MAY 12, 2020 — In 2019, NACD, in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded funding to the Worcester County Conservation District (CD) in Mass., to help expand its Healthy Soils Initiative into urban areas, providing on-the-ground technical assistance and educational information to farmers, community gardens and backyard gardeners.
Through soil sampling services, many residents in Worcester County improved soil fertility, using responsible fertilizer application. Some customers indicated they would have continued to apply compost and fertilizer unnecessarily if they had not had their soil tested. By partnering with others in the community, Worcester CD was able to give ten workshops, as well as hold a documentary viewing, resulting in increased visibility and new clients for technical assistance and soil sampling.
Ongoing support through technical advice, soil sampling and presentations have been initiated and continue today with partners such as Growing Places Community Gardeners and the Greater Quabbin Food Alliance. The first SoilSHOP event (pictured above) took place at the Fitchburg Farmers Market. This ideal site was located in a dense urban setting with a rich industrial history, allowing for the conservation district to screen soils for toxins such as lead. The SoilSHOP was marketed heavily with staff attending the week prior to remind market-goers to bring their sample.
The event involved an impressive set-up, including a field lab consisting of a handheld portable x-ray fluoroscopy analyzer. Partners from NRCS and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry had personnel on hand, and help was provided by TetraTech, an environmental firm with x-ray fluorescence capacity.
Staff provided a soils training program to nine Envirothon teams in Worcester County, with more than half from environmental justice communities. These students were particularly passionate to learn about the environment around them.
Worcester County CD is encouraged by the increasing interest in soil sampling, and technical assistance requests are building, ranging from urban gardeners and homesteaders to farmers. These services will continue through the conservation district, made possible by continued funding and support from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Learn more about the project on NACD’s website.
Reposted from The NACD Resource