Digging to find real secrets of soil


I recently went to watch one of my best friends perform in the play The Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever at the Little Theater in Tuscarawas County. I remembered one of my grade school teachers reading that story to our class years ago and knew that I had really liked it, but hadn’t seen the play or read the story since.

Long story short, the Herdman kids were the town ruffians who bullied the other kids, stole their lunches, and even smoked cigars. There was a Herdman kid in every class at school, and they generally spread terror amongst the “good” kids.

One of the “good” kids, whose dessert was being stolen from his lunch bag, made the error of telling one of the Herdman boys that cookies and other goodies were always served in Sunday school, and he could get more whenever he wanted.

Well, guess what, the Herdmans all showed up the next Sunday and bullied their way into the Christmas pageant. Chaos ensued in a hilarious unfolding of events that produced a Christmas pageant like no other.

But in the end, everybody understood the true meaning of Christmas, including the Herdmans. In the closing scene, they offered the best of what they had, which included a Christmas ham, obviously a valuable commodity in a household that didn’t have enough to send lunches or lunch money with the kids to school.

We take it for granted

Food, and even more so, the soil it comes from, is something we take for granted when times are good.

Most people do not stop to consider that healthy soil is necessary to meet our most basic needs — food, water, clothing, and shelter.

I like to point out to students during classroom presentations that only when these basic necessities are met can we focus on entertainment, art, and other leisure time activities. I ask them to imagine if, as a society, we had to spend a good part of the day hunting and growing food and finding the fuel we need to cook it — would we have the energy and time to invent and use things like TV, iPhones, iPads, Xbox, and a dizzying array of other toys that we think we can’t live without?

The value of soil health is an increasingly important topic to farmers and conservationists. According to our federal partners at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), managing for soil health is one of the easiest and most effective ways for farmers to increase crop productivity and profitability while improving the environment.

Understanding how healthy soil functions and incorporating that knowledge into management principles has gone from an “out there” concept to real results.

Along those lines, NRCS has recently released a campaign called Unlock the Secrets in the Soil. There are videos and fact sheets geared to farmers to increase soil health through Soil Health Management Systems. Check out the website at www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/soils/health/ or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District/NRCS office for more information.

As I reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and the many blessings in my life, I’d like to say thank you to all the farmers out there who are keeping the soil healthy and our refrigerators full, so that we can enjoy lives of abundance.



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Michelle Wood is the program administrator for the Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a graduate of Mount Union College with a degree in communications, and has been involved in natural resources and agriculture throughout her career.



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