What comes to your mind when you see this picture? To most people, there isn’t much thought at all, it’s just dirt. A source of endless laundry cleaning and floor mopping. After all, that’s how most of us interact with it.
It’s funny how we’ve developed such a negative connotation around it. After all, it’s nothing more than something that makes a mess to most. When something’s no longer clean, we refer to it as dirty or soiled, even if there isn’t a single particle of actual soil on it. Funny, considering that without the soil to grow crops that feed us or the grass that feeds the livestock that feed us, we’d cease to exist.
The picture above…this is special soil; not because of its chemical composition or physical properties, but because we’ve got a lot of history with it. This particular soil is the first soil we farmed when started out, a small patch of ground Greta’s father had gardened in the past that he let us use. It’s been home to countless crops over the past few years; three different ones in the past nine months alone (spinach, tomatoes and lettuce…if you’re wondering). It’s been not only home to crops, weeds (way too many at times) and cover crops, but to two hoophouses. We’ve meticulously, albeit grudgingly, picked up tiny pieces of shredded plastic from it after a storm on Christmas Eve a few years ago demolished the first hoophouse. We’ve carefully rationed nearly 50 gallons of water on this little one square foot patch of ground over the years and have nurtured it with everything from compost, alfalfa meal, greenstone and lime to peat moss, feather meal, bone meal and potassium sulfate, growing it to over 3% organic matter from the sandy 1.8% it started with.
Standing on this little patch of ground, we’ve been overjoyed at how good lettuce looked, discouraged at all the downy mildew that overtook the spinach and in utter despair wondering how we would ever afford to rebuild the hoophouse and keep moving forward. Needless to say, we’ve learned how to begin to be farmers on this ground.
Right now, it currently sits empty, tucked away in our largest hoophouse awaiting next year’s big plans. We pulled the lettuce remnants from it a few weeks ago; so, for now, it rests. It rests until March when we ask it, yet again, to do the miraculous…with the help of some water and sunshine, turn a tiny seed into a delicious tomato, thousands of times its initial size. As much history as we have with it, right now it’s a blank slate. It’s opportunity. It’s hopes and plans, aspirations and goals.
Many of you have probably walked on some of this very ground and not even known it during our farm tours; you’ve eaten tomatoes that it’s grown and shared in the lost opportunity of crops that just weren’t meant to be as nature taught us another thing or two about farming.
This is what local farming is all about; developing our own connection to our place in the world, and these are the journeys that you join us on, even if you don’t always know it.
And because I’m more of a numbers guy than a words guy, here’s a little food for thought…
There are more microbes in a single teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth, upwards of a million different species in a single gram, weighing in at up to 6 tons per acre. For what it’s worth, we cultivate around 1.1 billion teaspoons of soil each year; we’ll let you do that math!