By Sophie Bishop
Healthy soil is the foundation for a healthy life. It’s where our roots begin to strengthen our bond to nature. Sadly, with poor land usage, our top soil is eroding away and becoming less viable for plants and microorganisms. On March 20, 2019 the New Prague YES! team and the Sleepy Eye YES! team attended an event at Gustavus Adolphus College (GAC) to learn about soil health sponsored by the Rydell Foundation. David Montgomery, a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington, spoke on how we are changing soil and how changing a few things about our agriculture system can restore it. A few ways we are taking away the fertile top soil include tilling, growing the same crop, and leaving the soil exposed to the elements. It is easy to see the difference between healthy and unhealthy soil; fertile soil is a dark brown and is able to hold more moisture. Some ways that increase soil fertility are by not tilling, fertilizing with compost, using less fertilizer, having grazers in your fields, planting cover crops, and rotating crops.
After David’s presentation, the students were split up into three different groups. The first group and the second group went on similar tours, but opposite. They all climbed up one of the buildings to see the thermal and PV solar panels. Then the students went on a journey of compost starting with the cafeteria leftovers. Compost starts with the leftover scraps from the GAC cafeterias, then is put in their compost waiting bin inside the building, it makes its way down to the industrial composter, and then into a building behind the composter in which it stays in a pile for 1-2 months until it is finally usable compost. Sleepy Eye wants to start looking into getting a composter for their school.
The third group went with Climate Generation’s, Kira Liu. She made the connection between soil health and climate change through doing an activity in which the students created an action project plan to encourage their community to compost.
Throughout the day, students saw that everything starts with healthy soil and that we can change the ways in which we do things to make our soil work for us. Now is the time to start making these changes for a better future. New Prague and Sleepy Eye are using what they have learned from this workshop to work on projects in their communities.