Free soil health workshop


The public is invited to learn about soil health at a free two-part workshop sponsored by the Dukes Soil Conservation District in collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society, Island Grown Initiative, and the Polly Hill Arboretum on Saturday, April 7, from 9 am to 12 noon and 1 pm to 3:30 pm at the M.V. Agricultural Society Hall.

According to a press release, lunch will be provided by Island Grown Initiative for those who preregister by April 2 by emailing Bill Wilcox at

The workshop will be led by Maggie Payne, resource soil scientist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in southeastern Massachusetts, and Dr. Brandon Smith, USDA NRCS soil health specialist. The program is made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

The program will consist of a morning session focused on Vineyard soil types, interpreting soil tests, and a field soil health assessment. The session will end with a rain simulator demonstration of how soil responds to rain under different vegetated conditions.

The afternoon session will focus on the science of organic matter in the soil, mobility of important nutrients, and practices to improve soil health, including cover crops and reduced tillage. There will be a panel discussion of practical implementation of these practices featuring Simon Athearn of Morning Glory Farm, Andrew Woodruff of Whippoorwill Farm, Matthew Dix of North Tabor and Thimble farms, and Dukes Soil Conservation District soil scientists.

The two sessions are intended to relate to and build upon each other, but are standalone presentations, and those interested can attend either or both sessions.

Soil is one of our most valuable resources, along with air quality and water quality, but its significance is often taken for granted. The quality of our soil is a crucial factor in our ground and surface water quality, the particulates in the air, greenhouse gas impacts, sustainability, and biodiversity. Societies that don’t care for their soil have historically suffered badly from the negative feedback of depleted soil. Soil science has outlined the need to feed and protect our soil to enhance its health and productivity. This program will help show the way to gardeners and farmers to think globally and act locally.