conklin, Ph.D., President, Farm Foundation, NFP
  • Daniel DeSutter, President, DeSutter Farms
  • William Flory, President, Flory Farms
  • Jim Gulliford, Executive Director, Soil and Water Conservation Society
  • Jerry Hatfield, Ph.D.
  • Diana Jerkins, Ph.D., Research Director, Organic Farming Research Foundation
  • Bruce I. Knight, Principal/Founder, Strategic Conservation Solutions, LLC
  • Andrew W. LaVigne, President/CEO, American Seed Trade Association
  • Klass Martens, Owner, Lakeview Organic Grain
  • V. Larkin Martin, Martin Farm
  • Lara Beal Moody, P.E., Senior Director of Stewardship and Sustainability, The Fertilizer Institute
  • Jay Vroom, President/CEO, CropLife America
  • Wayne Honeycutt, President/CEO, Soil Health Institute

"Since the Soil Health Institute's inception, we knew we couldn't just talk about the soil — we had to have our hands in it, so we could drive real, effective and lasting change," Buckner says. "Our board selection demonstrates that approach. We're proud to bring together this strong group of leaders who will reshape agriculture as we know it."