Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life

LOGO_IYS_en_Print_squareI was born in the year of the snake, my kids were born in the year of the rat and tiger respectively. But this year…2015 is the International Year of Soils. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has declared 2015 the year to celebrate soil and it’s importance to all life, including ours. As an agronomist working with producers on soil health, it makes for an exciting conversation. I mean…soil is on Facebook! While I am glad we are spending a whole year celebrating the foundation of our food system, I only hope we continue to celebrate it every day! That said, I thought I would take the opportunity as 2015 begins to reiterate the message of the importance of soil health.



From the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization:
• Healthy soils are the basis for healthy food production.
• Soils are the foundation for vegetation which is cultivated or managed for feed, fiber, fuel and medicinal products.
• Soils support our planet’s biodiversity and they host a quarter of the total.
• Soils help to combat and adapt to climate change by playing a key role in the carbon cycle.
• Soils store and filter water, improving our resilience to floods and droughts.
• Soil is a non-renewable resource; its preservation is essential for food security and our sustainable future.i heart soil

So I don’t know about you, but I HEART SOIL! Soil is key to human health, food security and even water quality. Farmers across Vermont do so many things to protect and improve soil health. I hope 2015 is the year that we celebrate all the work farmers do to create the foundation of our food system, the filter for improved water quality, and the basis for human and animal health. You can celebrate it by sharing your story of all you do to grow and celebrate healthy soil. Put it on your Facebook page, your farm website, in your next CSA newsletter. Host a field day on your farm (your friendly local UVM Extension agent would be happy to help you coordinate it) focusing on soil health practices. And of course…don’t forget to try something new for soil health on your farm in 2015, the International Year of Soils:

•Learn something new…attend the 2015 No-Till & Cover Crop Symposium on February 19th.
• Cover Crop and utilize Crop Rotation
• Reduce Tillage and cultivation
• Maximize residue on the soil surface
• Take a soil health test in two fields and compare results
• Write a Nutrient Management Plan
• Set a goal for organic matter in your soils (already @ 3%…try for 5%)


Some great links to check out:

Vermont’s State Soil Series (bet you didn’t know we had one): Tunbridge
FAO’s Official International Year of Soils Website
A great Discover Soils video series from SSSA: Human Health, Food Security, & Water Quality.
I Heart Soil Facebook Page
IYS 2015 Facebook Page


Farmers join Joel Meyers at a soil pit at a Soil Health Field Day in Panton, VT in August 2014


Looking at soil aggregates in heavy clay soil in Panton, VT in a field that has been in sod for multiple years.


Planting Green:  no-till planting corn into a standing crop of winter rye

Planting Green: no-till planting corn into a standing crop of winter rye

About Kirsten Workman

Kirsten works for UVM Extension as an Agronomy Outreach Professional for the Champlain Valley Crop, Soil & Pasture Team. She works with farmers to implement practices to improve crop production and protect water quality. It is her goal to provide practical information that farmers value. She helps them prepare and implement comprehensive nutrient management plans, and helps farmers access cost-share funding to implement Best Management Practices on their farms. Kirsten also manages her team's outreach materials, website, Facebook page, YouTube channel and blog.
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