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4 The Soil: A Conversation

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Soil. What is it, really? It’s more than the dirt under our feet and the ground we stand on. Soil is living and life-giving. Listen as we unlock the mysteries of soil by speaking with people at the forefront of the soil health movement. Hear and learn from farmers, agricultural professionals, conservation leaders, master gardeners, and many more on how and why to be 4 The Soil.  

 “4 The Soil: A Conversation” is part of the 4 The Soil Awareness Campaign led by the Virginia Soil Health Coalition. The campaign’s purpose is to raise awareness of soil as an agricultural and natural resource critical to social, economic, and environmental health.

The podcast is a collaboration of Virginia Cooperative Extension, On the Farm Radio, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Virginia Soil Health Coalition with specific funding from the Agua Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Virginia Tech’s Department of Agriculture, Leadership, and Community Education’s Community Viability grant program.

Episode 24 - 1: The Power of Observation and A Receptive Mind with Dr. Stuart Grandy of UNH Part II

The power of observation and a receptive mind are critical to farming, soil health, research, and all discoveries. Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch Bryant, and Eric Bendfeldt start the New Year and third season of the 4 The Soil podcast with another conversation with Dr. Stuart Grandy, Professor of Natural Resources and the Environment, at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). It turns out the most powerful tool farmers and gardeners have regardless of size is taking time to observe and reflect on what is happening and observing how soil and plants respond to different management strategies. This tool can be used while sitting in a lawn chair or on a tractor. Therefore, the power of observation, good on-farm research, and a receptive mind should never be undervalued in building soil health and discovering the multiple functions and resilience soil can provide particularly during times of drought.

Episode 23 - 26: What's Happening in the Soil Food Web with Dr. Stuart Grandy of UNH Part I

How does one measure and monitor what's happening below the ground in the soil food web? Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch Bryant, and Eric Bendfeldt caught up with Dr. Stuart Grandy, Professor of Natural Resources and the Environment, at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) to discuss the diversity of soil life and emerging sensor technologies to probe soil organic matter, soil carbon, and overall health. Dr. Grandy outlines why core soil health principles are essential for encouraging fungal hyphae, increasing the diversity of habitats, and enhancing food substrates needed to build a robust soil food web. He emphasizes how important the power of observation is and how he is constantly inspired by farmers' observations and their ongoing on-farm research for increasing productivity and reducing environmental impacts.

23 - 25: A Healthy, Fertile Celebration of World Soils Day 2023

Since October 2021, Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch Bryant, and Eric Bendfeldt have had sixty conversations about the health and fertility of soil as part of the podcast. To celebrate World Soils Day 2023, we are sharing three recaps of conversations that were quite memorable with Dr. David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle authors of What Your Food Ate and Growing a Revolution; Clare Tallamy of Virginia Tech's 2022 Soil Judging Team; and Lee Rinehart a grazing specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

Episode 23 - 24: Balancing Community and Natural Resource Needs with Nelson Muiru of KENVO Part II

How do we identify community and natural resource needs? What are people doing to thrive as well as survive? Executive Director Nelson Muiru of Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) talks with Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch Bryant, and Eric Bendfeldt for a second episode on how they seek to balance the everyday social and financial needs of people and communities in the Central Highlands of Kenya in East Africa with important natural resource needs. Farming is a primary livelihood and source of sustenance for many people in rural Kenya. At the same time, people and communities rely on forests for timber and charcoal for everyday use and as a source of income. Therefore, it is essential to understand community needs and what people require to thrive while balancing and communicating how indigenous forests provide critical ecosystem services such as water catchment, erosion control, air purification, and pollinator habitat that benefit the local community, towns along the Kikuyu Escarpment, and even cities like Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, and Mombasa. KENVO provides community-based leadership and education to link farmers and communities to existing and emerging markets for farm and forest crops, value-added agricultural consumer goods, and non-timber forest products.

Episode 23 - 23: Maximizing Biodiversity and Food Security with Nelson Muiru of KENVO Part I

How do you work with communities and individual farmers to build trust and achieve multiple social, financial, and ecological goals? Executive Director Nelson Muiru of Kijabe Environment Volunteers (KENVO) talks with Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch Bryant, and Eric Bendfeldt about how their organization seeks to maximize biodiversity, ecosystem services, and food security in the Central Highlands of Kenya in East Africa. Like many countries, Kenya is working to conserve and preserve non-renewable resources (i.e., soil, water, culturally significant forests, etc.) to benefit people's livelihoods and communities. KENVO provides leadership and education to conserve biodiversity in the Kikuyu Escarpment, while also preserving natural habitats, protecting water quality, and building soil health. For Nelson and his colleagues, this means working closely with local communities to identify mutually beneficial goals and advancing eco-friendly income-generating businesses (e.g., forest farming, beekeeping, water bottling, solar-dried foods) through trust, accountability, and ongoing conversations with farmers and communities.

Episode 23 - 22: The Give and Take of Lawn and Soil Health with Dr. Mike Goatley of Virginia Tech Part II

How do we improve lawn soil health by adjusting mower deck height? Can adjusting your lawnmower deck from three inches to four or more inches save you time and energy? Is genetically modified turfgrass in the future of your lawn?

Extension Turfgrass Specialist Dr. Mike Goatley of Virginia Tech (Dr. Turf) talks with Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt about emerging and applied research in turfgrass and lawn management including developments in turfgrass breeding. For overall lawn care and health, Dr. Goatley recommends adjusting the lawnmower deck height upwards starting on Memorial Day and until Labor Day to encourage root growth and prevent weed seed from getting established, particularly for less drought-tolerant cool season grasses. Testing your soil is a critical first step for improving and building soil health. Mike also emphasizes how an annual application of a quarter inch of compost as part of a maintenance regimen can help with lawn health by adding organic matter and being a slow-release source of needed nutrients.

Episode 23 - 21: Every Blade of Grass is a Study with Dr. Mike Goatley of Virginia Tech Part I

President Abraham Lincoln stated in 1858 that "Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where there was but one, is both a profit and a pleasure." The profit and pleasure of turfgrass still require observation, care, and ongoing research. Extension Turfgrass Specialist Dr. Mike Goatley of Virginia Tech (Dr. Turf) talks with Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt about his journey into studying and researching turfgrass and lawn management. Mike provides guidance on the value of turfgrass for water quality, erosion control, soil stabilization, temperature moderation, and drought resilience. Knowing the eight different types of grass that grow and thrive across Virginia's climatic transition zones can help, but overall turfgrass performance and resilience to drought begins with managing soil for fertility and health.

Episode 23 - 20: Knowing Your Why for Farming and Soil Health with Daniel Austin of Green Sprig Ag Part II

Like author Simon Sinek, Daniel Austin of Green Sprig Ag and Little Hen Farm encourages people to start with their “why.” Doing so will help people understand their motivation and refine their purpose in life and work. Knowing both the “why” and the “how” of farming and building soil health is critically important to economic viability, community well-being, and true sustainability. Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch Bryant, and Eric Bendfeldt continue their conversation with Daniel by phone to learn more about his “why” and “how” of farming and growing local grains.

Episode 23 - 19: From Picking Rocks to Marketing Local Grains with Daniel Austin of Green Sprig Ag

What are the resource concerns and aspirations for your farm and land? Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch Bryant, and Eric Bendfeldt catch up by phone with farmer, entrepreneur, and soil health champion Daniel Austin of Little Red Hen Farm and Green Sprig Ag. Daniel is a fifth-generation farmer in Franklin County and shares the history of how his interest and passion for soil health started with a loathe of picking up rocks and erosion. In a nutshell, he and his family grow, process, and package local grains (wheat, spelt, buckwheat, and open-pollinated corn) for as direct farm-to-table sales to families, bakers, millers, and brewers as possible. Additional enterprises of Little Red Hen Farm and Green Sprig Ag include a flock of sheep to graze on the rolling hills and the selling of cover crop seeds for food, feed, and conservation. Green Sprig Ag tailors cover crop sales to address farmers' and growers' resource concerns and priorities. For many people, the primary resource concern is the prevention and elimination of erosion. Daniel gives guidance on how he would walk through ways to address erosion concerns with a producer and landowner and how people can then possibly supply nitrogen, add the proper amount of organic matter, and prevent compaction with a cover crop mixture.

Episode 23 - 18: Hope from the Garden with Kate Bracken and Craig Fracker of Goochland-Powhatan Master Gardener Association

What is your passion? Where do you experience a sense of wonder and hope? Jeff Ishee and Mary Sketch Bryant talk with Kate Bracken and Craig Fracker of the Goochland-Powhatan Master Gardener Association about how they empower communities with research-based garden education from the soil up, and specifically about their HOPE (Helping Our Planet Endure) initiative. Kate and Craig as Master Gardener volunteers with Virginia Cooperative Extension share how their local association builds and maintains active interest among their community in the care of lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers, gardens, and most importantly soils. Without soil, there are no gardens.

Episode 23-17: Sowing the Next Generation of Stewards with Kathy Yoder of Vine & Fig, Part II

How do we encourage stewardship of the land and our communities in the next generation? In this episode, Jeff Ishee, Eric Bendfeldt, and Sarah Koth continue their conversation with Kathy Yoder, the Education Outreach Program Director at Vine and Fig in Harrisonburg, Virginia, about the organization’s work to get youth outdoors and experience nature. Kathy discusses the mental health and learning benefits she sees in students from experiential learning in the garden and in nature. She also dives into the integrative farm-to-school work that she is involved with in Harrisonburg and how it has increased access to healthy nutritious food and benefitted both the area’s youth and the community more broadly.

Episode 23-16: Seeds of Change: Enhancing Food Access, Local Food Systems, and Childhood Education with Kathy Yoder of Vine and Fig

Healthy soil means healthy plants which means healthy people and a healthy planet. In this episode, Jeff Ishee, Eric Bendfeldt, and Sarah Koth speak with Kathy Yoder, the Education Outreach Program Director at Vine and Fig in Harrisonburg, Virginia, about the nonprofit’s local programs to strengthen local food systems, ensure access to wholesome nutrition for underserved communities, and educate youth on food production and sustainability.

Episode 23-15: Soil as Infrastructure and Learning by Doing with Carl Stafford of VCE Culpeper County

Soil is important infrastructure on our landscapes and in our communities. Jeff Ishee, Eric Bendfeldt, and Mary Sketch Bryant talk with Carl Stafford of Virginia Cooperative Extension in Culpeper County about the George Washington Carver Center, a food and business incubator and agricultural service center serving communities in and around Culpeper County. Carl is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Extension Agent in Stafford County and has an expertise in livestock forages, beef cattle management, and has been an active member in the community for years. In this episode, Carl discusses the intersection of food, soil, history, and community that the Carver Center embodies.

Episode 23-14: Grazing with Intent with Carl Stafford of VCE Culpeper County

What does the health of plants and animals have to tell us about life underground? In this episode, Jeff Ishee, Eric Bendfeldt, and Mary Sketch Bryant talk with Carl Stafford of Virginia Cooperative Extension in Culpeper County about the importance of grazing with intent for the benefit of plants, animals, and the soil. Carl is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Extension Agent in Stafford County and has an expertise in livestock forages, beef cattle management, and is an active leader in the Graze 300 program. In this episode, Carl discusses the importance of paying attention to the biological components of soil and the role that well managed livestock and grass management systems can play in supporting life underground. He shares who his mentors have been over the years and the importance of peer-to-peer networks for promoting innovation.

Episode 23 - 13: A Soil Your Undies Challenge with Elizabeth Baldwin and Meagan Dyer of VCE Page County

How can you really know your soil is alive, biologically active, and not sterile? Well, the answer is brief. Yes, really! Soil your undies, that is, bury a pair of your 100% cotton undies in an area of your garden or cropland where you are curious about its biological activity and wait about 60 days to see what happens and if the undies decompose through time due to the microbial life in the soil. 

Episode 23 - 12: Make a Difference Where You Are with Taona Makunje Chigwenembe of Malawi Part II

We can all make a difference and construct the world we want to see and experience now and into the future. In part one, Taona Makunje Chigwenembe, the executive director of Creative Solutions for the Environment of Malawi shared with us the importance of honoring indigenous knowledge, practicing permaculture, and integrating agroforestry systems. The conversation continues about cover crops, compost, legumes, nitrogen-fixing trees, green manures, and ongoing resolute support of family, neighbors, and community in making a difference for soil health, water conservation, and educational leadership.

Episode 23 - 12: Make a Difference Where You Are with Taona Makunje Chigwenembe of Malawi Part II

We can all make a difference and construct the world we want to see and experience now and into the future. In part one, Taona Makunje Chigwenembe, the executive director of Creative Solutions for the Environment of Malawi shared with us the importance of honoring indigenous knowledge, practicing permaculture, and integrating agroforestry systems. The conversation continues about cover crops, compost, legumes, nitrogen-fixing trees, green manures, and ongoing resolute support of family, neighbors, and community in making a difference for soil health, water conservation, and educational leadership.

Episode 23 - 11: Catalyzing Creative Solutions with Taona Makunje Chigwenembe of Malawi Pt. I

Whether you live in the United States or Malawi in southeastern Africa, you can be 4 The Soil because soil health has national and international inspirations and applications. Soil health is foundational to food security and can catalyze community change. Taona Makunje Chigwenembe is the executive director of Creative Solutions for the Environment in Malawi and a board member of the New Community Project. Taona shares with us the mighty, great things she and her colleagues are doing to rebuild and regenerate soil health by honoring indigenous knowledge, practicing permaculture, and integrating agroforestry systems.

Episode 23 - 10: The Ins and Outs of Cover Cropping with Mike Parrish with VCE Dinwiddie County Part II

Cover crops have many different functions and benefits from adding biomass to alleviating compaction to providing habitat for beneficial pollinators. People may be hesitant to plant a mixture of cover crops if they have not previously planted cover crops. Mike Parrish, senior extension agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension in Dinwiddie County, discusses the ins and outs of cover cropping and how different cover crops can serve specific roles in farming, gardening, lawn renovation, and land reclamation. Mike highlights the benefits of buckwheat, cereal rye, and pearl millet. He discusses how winter and summer cover crop mixtures can provide a bridge throughout the growing season, be aesthetically appealing, and be a good source of specific types of pollen for honeybees.

Episode 23 - 9: Soil Health by Trial and Error with Mike Parrish with VCE Dinwiddie County

Farmers, gardeners, and homeowners can face different challenges in managing and building soil health. Mike Parrish, senior extension agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension in Dinwiddie County, encourages everyone to do their own research and side-by-side trials. Learning by trial and error allows for direct comparisons and works in a specific context. Mike works closely with commercial growers who grow everything from corn, soybeans, cotton, cereal rye, and other agronomic crops, but also provides educational programming to homeowners and other landowners who might have a problem with soil compaction, water holding capacity, or other common soil ailments.

Episode 23 - Earth Day Special: Nurturing Soil Health and Seeding Justice across Generations with Karen Washington of Rise and Root Farm

In celebration and recognition of Earth Day 2023, we are resharing a deeply meaningful and inspiring conversation with Karen Washington of Rise and Root Farm about soil health, intergenerational knowledge, and heeding nature's wisdom that was really well-received last year. Karen recently received and shared the 2023 James Beard Humanitarian Award with Olivia Watkins for their ongoing leadership and vision for community-focused change. Karen recalled how planting a tomato seed changed her life and introduced her to nature, land, and soil. She emphasizes the importance of having hard conversations about eating healthy so people and communities are all part of the solution and meet people where they are with soil health and environmental justice. There is room for everyone to grow food.

Episode 23 - 8: Soil Health and Career Inspirations with Beth Sastre of VCE Loudoun County

Who inspired you in your career and spurred your interest in soil health? Beth Sastre is an extension agent for commercial horticulture in Loudoun County with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Beth was inspired to pursue a career in agriculture and natural resources by her grandfather and by Mother Nature. Beth's grandfather was an agronomist in Mexico and worked closely with farmers on soil and water conservation-related issues. Additionally, Beth was fascinated early in her life by Mother Nature, the beauty of natural resources, and how our farming practices affect soil health. Beth shares her own inspiration and fascination with soil health with farmers, homeowners, students, and Future Farmers of America in Loudoun County and across Virginia through her educational programs and scientific expertise.

Episode 23 - 7: Getting to Know the 4 The Soil: A Conversation Team

Get to know your 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast team. Jeff Ishee, Mary Sketch Bryant, Sarah Koth, and Eric Bendfeldt share their background and aha moments in learning about and building soil health. Jeff mentioned the influence of his father but also his library of soil health books he has accumulated since his retirement from the U.S. Navy. Mary recalled her earlier work in environmental and conservation studies and the importance of the human dimension in soil health and the protection of natural resources. Sarah highlighted her background in environmental communications and advocacy at James Madison University and her introduction to soil health in interning and volunteering with community-based organizations that were working to address food security and justice. Eric reflected on his introduction to soil health and fertility issues working with the Mennonite Central Committee, the relief, peace, and development agency of the Mennonite church, in Tanzania, East Africa.

Episode 23 - 6: Why I Farm The Way I Do with Becky Szarzynski of Mountain Glen Farm

Why do I farm this way? Context, values, and passion are all part of the equation and reason. Becky Szarzynski of Mountain Glen Farm is a well-spoken, highly knowledgeable young, innovative farmer in the Shenandoah Valley. Becky shares specifically why she farms the way she does and emphasizes the importance of walking your land, observing what is happening in the ecosystem, and not being afraid to try something new because you might be surprised by a hawk, Bobwhite quail, or dung beetle.

Becky serves as a coordinator of the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council's and Virginia Soil Health Coalition's farmer-to-farmer mentor programs. Becky generously shares what she has learned through the years and the mentors who have shared their knowledge and experience with Becky and others.

Episode 23 - 5: Pasture Bouquets and Soil Health with Becky Szarzynski of Mountain Glen Farm

How do you work with nature to build soil health? Do diversity and pasture bouquets fit into your grazing management regimen? Becky Szarzynski of Mountain Glen Farm shares her own journey in building soil health, raising South Poll cattle, managing animal impact, and growing a bouquet of diverse forage species.

Becky also serves as a coordinator of the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council's and Virginia Soil Health Coalition's farmer-to-farmer mentor programs. Becky emphasizes that people and systems have to be adaptive to meet challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that emerge with soil health, grazing management, and new markets.

Episode 23 - 4: Peeling the Layers of Soil Health Back with David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle Part II

Delving into soil health is like peeling the layers of an onion back: new layers to soil health are brought to light every day. David Montgomery and Anne Bikle share what they learned and synthesized about soil health and food connections in writing their latest book: What Your Food Ate. As we learn about soil ecology and nutrient cycling, the urgency for caring for health from the soil up is increasingly apparent. David and Anne mention the importance of phytochemicals, micronutrients, fat balances, and microbial metabolites to plant and animal foods, and that new layers and directions for study continue to emerge. Overall, David and Anne encourage farmers and gardeners to do their own on-farm research, particularly in minimizing and eliminating tillage. Similarly, they encourage taking regional approaches to improve soil health and increase farm profitability so we can move forward in new ways.

Episode 23 - 3: What Your Food Ate with David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé Part I

How do we nourish people rather than just feed them? Is there a more direct link between soil health and human health than we thought? David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé, authors of What Your Food Ate, talk with us about the deeper, more intriguing aspects of soil health, nutrition, and its implications for human health with us. David and Anne emphasize the importance of asking questions about the foundations of health: soil and nutritious food.

David is a professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington. Anne attended the University of California, Santa Cruz earning degrees in Biology and Natural History. She holds a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. Anne’s career has included work in biology, watershed restoration, environmental planning, and public health.

Episode 23 - 2: The Stories Soils Tell with Clare Tallamy of Virginia Tech's Soil Judging Team Part II

You might know soil remembers and has a long memory but do you know soils continually tell stories? Soils often tell an overarching story based on history and geology that includes how soils were formed due to factors such as parent material, climate, landscape position, time, and the presence or absence of soil organisms. Current and past management of topsoil and the soil ecosystem adds new chapters to a soil's history and memory.

Clare Tallamy, a recent graduate of Virginia Tech's School of Plant and Environmental Sciences (SPES), shared several stories from her experience as a member of Virginia Tech's Soil Judging Team and the team's time in many different soil pits in Virginia and across the U.S. and world. In Part I, Clare described how a soil pit is dug and shared a way to understand a soil profile. In this episode, Clare explains further how soil remembers but also how a soil's story can be adversely altered through mismanagement and neglect or significantly improved by following core soil health principles that enhance overall soil biology and focus on what you can change in the system.

Episode 23 - 1: Down in the Pit with Clare Tallamy of Virginia Tech's Soil Judging Team Part I

Do you have a vision and picture of what happens in a soil judging pit? Clare Tallamy, a recent graduate of Virginia Tech's School of Plant and Environmental Sciences (SPES), shared her passion for soil health and soil judging in this episode. Clare was a member of Virginia Tech's Soil Judging Team and helped the team win its seventh collegiate national championship. Clare also distinguished herself as the individual winner at the 2022 International Soil Judging Contest that was held in Scotland. As an avid gardener growing up in Northern Virginia, Clare took a keen interest in soil science and joined Virginia Tech's Soil Judging to follow her passion to learn more about soil physics, chemistry, and ecology in a very practical way -- as part of a team down in a soil pit.

Clare describes how a soil pit is dug and shares a picture to understand and judge the different layers of a soil's profile. Additionally, Clare emphasizes that we can learn a lot about the history of how the soil was formed and why keeping soil covered is important to building soil health through the soil judging process down in the pit.

Episode 22 - 26: Happy Soil Biology with Jon Stika of Understanding Ag Part II

What are the foundations of happy soil biology? Jon Stika of UnderstandingAg, a part-time research professional at North Dakota State University's Dickinson Research and Extension Center, and author of A Soil Owner's Manual shares his perspective on keeping soil biology alive and happy. Jon draws his soil biology insights from his career as a conservationist, agronomist, soil scientist, researcher, and teacher with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service. He discusses how integrating livestock as a means of energizing with diversity can stimulate plant growth and biological activity when grazing is properly managed. For Jon, feeding the soil is integral for feeding the plants -- and ultimately people. Once the soil is properly fed without being disturbed, key soil functions begin to be restored and regenerated, which can be good for farmers', ranchers', and gardeners' financial bottom lines as well. In Jon's experience, happy biology is foundational to sustaining food and farming systems from the soil up.

Episode 22 - 25: Treat the Problem not just the Symptoms with Jon Stika of Understanding Ag Part I

How does soil actually function? Jon Stika of Understanding Ag (recently retired from USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service) emphasizes that all of us as students, managers, and caregivers of soil need to understand how soil functions as a living ecosystem with biological, physical, and chemical processes. All of us must become students of what makes soil healthy. It’s that simple and there are no shortcuts. Jon states from this starting point farmers, graziers, gardeners, and landowners will then be able to treat the problems limiting soil health and not just the symptoms.

In Jon's career as a conservationist, agronomist, soil scientist, researcher, and teacher with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, an eye-opening experience was just how important biology is to the overall soil ecosystem and how carbon serves as currency to drive nutrient cycling, soil aggregation, and so many other processes. Jon encourages people to not be overwhelmed by the complexity of the system but to start small, follow the four soil health principles, focus on one principle out of the four that can be improved, and experiment with that principle on a section of your farm, pasture, garden, or backyard.

A Soil Owner’s Manual: How to Restore and Maintain Soil Health is published independently by Jon through Amazon Books and is available on UnderstandingAg’s website.

Episode 22 - 24: Stories of Land and People with Lee Rinehart of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) Part II

Who inspired you in your soil health journey? Lee Rinehart sustainable agriculture specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) shared about two people who inspired him in his journey into sustainable, regenerative agriculture and soil health.  In sharing about his maternal grandfather's influence and the writings of Wendell Berry, Lee reiterates stories about the care of land and people being critically important for affecting change, building camaraderie, and inspiring new ideas that can be adopted and implemented. 

Lee also emphasized how we need to learn from one another what has worked, what continues to be a challenge, and what emerging opportunities are there to build soil health and regenerate landscapes. 

To join a dynamic community of people in Virginia and across the world who are curious about water and soil practices, please visit National Center for Appropriate Technology's Soil for Water initiative at: https://soilforwater.org/ 

Episode 22 - 23: Appropriate Technology for Soil for Water with Lee Rinehart of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) Part I

What are appropriate and inappropriate technologies for soil to benefit water? Lee Rinehart of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) shares the history behind this question as well as how the question relates to their ongoing Soil for Water initiative. People may hear of appropriate technology in relation to an international context but Lee reminds us that no matter the context appropriate technology should be locally-adaptive, place-based, and people-centered to be most beneficial socially, ecologically, and economically.

Lee tells several stories of when technologies were introduced and did not have the desired anticipated benefits but disrupted relationships that were naturally more integrated such as the carbon cycle and the integration of livestock in agricultural and rural landscapes. 

Episode 22 - Special First Anniversary  Edition: A Conversation with Mary, Jeff, and Eric

The 4 the Soil: A Conversation podcast was collaboratively launched on October 12, 2021, to bring farmers, graziers, market gardeners, agricultural professionals, educators, researchers, conservationists, and community leaders together to hear and share stories about agriculture, soil health principles, and shared values. The First Anniversary Edition is aimed to be a "best-of" episode to celebrate the milestone and offer a sample of memorable conversations of the first year.

Special thanks to all of our guests and listeners. We hope you will join us in this celebration and continue to support and share the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast as we work together for the common good and health of the soil and the future.

Episode 22 - 22: 'Soil is Meant to be Covered' with Mike Phillips of Valley View Farms

If you were an earthworm, what type of farm would you like to be living on? This question was posed to Mike Phillips of Valley View Farms in Mauzy, Virginia, who is a student of history and a champion of soil health. Jeff Ishee was able to catch up with Mike at a recent Soil Health and Cover Crop Field Day in Rockingham County to learn how Mike seeks to mimic nature in his farming and soil health principles.

Mike is always cognizant of keeping soil covered, nurturing soil biology, and managing his above and below-ground livestock. He encourages us all to know we are part of a system and that all living things are sacred. Therefore, we should manage our lives, farms, and soils to be in harmonious balance. Mike has been inspired by many people throughout his life and he is fiercely intent on inspiring others, particularly young and beginning farmers, to farm and live as part of the land and sacred system.

Episode 22 - 21: Farming and Soil Health by the Square Foot with Brian Downing of Crooked Row Farm

Will soil health work on your farm? That is a question that farmers often ask related to soil health-building principles and practices, particularly in relation to multi-species mixtures and diversified enterprises. Brian Downing of Crooked Row Farm is a second-generation farmer located in Randolph County in central North Carolina. He shares his perspective on farming by the square foot and making soil health work on his farm. Faced with a soil compaction resource concern, he began experimenting with cover crop mixtures, a diversity of livestock and crop species, and enhancing the carbon currency on his farm. Brian highlights the need to understand what is happening on your farm by the square foot and to realize your farm has its own micro-economy that requires investments and savings in carbon and soil health. Additionally, farming and soil health accounts require sound recordkeeping to know where, how, and if wealth and health are growing and accruing as part of a stable micro-economy that naturally includes deposits and withdrawals.  

Episode 22 - 20: Keeping Context and Camaraderie in Mind with Cover Crop Coach Steve Groff Part II

What do you want to accomplish on your farm, in your garden, or in business? Do you have a specific resource concern such as lessening tillage? Do you want to provide your family, friends, and customers with nutrient-dense food? Cover Crop Coach Steve Groff shared in the previous episode about keeping the soil alive and well. The conversation continues with Steve emphasizing that farmers need to learn all they can and understand how soil health concepts, principles, and practices are applicable to their individual farms and context. Similarly, Steve encourages farmers, graziers, and gardeners to visit with other farmers locally as well as virtually for camaraderie and peer-to-peer networking. There are many ways to learn and continue to self-educate ourselves as we face challenges of living longer than ever, and unfortunately, in many cases, being sicker than ever.

To learn about Steve Groff's soil health journey, mindsets, and the changing context of farming, you can read his new book The Future-Proof Farm: Changing Mindsets in a Changing World, which is available online at https://stevegroff.com.

Episode 22 - 19: Keeping Soil Biology Alive and Well with Cover Crop Coach Steve Groff Part I

What research is emerging around plant health and soil biology in relation to nutrient-dense food? What role can farmers and gardeners play in building soil health to grow nutrient-dense food? Farmer, on-farm researcher, author, and Cover Crop Coach Steve Groff shares his experience and insights on keeping soil biology alive and well for soil and human health. Steve is a third-generation farmer based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who was an early innovator in using a roller-crimper in his no-till commercial vegetable operation to manage and terminate his cover crops. His grandfather was an early adopter of cover crops in the 1950s. Steve was at the forefront in using a daikon radish or "Tillage Radish" to naturally bio-till the soil with the plant's tuberous roots to alleviate compaction and encourage biological life. Steve also emphasizes that farmers need to continue to do their own on-farm research and have an adaptive mindset for the ever-changing world of agriculture, particularly as research on nutrient-dense food as prevention and medicine continues to grow and be rediscovered.

To learn about Steve Groff's soil health journey and mindset, you can read his new book The Future-Proof Farm: Changing Mindsets in a Changing World, which is available online at https://www.stevegroff.com/​ 

Episode 22- 18: Soil Health for Clean, Sustainable Water Resources with Dr. Ryan Stewart of Virginia Tech

How does soil health relate to clean, abundant water? Dr. Ryan Stewart is an Associate Professor in Virginia Tech's School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. Ryan's research focus is on the interactions between water, soil, and plant communities. His sustainable water resource management work spans soil science, ecology, engineering, agriculture, and urban systems. He shares the science of measuring and quantifying soil health and the effects of management principles and practices on how soil functions. Ryan and his research colleagues identified 42 different indicators, but in our conversation emphasized the importance of systematically building soil organic matter and enhancing biology for plant life and water cycling.

A free downloadable version of the fourth edition of Building Soils for Better Crops: Ecological Management for Health Soils is available from USDA's Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) at https://www.sare.org/resources/building-soils-for-better-crops/

Episode 22 - 17: Soil Health as the Crux of Resilience and Justice with Duron Chavis of Happily Natural Day

There cannot be agriculture without culture. Duron Chavis executive director of Happily Natural Day shares his passion for soil health and cultural activism as a means to address systemic issues and transform the built environment. Duron is a thought leader, educator, activist, and changemaker in the Greater Richmond region. He integrates music, art, and cultural identity in his work in urban agriculture, gardening, farming, and orchards as a tool for social change, public health promotion, and community transformation. Duron emphasizes that healthy, fertile soil is an imperative and the crux of landscape resilience, food security, and environmental justice.

To learn more about Happily Natural Day's mission and dedication to holistic health, cultural awareness, and social change, please visit https://thenaturalfestival.com/.

Episode 22 - 16: Purposeful Cover Cropping and No-Till for Soil Life with Lydia Fitzgerald of USDA-NRCS and Virginia Tech

How can we purposefully enhance soil life? Lydia Fitzgerald is an integrated cropland agronomist with Virginia's USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Virginia Tech. Lydia grew up on a family farm in Nelson County, Virginia, and was inspired by her family to take active participation in Future Farmers of America (FFA) in high school to dream of and pursue a career in agriculture and natural resources. In her outreach and education role, Lydia uses hands-on soil health demonstrations and research to encourage farmers, ranchers, market gardeners, and land managers to take an integrated approach to soil, crop, and natural resource management. Lydia shares that purposeful cover cropping and no-till systems that enhance deep root development and minimize disturbance are essential for enhancing soil life and resilience.

To learn more about educational and technical assistance programs as well as possible career opportunities with Virginia USDA-NRCS, please visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/va/home/  

Episode 22 - 15: Keeping Water Clean: Farm by Farm, Lawn by Lawn with Matt Kowalski of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Keeping local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay clean requires everyone to be actively involved in protecting water quality, managing nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, and building soil health. Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt caught up with Matt Kowalski of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) at a recent field day to talk about soil health and water quality. Matt serves as a watershed restoration scientist in Virginia for CBF and specifically focuses on agricultural best management practices and projects to restore wetland and riverside areas. Matt emphasizes that keeping water clean needs to happen farm by farm and lawn by lawn, and that we all can do our part to improve water quality and save the Chesapeake Bay.

To learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Mountains-to-Bay Grazing Alliance, please visit  https://www.cbf.org/how-we-save-the-bay/programs-initiatives/multi-state-grazers-alliance.html and https://www.m2balliance.org/. For information about year-round lawn care and ways to possibly incorporate a legume like Dutch white clover into your lawn for water quality and pollinators, please visit https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/soil-and-water/document/yardcare.pdf and https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/soil-water-conservation/you-your-land-landscape

Episode 22 - 14: Wisdom, Spirituality, and Foresight in Building Soil with Michael Carter Jr. of Carter Farms (Part II)

In this second part of our conversation with Michael Carter Jr. of Carter Farms in Orange County, Virginia, Michael shares his unique insights and perspectives on history and its ongoing relationship to soil health and farming. Michael is a fifth-generation farmer with a passion for small farm outreach, the decline in the number of black farmers and black-owned farms, and efforts to restore equity and justice in farming and access to land.  Michael recounts the foresight his grandmother and her family had in buying their farm and land in Orange County after World War II. He also shares the significant role and contribution George Washington Carver had in extension education and outreach related to cropping and the care of the soil. Michael points out the spiritual elements of soil health and how many religious traditions recognize the value of soil in building community, trust, and faith.  

To learn more about Carter Farms and the interdisciplinary teaching platform Africulture, please visit https://thecarterfarms.com/.

Episode 22 - 13: Cultural Richness, Hardpans, and Soil Health Literacy with Michael Carter Jr. of Carter Farms (Part I)

How do culture, history, and mindset influence soil health? Michael Carter Jr. of Carter Farms in Orange County, Virginia shares his insights and perspectives in this 4 The Soil: A Conversation episode. Michael is a fifth-generation farmer who grew up on a century farm and learned from the many agricultural teachers in his family and community. Michael provides historical context and examples of mindsets that can affect and limit soil health much like a compacted hardpan layer below the soil surface. Michael offers that cultural richness, racial literacy, and microbiological diversity are essential to soil health-building processes and community life.

To learn more about Carter Farms and their work growing ethnic, African tropical vegetables organically and Africulture interdisciplinary teaching platform, please visit https://thecarterfarms.com/.

Episode 22 - 12: From Picking Beans to Taking Care of the Soil with Cory Guilliams of Virginia USDA-NRCS

How did a grandmother's passion for gardening inspire her grandson's career in taking care of the soil? In this episode, Cory Guilliams, district conservationist with Virginia USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), recalls the influence and lessons learned from his grandmother about soil health and winter cover crops as he helped her as a youth in picking and weeding beans and potatoes. Cory shares the history and definition of no-till farming in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic Region and how important the practice is for aggregating soil particles and reducing erosion. Tillage can be extremely destructive so minimizing soil disturbance is critical. We can all be 4 The Soil and do our part to build health from the soil up.

To learn more about soil health and possible careers in natural resources conservation and environmental sciences, please visit the Virginia USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service website at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/va/home/.

Episode 22 - 11: Soil as a Foundation to Nourish and Sustain Life with Janet Aardema and her daughter Sylvie of Broadfork Farm

Soil is an amazing foundation for all of us. Soil nourishes, fuels, and sustains all life. In this episode, Janet Aardema and her daughter Sylvie of Broadfork Farm share their enthusiasm and experiences with farming and soil health as the basis for their business and educational outreach. Janet and Sylvie discuss how they use the core principles of soil health but also composting, permaculture, forest farming, and food recovery to capture carbon and decrease our carbon and ecological footprints. They elaborate on specific practices they use to keep the soil covered and maximize living roots as they grow more than fifty diverse vegetable crops but also how they are working with their peers and classmates.

To learn about Broadfork Farm's and Teens Acting for Carbon Capture's (TACC) ongoing work with soil health, vegetable production, and their educational efforts on climate resilience and mitigation, please visit their websites at https://broadforkfarm.net/ and https://tacc.earth/.

Episode 22 - 10: Passion and Progress in Moving the Soil Health Needle with Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matt Lohr

In the episode, Virginia's Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matt Lohr shares his passion and perspective on soil health, conservation, and the future of farming. As a fifth-generation Virginia poultry and beef farmer, Secretary Lohr sees the progress farmers are making to move the needle and build soil health to benefit water quality, agricultural production, and climate resilience, specifically with cover cropping, crop rotations, conservation tillage, and farmer-to-farmer mentoring. Virginia farmers are doing well but farmers and all of us can do our part and do better. Education, outreach, and peer-to-peer learning continue to be important to make people aware of what financial, technical, and educational assistance is available at the local, state, and federal levels. Secretary Lohr also reiterates that new and beginning farmers should not go it alone but realize mentors and resources are available to help aspiring farmers learn and succeed.

To learn more about Virginia's commitment to supporting rural economic development, preserving farmland and forestland across the state, and priorities to ensure that all Virginians, especially those who are most vulnerable, have access to safe, healthy foods, , please visit the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry's website at https://www.ag-forestry.virginia.gov/

Episode 22 - 9: From Playing in Dirt to a Soil Ecology Career with Dr. Alan J. Franzluebbers of North Carolina State University and USDA-ARS

Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt spoke with Dr. Alan Franzluebbers at the 2022 Winter Forage Conference. Dr. Franzluebbers is a professor and researcher of soil ecology and management with North Carolina State University and USDA's Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) based in Raleigh. Alan played in the dirt at a young age and this early interest grew into a lifelong career in studying and researching soil microbial life. He speaks of how important soil organic matter and biology are to nutrient cycling and how earthworms are an indicator of resources for decomposition being present. Additionally, he encourages a whole-system view of agriculture to enhance diversity to improve soil structure and overall ecosystem activity.

Dr. Franzluebbers recommended 'Managing Cover Crops Profitably' published by USDA-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) to anyone interested in learning about cover cropping systems and soil health, which is a free online publication available at https://www.sare.org/resources/managing-cover-crops-profitably-3rd-edition/

For a list of Dr. Franzluebbers' recent research articles, please visit https://cals.ncsu.edu/crop-and-soil-sciences/people/ajfranzl. If you specifically want to learn more about multispecies cover cropping and agroecology, the following articles are particularly pertinent: 
Multispecies cover cropping promotes soil health in no-tillage cropping systems of North Carolina
Focusing the future of farming on agroecology

Episode 22- Earth Day Special: Nurturing Soil Health and Seeding Justice across Generations with Karen Washington of Rise and Root Farm

In celebration and recognition of Earth Day 2022, Mary Sketch Bryant, Eric Bendfeldt, and Jeff Ishee share a deeply meaningful and inspiring conversation with Karen Washington of Rise and Root Farm about soil health, intergenerational knowledge, and heeding nature's wisdom. Karen recalls how planting a tomato seed changed her life and introduced her to nature, land, and soil. She emphasizes the importance of having hard conversations about eating healthy so people and communities are all part of the solution and meet people where they are with soil health and environmental justice. There is room for everyone to grow food. 

Additionally, Karen Washington encourages all of us but especially the youth to sit down with our grandparents and parents to understand history, capture the intergenerational knowledge, and listen to Mother Nature. What is nature telling us about soil health and the environment? What do previous generations know about soil health and nature? In the end, Mother Nature can guide us in what is needed; sometimes that means stopping and listening to the land and soil.

To learn more about Karen Washington and her ongoing work, please visit https://www.riseandrootfarm.com/. We also encourage you to check out the new 4 The Soil blog at https://www.4thesoil.org/blog

Episode 22-8: Soil Health as a Passion and Responsibility with Thomas Bolles of Virginia Cooperative Extension

Thomas Bolles of Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Master Gardener Program joins Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt on this episode of 4 The Soil: A Conversation. Thomas is an extension agent for agriculture and natural resources based in Prince William County and works with homeowners, gardeners, farmers, landscapers, and the community. He shares how soil health should be a passion and a responsibility for everyone. He encourages everyone to test their soils on a regular basis to get a baseline and be able to understand the trends in soil fertility and health. A baseline and trendline allow everyone to know when nutrients and soil amendments such as compost might be needed. Whether growing a lawn, tending a garden, managing cropland or a pasture, a good ground cover for soil health can maximize solar energy and maximize the overall function of the ecosystem from the soil up. Thomas also offers insights and advice on compost, use of clovers as a nitrogen source, soil testing, and ways to diversify your soil health management.

Thomas recently wrote an Extension publication guide to help homeowners understand and interpret a soil test report. The publication includes best management practices for improving and maintaining healthy soils in the garden and landscape. The guide and additional resources are available through Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Episode 22-7: Nourishing Soil and Human Health with Nicolette Hahn Niman author of Defending Beef Part II

Eric Bendfeldt and Jeff Ishee visit with Nicolette Hahn Niman author of Defending Beef at the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council's Annual Conference in part two of their conversation on the strong relationship between soil health and human health. Nicolette is an environmental law attorney, a former vegetarian activist turned cattle rancher, and author of Defending Beef: The Ecological and Nutritional Case for Meat. Nicolette points out that healthy soil is one with diverse microbiological activity with earthworms, insects, microbes, bacteria, and fungi. Similarly, people need a balanced diverse nutrient-rich diet that provides nourishment for a healthy active lifestyle. Nicolette emphasizes we can learn from nature and do less tinkering with natural systems to focus on principles, practices, and real whole foods that are truly nourishing for soil, animals, and humans.

For more information about sustainable and regenerative grazing in Virginia, please visit https://vaforages.org/ and check out Nicolette’s new book and her case for sustainable grazing and livestock care at your local bookstore.

Episode 22-6: Healthy Soils, Healthy Ecosystems, and Healthy People with Nicolette Hahn Niman author of Defending Beef Part I

This episode was recorded live at the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council’s 2022 Annual Conference. Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt talked with conference guest speaker Nicolette Hahn Niman. Nicolette is an environmental law attorney, a former vegetarian activist turned cattle rancher, and author of Defending Beef: The Ecological and Nutritional Case for Meat. In part one of this conversation, Nicolette discusses how raising livestock sustainably through rotational grazing systems that mimic nature can lead to healthier animals, communities, landscapes, and soils. Raising, managing, and integrating livestock is an essential ingredient to energize the system with diversity, which is a core soil health principle.

For more information about sustainable and regenerative grazing in Virginia, please visit https://vaforages.org/ and check out Nicolette’s new book and her case for sustainable grazing and livestock care at your local bookstore.

Episode 22-5: Soil Health and Food Justice with Karen Washington of Rise and Root Farm

In this episode, Mary Sketch Bryant, Jeff Ishee, and Eric Bendfeldt have a conversation with Karen Washington of Rise and Root Farm.  Karen Washington was the recipient of the 2014 James Beard Leadership Award and continues to work for food justice, community change, and the overall wellness of the planet for everyone. She shares about the deeply rooted connections of soil health to power, dignity, racial justice, community, and a sense of belonging. As a physical therapist and grower, she reflects on the impact of soil fertility on where people live, where people play, and where people eat. Good soil means good health. Soil is alive and can reconnect people to the history and intergenerational knowledge of agriculture as a starting point for cross-pollinating greater understanding and wellbeing.

To learn more about Karen Washington and her ongoing work, please visit https://www.riseandrootfarm.com/. We also encourage you to follow the four core principles of soil health and take the 4 The Soil pledge at https://www.4thesoil.org/take-the-pledge.html

Episode 22-4: Investing in Soil Health, Balancing Soil Fertility -- Robert Shoemaker of Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation

In this episode, Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt speak with Robert Shoemaker, nutrient management specialist with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Robert discusses the work of DCR in partnering with agricultural producers across the state, the intersection of soil health and water quality, and some of the conservation practices that DCR works with farmers to implement that build healthy soils and protect the watershed. He also shares the role of soil testing in understanding the state of your soil fertility “bank account” and the need to monitor withdrawals and deposits.

For more information about the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Division of Soil and Water Conservation visit https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/  and to learn more about the 47 soil and water conservation districts visit http://www.vaswcd.org/.

Episode 22-3: Learning from History...and Soil Tests with Dr. Rory Maguire of Virginia Tech

In this episode, Jeff Ishee and Mary Sketch talk with Dr. Rory Maguire, professor at Virginia Tech in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and the supervisor of the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Lab. Rory discusses his background in agriculture in Ireland, the complexity of soil in Virginia, and the importance of testing your soils. He also shares his appreciation for American history, particularly the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and what the expedition and history have to teach us today.

Find out more about soil testing and how to get your soil tests at https://www.soiltest.vt.edu/. Don’t forget to share your support for healthy soil by signing the pledge at https://www.4thesoil.org/.

Episode 22-2: Better Soil Health Increases Productivity with John Piotti of American Farmland Trust

In this episode, we talk with Chief Executive Officer John Piotti of the American Farmland Trust about how soil health can increase productivity and provide other benefits like the storing of carbon. Additionally, we talk about regenerative agriculture, climate change, pollinator habitat, and 'the silver lining' of healthy soils in mitigating increasing challenges to agriculture and the planet. John reiterates there are different case studies, tools, and practices that can help each farm improve the health of their soil. Technical educational service, good information, and financial assistance can be critical.

For more information about American Farmland Trust, please visit https://farmland.org/ We would also encourage you to visit the Virginia Soil Health Coalition's website for additional technical and educational resources on soil health and other farming practices at https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/

Episode 22-1: Building Cultural Soil with Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman's Community of Businesses Part 2 

In this episode, Jeff Ishee, Eric Bendfeldt, and Mary Sketch continue their conversation with Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s Delicatessen and Community of Businesses. In Part 2, Ari builds on his metaphor of building our cultural soils, discussing the importance of playing the long game of fostering a healthy organizational ecosystem. To read Ari's recent reflections on the metaphor, please visit https://www.zingtrain.com/blog/the-importance-of-organizational-culture/  

Episode 21-6: Rooted in and Tied to Love and Care -- Virginia's Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring

In this episode, Mary Sketch of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition and Jeff Ishee of On the Farm Radio talk with Virginia's Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring who shares her love for and tie to nature, forests, and soils; and how that love and those connections made a difference in her trajectory and career. Secretary Ring was introduced to gardening and nature by her grandparents and parents and the connections they made for her to land, water, and soil. Secretary Ring admits that she would "nerd out" on soil early on in her life because she was so intrigued with the biology and the science of soil formation. Her knowledge of soil provided a solid foundation for her career as a state forester, urban forester, natural resource conservationist, and secretary for agriculture and forestry.

Thinking long-term, we want to eliminate erosion and keep soil in place. Secretary Ring says we all need to be soil keepers and take the 4 The Soil pledge for the future of the Commonwealth and for a healthy viable economy.

To do your part as a soil keeper, take the pledge at https://www.4thesoil.org/#Pledge

Episode 21-5: Caring for the Organizational Ecosystem and Soil with Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman's Community of Businesses Part 1 

In this episode, Jeff Ishee, Eric Bendfeldt, and Mary Sketch speak with Ari Weinzweig, CEO and co-founder of Zingerman’s Delicatessen and Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor Michigan. Ari is a successful entrepreneur, leader, writer, and visionary. In this episode, we move away from the technical aspects of soil health and hear from Ari on how healthy organizations are like healthy soils. In his thinking and writing, Ari explores and explains why cultural soil health is important to an organization's ecosystem and the broader community, particularly as people seek to better align their lives and values.

Episode 21-4: Soil Health Management: From Soil Judging to Gleaning with Dr. John Galbraith Part 2 

In this episode, Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt continue with part two of their conversation with Dr. John Galbraith, a renowned soil scientist at Virginia Tech in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. In Part 2, John shares his expertise and perspective on soil health management based on leading and mentoring the Virginia Tech Soil Judging Team and his role in growing vegetables as part of a gleaning initiative to meet community needs in the New River Valley Region of Virginia. Did you know that Virginia Tech's Soil Judging Team has won six National Championships and finished in second place five times? If you are interested in a career in agriculture or horticulture, you will want to hear and learn more about soil judging from Dr. Galbraith. Similarly, if you are not familiar with the concept of gleaning, you will want to tune in to the conversation.

Remember to visit www.4TheSoil.org to sign the pledge today and access more resources on soil health!

For additional information about soil judging and gleaning, please visit the following sites:
https://gobblerconnect.vt.edu/organization/soiljudging
https://localwiki.org/bburg/New_River_Valley_Glean_Team
https://endhunger.org/virginia/

Episode 21-Special 1: The Wisdom and Soil Health Insights of Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

In this episode, Ira Wallace shares about the importance of soil health to vegetable and food production, but specifically how soil health is relevant to seed saving, heirloom varieties, and land ownership. Mary Sketch and Jeff Ishee share their own excitement about different seed and heirloom varieties ranging from peanuts to kale. You can also learn how Ira and her colleagues at Southern Exposure Seed Exposure started to build soil health and renovate the soils early on in the history of their farming operation, which included multi-year cover cropping rotations and never leaving the soil bare during a fallow between crops.  

Episode 21-3: What in the World is Pamunkey Soil? The Many Soil Types of Virginia with Dr. John Galbraith Part I

In this episode, Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt speak with Dr. John Galbraith, who is a renowned soil scientist at Virginia Tech in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. John discusses his background in agriculture and how he became a student and teacher of soil science, while he explores the diverse soil types found across the state (including the Virginia state soil!), and touches on the different soil characteristics. Remember to visit www.4TheSoil.org to sign the pledge today and access more resources on soil health!

Episode 21-2: Health from the Soil Up: A Conversation with Chris Lawrence of USDA-NRCS

In this episode, Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt talk with Chris Lawrence, State Cropland Agronomist with Virginia Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Chris discusses how the soil works for all of us and the importance of taking care of and respecting it by following the four principles of soil health. Virginia NRCS and Chris Lawrence first started the Virginia Soil Health Coalition in 2013 to increase communication and promote consistency around soil health. You can find more information about Virginia NRCS and soil health in Virginia at the NRCS website. And don’t forget to check out the two books recommended in today’s episode: Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David Montgomery and The Worst Hard Times by Timothy Egan. 

Episode 21-1: Why Soil Health? Why a Podcast?

In the inaugural episode of “4 The Soil: A Conversation,” host Jeff Ishee sits down with Eric Bendfeldt, Community Viability Specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Mary Sketch, Coordinator of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition. Mary and Eric have been working through Virginia Cooperative Extension and with partners of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to launch the 4TheSoil Awareness Initiative. The initiative seeks to raise awareness of soil as a critical resource and get people to see themselves as important stewards of the land and soil. In this episode, they discuss why everyone should care about soil health and why they are launching a podcast to help increase awareness. For more information on the 4 The Soil Awareness Initiative and the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, please visit www.4TheSoil.org and www.virginiasoilhealth.org