Soil is much more than the dirt below your feet.

This critical, finite resource stores carbon and water, provides habitat for billions of organisms and is the foundation of all food production. Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service are teaming up with the Virginia Soil Health Coalition to raise awareness for soil health and show more Virginians why they should be “4TheSoil.”

The 4TheSoil campaign kicks off on Wednesday, June 23 – National Soil Health Day. This celebration recognizes soil professionals, farmers, and growers who are focused not only on conservation but also on feeding and enhancing our global soil health.

4TheSoil emphasizes four soil health principles that Natural Resources Conservation Service and state partners have promoted to conservation and farming communities for nearly ten years. These are keeping soil covered, minimize soil disturbance, maximize living roots, and energize with diversity.

Campaign organizers will use a new website and digital media to heighten general soil health awareness and encourage Virginia farmers and residents to adopt the four principles. Website visitors can pledge their support for soil health and these fundamental practices.

This partnership effort will also highlight what Virginians are doing to care for the soil and other critical resources with a goal of nurturing a stewardship ethic that will produce an overall win-win-win for Virginia’s agriculture, communities, and the environment.

“The 4TheSoil Awareness launch really meets people where they are,” said Mary Sketch, Virginia Soil Health Coalition coordinator. “It provides a platform and bridge for diverse partners to come together around the importance of healthy soils for our farms, landscapes, and communities.”

The four principles of soil health management distill the basics of soil science into an easy-to-do and applicable approach.

“Soil science can be complicated, but better soil management doesn’t need to be,” added Virginia NRCS Cropland Agronomist Chris Lawrence. “We’ve learned that keeping things simple is key. That’s the genius of the 4TheSoil message. If you can remember four key principles – just 12 words – you’re well on your way to understanding how to take better care of one of our most precious resources.”

Virginia Cooperative Extension Director Ed Jones said, “As we work to provide a sustainable food supply and adapt to a changing climate, soil health and management is of critical importance. It is encouraging to have these partners come together, each has unique contributions and together we can make a significant gain in soil health.”

Soil and water are the basis for all of human, animal, and plant life, said Danny Boyer of Four Winds Farm. “We need to sustain soil and water for ourselves and for future generations. Therefore, we all need to be ‘4TheSoil.’”

The following agencies and organizations, along with many other statewide partners, have also signed on to support this effort: Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Virginia Tech’s Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation, Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Program, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia Association for Biological Farming, Virginia Forage and Grassland Council, Virginia No-Till Alliance, and Common Grain Alliance.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Agua Fund have provided funding for this campaign.

Contact Eric Bendfeldt at 540-232-6006 or Mary Sketch at 919-402-7241 with questions about this initiative and how to participate in this effort.

- Written by Eric Bendfeldt

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