Working the soil good for body and soul


By Kathleen Vrable-Bryan and Blaine Winger

We hope this article finds those of you reading it healthy and well. These are certainly challenging and uncertain times for our great nation.

For the time being, many of us find our daily routines changed to a new unfamiliar normalcy. If you have the capability, you are now finding new ways to connect with individuals while hunkered down at home or on the farm — phone calls, text messages, social media platforms, forum groups, electronic mail, virtual meeting rooms and internet web pages.

Open for business

With all of the uncertainty these days, there’s still one thing that remains the same: Your local SWCDs are here to assist you. While it may not be in a traditional way, we are open for business.

Many of the local SWCDs have implemented new technical communication venues to help serve their residents during these times. If you don’t have access to the internet, not to fear; most offices are still being manned with staggered and limited personal available to take your resource conservation questions and inquiries. If you’re in need of technical assistance, you can access your local SWCDs from most of the platforms listed above.

A number of other state and federal agencies are available via electronic communication to conduct business in addition to or through your local SWCD (FSA, NRCS, ODNR, ODF and Extension). Be sure to check with these various agencies if you are a current customer, as due to the recent events, many of their agricultural deadlines have been extended and/or postponed.

A number of state and federal organizations are offering free services that were once unattainable or required a service fee. And why are we doing this? If we stick true to our roots, agriculture is at the core of our being.


Here at Mahoning SWCD, we are personally familiar with everything from backyard gardens to 1,000-plus acre farms. In these uncertain days, growing your own food not only provides food stability and security, it also provides a way to connect with family and friends, a learning experience for our children and a sense of accomplishment at harvest.

We can all recall learning about soil preparation, when, where and how to best plant our vegetables and fruits, the care of our farm animals, and harvesting with family and sharing our harvest and recipes with family and friends.

Mental clarity

If you are still working during this pandemic at a job outside of home, coming home to work in the garden or on your land gives one a sense of mental clarity and well-being.

Studies have shown that exposure to harmless soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, can play an important role in developing a healthy immune system and may also boost the production of serotonin which can help battle depression. So, dirt — or soil as we call it — can make you healthy and happy.

Food and pollinator plots

With spring here, if you’re an outdoor enthusiast, now is the time to think about establishing plots for wildlife and pollinators, as well as mineral sites.

Why plant a food plot or pollinator plot? While wildlife adapts to survive on natural foods, food plots can be planted to provide a supplemental food source for wildlife. And while we are stuck a home, it is an opportunity for you and your children or grandchildren to learn about wildlife habitat requirements and for you to develop a management plan for your land.

With the loss of farmland due to residential development, it is more important than ever to combat that habitat loss by planting native vegetation as food sources and resting and nesting sites for our pollinators. Get your children and grandchildren involved as a learning opportunity for them as well.

Not only can you call your local SWCD for information, there are a multitude of websites that pertain to the outdoors, not only from a recreational standpoint, but contain a vast amount of technical information as well.

If you are interested in the aforementioned topics or have an existing resource concern on your farm, be sure to reach out to your local SWCD for technical information and a possible reference to a government-funded program that could assist you with the resource concern at hand.

Rental equipment

Mahoning SWCD is still operating with continued field visit sites, while observing strict social distancing protocol. If this stay at home finds you with extra time on your hands, or if you are at home on the farm as usual, you’ll be glad to know that most SWCD’s have their rental equipment ready to go for spring planting.

Mahoning County residents, your cache of rental equipment from the Mahoning SWCD consists of; a 7-foot Haybuster No Till Drill, a Tufline broadcast spreader & cultivator, and a 25-gallon battery-operated herbicide sprayer with wand and 4′ boom.

Be sure to check out the website for information on these items and other services offered at

Check with your local SWCDs to see about your rental equipment choices and availability. And remember, “We are in this together!”


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