Soil that Serves is a partnership opportunity for registered nonprofits, community gardens, and farm-to-school programs to join the roots of the food and education movement and receive our lowest soil cost opportunity. We encourage groups to apply that are creating changes in their community through education, food security & prioritizing soil and nutrient health.
What if we listened to the land first?
There’s no one way to do things and every piece of land is different. The Montezuma Farm to School Project in Cortez, Colorado puts this into practice as they focus on the intersection of soil health and community health.
Through education, experiential learning, and putting sustainable practices to work with students throughout Montezuma County, their goal continues strong: Get food in the hands of the people that need it and want it, and to rehab public spaces with minimal inputs.
How does it all work? Shovels and pitchforks get the job done. And healthy soil; building in organic matter – it’s the name of the game. When Ben, the Project’s ED, arrived 5 years ago, the soil’s organic matter content was 2%, and now? – It’s nearing 6%. Ben’s goal is to add a .5% increase every year.
It explains why they are able to grow nutrient dense food, focus on resource conservation, and teach hands-on material that teaches students a window into the potential of agriculture; whether learning about seed saving, growing food for market, or food storage and preservation.
With no tillage, and no inputs, they have successfully grown and distributed 5,000 pounds of produce per year between three small production zones:
A ¼ acre production field adjacent to the middle school’s softball field
A 30×50’ high tunnel
Community garden scale plots on their main production zone
What We Learned
Softball Field for Food
MSTFP has been growing food on the shared orchard adjacent to the softball field at the middle school. They figured, if the water is being used on the grass, why not add in something that would produce bounty along the way? So you’ll find apple trees and ¼ acre of food production, teaming with cover crops.
MSTFP treats their growing spaces as living labs, letting students observe changes in their habitats while growing food. A concentration of aphids is worth letting go for a couple of days to observe which kinds and in what amount the predatory insect population return.
This year, MSTFP grew and distributed 5,000 pounds of food to primary sources like the Food Bank of Cortez and to a local school where each week, kids who are often the head of household, take the food that they want at no charge.
Paonia Soil has been a medium Ben and his students use in the greenhouse. With a yard stick, Ben showed us the greenhouse’s soil comparison of where they started and where they are now. Hard, compacted clay at the beginning of a row and midway down the row, the stick sank over 12 inches. They chose Raised Bed Mix to support their production this year, and we can only imagine the water holding capability of their soil is out of this world!