By Nate Birt

Indiana Farmers Seek Soil Health Insights During Perkins’ Good Earth Farm Visit

January 18, 2023

This guest commentary was written by Kevin Allison, urban soil health specialist with the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Indiana. Allison and colleagues participated in a soil health-focused farm tour supported by America’s Conservation Ag Movement (ACAM). Trust In Food organizes ACAM alongside Farm Journal Foundation with financial and technical support from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and many private sector partners. To learn more, visit the Marion County SWCD website and the ACAM website.

In October 2022, SWCD board member and Indy Urban Acres farm manager Tyler Gough, along with his farm staff, joined me for a trip to visit Dan Perkins at Perkins’ Good Earth Farm in DeMotte, Ind. Our goal: seeing and learning about soil health practices on the ground. The tour was so informative that we knew we needed to extend the opportunity to even more Marion County growers.

With much-appreciated funding support from America’s Conservation Ag Movement and USDA’s NRCS, we rented a 15-passenger van and filled it with local farmers for a November 2022 trip back the farm. In addition to being a refreshing break from a season of hard work, outings like these are especially effective for networking and gaining practical information and techniques that we can bring back to our own farms. The SWCD and fellow growers realize the value of seeing productive operations, and we look forward to continuing to organize them.

On May 23, 2023, the SWCD will host a bus trip to visit expert farmer Jesse Frost at Rough Draft Farmstead in Kentucky. If you are a vegetable grower who could benefit from this opportunity, please fill out this form.

Back to the Indiana farm tour for a moment. Photographs from the farm tour, included on this page, show some snapshots of Dan’s approach. One of the key takeaways for me is the dedication to keeping the soil covered at all times. Bare soil has the tendency to degrade, and Dan is circumventing this through strategic use of mulching, cover-cropping and minimizing soil disturbance. If you are interested in this kind of growing system or adding any type of soil health practice to your operation, I can’t help but to keep recommending the book The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm by Daniel Mays. Reach out to me and the SWCD for technical assistance.

Farm tour attendees learn how to use tools effectively during an event hosted by Dan Perkins at Perkins’ Good Earth Farm in DeMotte, Ind. Credit: Kevin Allison/Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District
The DeMotte farm uses diverse mulches including woodchips, shredded leaves, composts and combinations of the three. Credit: Kevin Allison/Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District
Rows of oats and field peas serve as cover crops in this Indiana field. Pathways contain woodchips and other carbonaceous mulches, while growing beds are mulched with composts and leaf mold. Credit: Kevin Allison/Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District

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