The Washington Soil Health Committee is involved in all kinds of advocacy and support for groups doing awesome things across the state! In late February, we co-sponsored an event called the Direct Seed Workshop. Farmers, agricultural experts and concerned citizens came out to Hartline, Washington to hear local speakers remark on Soil Health, Conservation Tillage, Cover Crop Trials, and various other programs.
More than 81 people attended the event–74 were, themselves, growers. The crowd was diverse, representing residents of Grant, Okanogan, Lincoln, Adams, Douglas and Kittitas Counties. Of the five speakers at the event, three are members of Washington State Soil Health Committee.
Of particular interest at the workshop was the Farmed SMART Certification program. Proposed by the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association, the program, when implemented, would allow Direct Seed to audit Farmed Smart producers to improve direct seeding practices. The program is beginning on a small scale on irrigated farms in Grant County.
By popular demand, the Soil Committee will be participating in a Field Day in the Hartline area this July, demonstrating direct seed equipment in action. Stay tuned to the Soil Committee website and social channels for more details.
The first of the five grants awarded by the Soil Health Committee went to Foster Creek, where the Douglas County Soil Monitoring Program is being set up to provide long-term soil testing and monitoring for dryland agriculture in low precipitation areas. This information will then be used in an educational campaign with farmers in the area. Thus far, the Foster Creek Conservation District has formed a partnership with Soil Scientist Tabitha Brown from the Latah Soil and Water Conservation District; Tabitha has agreed to help draft a strategic plan for implementation of the soil testing. There are plans in place to purchase equipment from Dan Harwood of the Palouse Rock Lake Conservation District in order to conduct the tests. Foster Creek is partnering with WSU to develop Soil Health workshops to share their knowledge, and knowledge of best practices for soil health, with the community.
As part of its founding mission and purpose, Washington State Soil Health Committee seeks to promote education, outreach, and facilitation of changes in land use which emphasize healthy soil and sustainable soil practices. In seeking this goal, the committee has awarded five grants to different projects currently in the process of changing land use. The committee sought projects that would demonstrate activities promoting soil health, and focus on conservation planning. Vineyards, forests, farms and pastures around the state will provide the laboratories for groups to test, document and publish strategies for improving soil health. These projects also have drawn in a wide assortment of partners, including WSU, UW School of Environmental Sciences, NRCS, Nisqually River Council, Nisqually Land Trust, Nisqually Tribe, Northwest Resource Group, Microbial Matrix Systems Inc, Domaine Pouillon Vineyard, Dirt Hugger, Forage, and DOE.
It is our hope that the impact of these projects will extend far beyond the parties directly involved, as many of the projects also have an educational component. A project out of Foster Creek is seeking to educate local farmers on best practices for direct seeding with a series of workshops, while several of our other grant project groups will share their findings with local communities, conservation districts, departments of the government, Tribes, and other interested people.
The projects are set to be completed by September 1st of this year–a comparatively short timespan, as the grants were awarded in December 2015. The ambitious crews behind the proposals remain undaunted and vigilantly working. The Soil Committee will be receiving periodic updates on each site. Stay tuned in to the Soil Committee blog and social channels to get the latest on these exciting soil health projects as they unfold and expand over the next few months!