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Soil Sampling at the Farm

How can we optimize the productivity of a landscape while sustaining its vitality for future generations? How do we measure the well-being of the ground we grow food in?  There are countless paths to understanding (and misunderstanding) soil, but one tool that provides a good approximation is a soil health test.

Almost every soil lab these days offers some version of this test.  It boasts various methodologies which illuminate the biological, physical as well as chemical components of a soil sample.  It is important to be intentional about sampling.  Where in the field, how deep, how many samples, what time of year, and which sampling tool, are all critical questions to answer before interpreting test results.  We annually sample every field under our management.  In 2017 we mapped the farm’s soil management zones based on historical use, flooding events, as well as United States Geological Survey (USGS) soil type data. We aggregate hundreds of subsamples from each zone and send the bagged and labeled soil off for soil health analysis at Woods End Laboratories of Augusta, Maine.  Our appreciation for soil’s complexity and mystery deepens with each year of this process. Our hope at the Farm Hub is that these tests also lead to a better understanding of which management practices are right for this landscape.

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