Soil #1

Last week I drove from Boulder to Nebraska to learn about animal feed and grain farming. Everywhere I go I touch the ground, reach into it and grab soil. I squeeze it, rub it, smell it, and often taste it, hold it to the light, contemplate its origin and quality. There is an art to feeling soil. There are textbooks on it. I learned how at Virginia Tech in Jim Burger's notorious 'Forest Soils' course, a 3-credit course that required 20 hours of work each week. For my final exam I had to crawl into a soil pit and delineate horizons, pedogenic processes, edaphic properties. Though quite scientific, the vertical beauty of a soil reveals the complex chromatography of weathering and organisms working the crust of the Earth into ecological cycles.⠀

Here I'm holding a handful of soil on the tablelands south of Sydney, NE. It was derived from weakly concreted sandstone from an ancient ocean and loess (windblown sediments). This is what soil scientists call a Mollisol, the most fertile of ground: all of it under cultivation. This particular type of Mollisol is called 'Rosebud', a beautiful name. This handful of soil has unfortunately experienced an onslaught of chemicals, with names like 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and atrazine, applied in an effort to keep weeds down in vast fields of monoculture grains. As far as my eyes could see, the high prairie has been turned into a sheet of grains. ⠀

Despite being mistreated for decades, it was wonderful to hold. I was surprised by its tone, texture, moisture and organic content. Standing there, looking down that long road cut across the prairie, I was reminded of how industrial agriculture strives to make everything uniform, linear and straightforward. It doesn't consider place. The road to a better, more resilient food system is far more tortuous, diverse and unknown. One thing is straightforward, we must treat the soil well. It holds both power and potential. Its where life derives and returns.⠀
@whendeesilver @wholesystemsdesign@kissthegroundca @kimbalmusk@batch64 @blackcatboulder@lineageseeds @youngfarmers@patagoniaprovisions

Philip TaylorComment