As part of Farmshed CNY’s 2012 IndieGoGo crowd funding campaign, we’re giving away a lot of different rewards, everything from soil samples donated by local organic farms to a two-day guided agritour of farms and food producers in Central New York and Finger Lakes.
While there was an element of chance to some of our rewards – in particular, the mid-level rewards of food products taken in trade for advertising in the Farmshed CNY Directory – we knew from the very start that we wanted soil to be our basic reward.
Why? Because we’ve learned a lot about successful, small-scale organic farming since we founded Farmshed CNY back in 2010, and we’ve come to realize that what makes organic farming so productive, and so very different from large-scale industrial agriculture, is the care taken to create, maintain and improve the soil.
We’ve come to appreciate the fact that organic soil is something very special. So we don’t take lightly the donations of topsoil by local organic farms, or see our basic “Natural”-level reward – which is available to anyone who contributes $10.00 or more to our campaign – as something cheap or gimmicky. The farmers who donated soil worked very hard to preserve and improve it, a slow, incremental process that can take years to complete, which can be undone in a matter of hours by inclement weather.
One of the longer-lasting tragedies of last year’s Hurricanes Irene and Lee is the amount of topsoil washed away or contaminated by runoff on farms in the Catskills, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier. While crop losses received the most attention, the longer-term damage caused by erosion and the loss of topsoil, and by contamination from chemicals, waste and runoff, has left thousands of acres of farmland unsuitable for organic farming.
So we’d like to ask you to take a minute to think about soil, because what appears simple and mundane is in fact incredibly complex and extraordinary.
Soil is not dirt, as any organic gardener will tell you. It is a complex, living ecosystem containing inorganic, mineral-based material – dirt, pebbles, rock – and organic matter – bacteria and microorganisms, fungi, plant matter, insects, worms and worm casings, animal remains and excrement, etc. Conscientious organic farmers like our friends Amy and Brian Musician at Alambria Springs Farm, and Alison Frost at Frosty Morning Farm – who were the first farms to donate soil to our IndieGoGo campaign – are constantly testing and amending the mineral content and pH levels, composting, encouraging the growth of mychorrhizal fungi, and so on, in an ongoing effort to maintain and improve the fertility of their topsoil.
They know, and we want you to appreciate, how important topsoil is to successful, organic farming. That’s why they’ve donated, and we’re giving away, soil samples from their farms as our basic IndieGoGo reward.
Take a minute to think about that. For a $10.00 donation, you can add a bit of their farm to your garden, where it will encourage the growth of microorganisms, add to the fertility of your soil, and create a lasting, living connection between their farm and your garden. That’s why we’re also including soil test results, if possible, with the soil samples, as well as information about the farm and farmers who donated the soil.
For more information on soil, we recommend the following on-line resources:
Natural Resources Conservation Service: The Soil Biology Primer
ISRIC – World Soil Information Database
Washington State University Puyallup, Soil Information for Gardeners
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Dig It! The Secrets of Soil Exhibition
We also recommend the following books:
Sir Albert Howard, The Soil and Health: A Study of Organic Agriculture (published 1945, reprinted 2007)
Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis, Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web (2010)