To get on board, farmers must analyze the soil on each acre of their land and the factors keeping it from producing high-quality crops. In one field there may be too much boron, in another, a lack of calcium or microorganisms. For growers who rely on outside entities (typically fertilizer companies) to understand soil analysis reports, learning to grasp the science behind good dirt can be particularly nebulous, but it’s the only way to ensure an unbiased reading, says Mark Nakata, a grower in Fresno, Calif., who is working to introduce West Coast farmers to the principles of nutrient density.
Recognizing soil needs is only half the battle. It then takes time and money to put nutrients back in the earth and send produce off to a lab for nutrient tests. The additional effort does not necessarily guarantee farmers a price premium for their harvest because, Kittredge says, the market currently supports yield over quality—something he and his cohorts hope to see change as more farmers get interested in nutrient-dense crops.