Help Shape Montana’s Soil Health Future

healthy soil

Healthy soil. Photo: Emilie R. Saunders, NCAT

By Linda Poole, Regenerative Grazing Specialist

There’s nothing like a summer of vicious heat, drought, and grasshoppers to focus minds on the vital importance of healthy soil. Soil scientist Wallace Fuller said in 1975, “A cloak of loose, soft material, held to the Earth’s hard surface by gravity, is all that lies between life and lifelessness.”

Across Montana, the summer of 2021 proved again just how crucial and how vulnerable that thin cloak of soil can be. Soil health is foundational to the resilience of land, and thus also to food systems, human health, and ecosystem function. In light of current weather, financial and societal disruptions, what challenges do Montana ag producers face in building soil health and resilience?

Through July 2022, the Montana Association of Conservation Districts, Montana Watershed Coordination Council and partners, including the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) are reaching out across the state to ask: What more might be done to better support farmers and ranchers in managing soils in Montana?

We want to hear from you! Help us understand ag needs and opportunities by completing a confidential online survey. Complete one or both surveys there: a five-minute version to capture key thoughts plus a detailed version to provide more context and depth to your responses.

We know you’re busy, so we’re offering several options to better fit your time and level of interest. In addition to the surveys, we’ll also be reaching out via regional listening sessions, one-on-one contacts, and presentations at various conferences, including the Montana Organic Conference in Bozeman, December 2-4.

In August of 2022, we will produce and share a report on what was learned along with recommendations shaped by your responses.. Our purpose is to help increase the pace and scale at which land stewards implement voluntary practices and systems to maintain and improve soils, and to strengthen the economic and ecological vitality of agriculture in Montana.

If this topic is a big one for you, we welcome your participation in our periodic planning meetings. These discussions are held virtually and are facilitated by Cole Mannix. To sign up or for more information, you can reach Cole at exploringsoil@macdnet.org. We hope you’ll join us in this important effort.

This blog is produced by the National Center for Appropriate Technology through the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program, under a cooperative agreement with USDA Rural Development. ATTRA.NCAT.ORG.