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Soils of a verdant land

Soil is not dead dirt. Soil is alive—a whole ecosystem of minerals, organic matter and living organisms. Indeed there is more living biomass in the soil than above ground. 

Good soil is precious. Farmers and gardeners know where it is. We all need to discover it. 

Restoring urban fertility<br />At the six-acre Ohio City Farm, urban farmers are building healthy soil in the middle of the Cleveland.Houses are the final crop<br />Ohio's prime farmland is a vital resource, but it must compete with urban sprawl.

 Thinking about soils in Northeast Ohio

Soil scientists have identified more than 400 different types of soil in Ohio, varying according to composition (proportion of sand, silt and clay particles), structure, thickness of layers and depth to bedrock, fertility, pH, drainage, slope and other factors. The differences can matter a lot. The particular soil under your feet can determine what you can grow, whether you can sensibly build a house, or whether a septic system should or should not be installed. Your local soils may even affect your nutrition if you eat locally grown foods or boost your immune system if you inhale or ingest certain soil-borne bacteria. 

When thinking about the quality of soils in Northeast Ohio, a number of questions arise:

  • Are we conserving good soils as a regional resource that will support a rapidly developing local food system? (Go here for more about the agenda for a local food system.)
  • Are we protecting the region's special soils, such as the ones that support the high-value nursery production in Lake County?
  • Are we linking soil and water? For instance, are we restoring hard-packed urban soils so they can retain more water and help solve the region's stormwater problems? In our building and farming practices, are we preventing erosion and reducing the sediment pollution that harms streams and Lake Erie?

In the future, such questions about the quality of soil will be an increasing part of planning for long-term sustainability.

Soil conservation

For more information about soil conservation programs where you live, check out your county Soil & Water Conservation District:



Already in the national mythology by Tocqueville's time, New England was known to be stony, stingy ground, with short growning seasons and withering winters; the South was thin-soiled, poor in minerals, with a fitful prosperity that depended on slavery; the far West was mountainous and dry; while the Midwest was loamy and moist and luxuriant.
—Scott Russell Sanders, Writing from the Center

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