On November 14th, 2023, a cohort of over 50 individuals with a shared passion for soil health convened at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) Farm for the Soil Health Training for Technical Assistance Providers. Hailing from diverse professional backgrounds, these participants, driven by a shared commitment to understanding the intricacies of soil health, gathered for the day-long training to enhance their knowledge and expertise.
The training was located on the VYCC farm, where there are examples of diverse soil types, representative of the Vermont landscape. The event kicked off with a warm welcome from Lauren Weston, Franklin County NRCD’s District Manager. Charles Williamson, a projects coordinator with the Franklin County NRCD, provided a brief overview of soil formation factors, health principles, and Vermont-specific soil characteristics. Next, the participants got ready for a hands-on soil-sampling activity, where they ventured into the fields, navigating the farm's varied soil types to collect samples—an immersive experience that underscored the practical aspects of soil health.
The VYCC farm, with its varied landscape, served as an ideal setting for this educational training. The groups gathered at different soil types in order to bring a diverse learning experience to the event. Once in the different fields, the participants shared their wide diversity of professional backgrounds—each contributing unique educational backgrounds and experiences. This diversity enriched discussions, particularly during field assessments, where participants delved into the farm's historical human land use context. Once their conversations outside wrapped up, the participants returned to the farm barn for a breakdown of organic matter.
UVM Extension Agronomy and Soils Specialist, Heather Darby, began her presentation, discussing the nuances of soil organic matter. Her presentation delved into the pivotal role of organic matter in soil health, equipping participants who serve as technical assistance providers with practical tips and knowledge. Dr. Darby explained how the differences in types of organic matter influence the microbiome and the resources that the fungi and bacteria depend upon.
The afternoon started with another group activity where participants rotated between soil science education stations hosted by Soil Health Advisory Group members from organizations such as UVM Extension, USDA-NRCS, Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, and American Farmland Trust, and others. These stations explored various facets of soil health, providing a holistic understanding of the subject. Participants rotated through these stations, gaining insights into soil structure intricacies, the significance of organic matter, and strategies for effective water and soil management. Microscopes, rainfall simulators, bulk density cores, penetrometers, vegetative cover measurement apps, and colored dyes were all used to explore soil microbiology, soil carbon measurements, cation exchange capacity, and more.
This in person workshop for the soil health training marked the beginning of a collaborative initiation into the foundational aspects of soil knowledge. Participants, sharing experiences and building a common foundation, are ready to support the land stewards they assist in their different professions.
Thank you to the VYCC farm for hosting this event and for all who came to learn with us. We are looking forward to the beginning of the winter webinar series on December 5th. To learn more, please visit: https://www.franklincountynrcd.org/soilhealth
This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) under assistance agreement (LC-00A00981-0) to NEIWPCC in partnership with the Lake Champlain Basin Program. NEIWPCC manages LCBP's personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks and provides input on the program's activities through a partnership with the LCBP. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of NEIWPCC, the LCBP, or the U.S. EPA, nor does the NEIWPCC, the LCBP or the U.S. EPA endorse trade names or recommend the use of commercial products mentioned in this document.