• Episode 24 - 12: A Freshly Milled Perspective with Madelyn Smith of the Common Grain Alliance Part II

    4 JUN. 2024 · The aroma of freshly milled and ground grain is distinct and inviting whether in preparing bread, pizza, or a vat of beer. Madelyn Smith of the Common Grain Alliance offers a freshly milled perspective on a range of topics needed to strengthen the regional food system and build the supply of regional grains to meet consumer demand. Madelyn says that bakers and chefs are often the best storytellers of why local grains are so important to their businesses, however, it is often the taste, flavor, and aroma of the food and beverages that create a lasting love and commitment to local and regional grains. The Common Grain Alliance is a growing network of over 120 farmers, millers, bakers, and food businesses throughout Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic Region. For more information about the Common Grain Alliance and the many new video resources on growing and marketing small grains, legumes, and dryland rice, please visit https://www.commongrainalliance.org/ To access the 4 The Soil blog and the more than seventy episodes of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear how you are supporting soil health, local farmers, bakers, chefs, and a stronger regional food system and grain economy. 
    16m 47s
  • Episode 24 - 11: Reinvigorating the Local Grain Economy with Madelyn Smith of the Common Grain Alliance Part I

    21 MAY. 2024 · How can we reinvigorate the local and regional grain economy? What is possible if grain farmers, millers, maltsters, bakers, brewers, pasta makers, educators, and researchers dream and work together? Why are local, high-quality, sustainably raised small grains like rye, oats, and others not more easily available in the Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic Region marketplace? Mary Sketch Bryant, Jeff Ishee, and Eric Bendfeldt speak with Executive Director Madelyn Smith of the Common Grain Alliance (CGA) about these questions and the growing effort to reinvigorate the local grain economy. Madelyn shares her journey of working on conservation and facilitating policy development for soil health and conservation practices. She also shares how CGA started in Virginia and continues growing as a network of over 120 farmers, millers, bakers, and food businesses from southern Pennsylvania to northern North Carolina.   For more information about the Common Grain Alliance, its membership, upcoming gatherings, and shopping for Mid-Atlantic small grains, please visit https://www.commongrainalliance.org/ To access the 4 The Soil blog and the more than seventy episodes of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear how you are diversifying your cropping and farming systems for soil health and a stronger local economy.
    19m 19s
  • Episode 24 - 10: Emulating Nature: The Soil Health Puzzle with Ray Archuleta and Dr. Heather Coiner

    7 MAY. 2024 · Can we emulate nature with our soil health-building systems? Where do local small grains fit in the soil health puzzle? Ray Archuleta of the Soil Health Academy and retired soil health educator with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service discusses why working in concert with nature is important to farming. Ray is a big proponent of no-till farming and putting life back into systems. Tillage disrupts and kills soil fungi and sets the system back. Ray sees food and the health of the soil as medicine and critically intertwined with nature.  Dr. Heather Coiner of the Common Grain Alliance adds to this discussion and shares how small grain crop rotations are another essential piece to the soil health puzzle and biological pathways. In addition, a stronger local grain economy can provide multiple benefits to farmers, communities, and the overall health of people.  For more information about the Soil Health Academy and Common Grain Alliance, please visit their websites at https://soilhealthacademy.org/  and https://www.commongrainalliance.org/ To access the 4 The Soil blog and the more than seventy episodes of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear how you are working with nature and what you are doing to know your farmer in support of local and regional agriculture.
    16m 8s
  • Episode 24 - 9: Community, Dung Beetles, and a Good Steady Rain with Dr. Elizabeth Heilman of Wichita State University Part II

    23 ABR. 2024 · Have you ever been on a walk and observed a dung beetle or two rolling a bit of dung down the path? Have you wondered what conditions make a good steady rain? While many things are out of our control, we can control some things if we are willing to learn and work together as a community. Dr. Elizabeth Heilman, Professor of Education at Wichita State University, elaborates on the power of observation in ecology and farming with Mary Sketch Bryant, Jeff Ishee, and Eric Bendfeldt, specifically as the power of observation relates to weather patterns, peer-to-peer learning, and creating more stable farming systems.  Dr. Heilman shares how a "community of practice" can be a safe place to share experiences and build relationships that can help farmers "balance out the weather cycle" and "reduce drought and flooding."    For a description of Dr. Heilman's teaching, research, and recent publications, please visit https://www.wichita.edu/profiles/academics/applied_studies/School_of_Education/Heilman-Elizabeth.php  For the free soil health resource guides that Dr. Heilman referenced, please visit Green Cover Seeds at https://greencover.com/freeguides/ The tenth edition is currently accessible. Copies of the fifth edition are available in English, French, and Spanish. To access the seventy episodes of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast and additional resources on soil health-building principles, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear how you work to balance the water cycle on your farm, ranch, or garden.
    18m 47s
  • Episode 24 - 8: Calm Your Lizard Down with Dr. Elizabeth Heilman of Wichita State University Part I

    9 ABR. 2024 · Are you resistant to change or risk averse? You may need to calm your lizard down and understand how important safety and security are to change, risk aversion, and the adoption of new behaviors.  Dr. Elizabeth Heilman, Professor of Education at Wichita State University, talks with Mary Sketch Bryant, Jeff Ishee, and Eric Bendfeldt about how our "lizard brains" relate to farming and ranching. For farmers and ranchers, many day-to-day factors (i.e., markets, weather, public policy, etc.) are out of their control. The lack of control can cause stress and anxiety that activate our lizard brains.  In thinking about emotional and environmental ecology, Dr. Heilman shares several strategies for self-care and calming down the anxious parts of our brain and nervous system. The strategies include keeping a done list; a gratitude list; your mission statement visible; and remembering to Eat That Frog.  For a description of Dr. Heilman's teaching, research, and recent publications, please visit https://www.wichita.edu/profiles/academics/applied_studies/School_of_Education/Heilman-Elizabeth.php To access close to seventy episodes of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast and additional resources on soil health-building principles, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear your stories about self-care and strategies for regenerating the ecosystem health of your farm and organization.
    18m 52s
  • Episode 24 - 7: A Passion for Gardening with Bill "Pops" Patterson of Virginia USDA-NRCS Part II

    26 MAR. 2024 · A passion for gardening and tasty, flavorful tomatoes, cucumbers, and hot peppers continues to drive Bill Patterson's experimentation with crop rotations, mulching, composting, and winter and summer cover crops in his home garden. Mary Sketch Bryant and Eric Bendfeldt talked previously with Bill about his conservation work with soil health and grazing lands. Bill is equally passionate about his home garden as he is about farmers' grazing lands. He uses his garden as an experimentation station to test and observe the https://www.4thesoil.org/post/why-the-4. Bill emphasizes: "rotations, rotations, rotations," and allowing the critters to do the tillage for you. With his love for building soil carbon and enjoying a great-tasting tomato, Bill's gardening rotation includes a diverse mixture of summer and winter cover crops. To learn about winter and summer cover crops, please visit the Southern Cover Crops Council's website at https://southerncovercrops.org/  The site includes a selection tool for vegetables, grazing, and row crops. For information about careers and programs of the Virginia USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, please visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/conservation-basics/conservation-by-state/virginia  To access close to seventy episodes of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast and additional resources on soil health-building principles, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear your stories about the passion you have for experimenting with the four core soil health principles in your garden, cropland, and grazing lands.
    16m 37s
  • Episode 24 - 6: For the Love of Soil with Bill "Pops" Patterson of Virginia USDA-NRCS Part I

    12 MAR. 2024 · A love and curiosity for soil sparked a fifty-year career in soil and natural resources conservation. Mary Sketch Bryant and Eric Bendfeldt talk with Bill Patterson, retired district conservationist and present grazing specialist with Virginia USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, about his career and to hear his insights on soil health and grazing. Bill is affectionately called "Pops" and has served as a mentor for many farmers and soil conservationists. Bill was recently recognized at the Virginia Farm to Table Conference for his lifetime achievement with the 2023 Carl Luebben Soil Health and Water Quality Award. In reflecting on his career that started in 1974, Bill states that we know more about soil health, but there is still a whole lot more to learn. The more we learn, the less we know. Therefore, it is important to ask good questions, be observant, remain flexible, stay curious, and love what you do. To learn about careers and programs of the Virginia USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, please visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/conservation-basics/conservation-by-state/virginia  To access more than sixty episodes of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast and additional resources on soil health-building principles, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear your stories and the ways you follow the four core soil health principles and express your love for the soil.
    16m 58s
  • Episode 24 - 5: The Unintended Consequences of Deep Tillage with Dale Strickler of Regenerative Wisdom Part II

    27 FEB. 2024 · Are we there yet? Have we arrived at the intended destination? Have we reached the goal we set out for improving soil health and how soil functions? Have our good intentions of attempting to loosen the soil resulted in negative unintended consequences? In part one of our conversation with Dale Stricker of Regenerative Wisdoms, Dale stated that tillage and soil disturbance make farmers very susceptible to drought. However, in relying on deep tillage and subsoiling to remove a mechanical barrier (i.e., a compacted layer or hardpan), farmers may exacerbate the problem, and tillage can result in unintended and unforeseen consequences in decreased root growth, increased compaction, and limited soil porosity. Dale shares how roadbuilding is very analogous to the procedures that farmers follow in subsoiling and the multiple tillage passes often used to try to loosen the soil. Dale encourages farmers and market gardeners to consider soil health as a bank account, where deposits outweigh withdrawals that encourage real wealth and health. For more information about Dale's books on drought resilience, pasture management, restoring soil health, and the overall mission of Regenerative Wisdom, please visit https://www.regenerativewisdom.com/ To access two years of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast archives and additional resources on soil health-building principles, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear your stories and the ways you are following the four core soil health principles.
    18m 53s
  • Episode 24 - 4: Drought Resilience: Does Subsoiling Pay? with Dale Strickler of Regenerative Wisdom Part I

    13 FEB. 2024 · How functional and drought-resilient is your soil? Is your soil a week away from a drought and an hour away from a flood? Dale Strickler of Regenerative Wisdom talks with Jeff Ishee and Eric Bendfeldt about ways to increase drought resilience moving forward. Dale draws on his experience and expertise as a farmer, cattle rancher, college soil science instructor, and current agronomist to provide sound information for restoring soil function so the soil can hold water and allow water to infiltrate. Does tillage and subsoiling pay and make soil more drought-resilient? Dale states that tillage and soil disturbance make farmers very susceptible to drought. In many cases, farmers think they are moving forward with deep tillage and subsoiling to remove a mechanical barrier. However, subsoiling can increase the sealing of the soil surface and decrease soil porosity so oxygen and water are less available to plant roots. For more information about Dale's books on drought resilience and the overall mission of Regenerative Wisdom, please visit https://www.regenerativewisdom.com/ To access two years of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast archives and additional resources on soil health-building principles, please visit https://www.4thesoil.org/. To learn about the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, visit https://www.virginiasoilhealth.org/. We would love to hear your stories and the ways you are addressing drought resilience and soil health on your farm or in your garden.
    19m 18s
  • Episode 24 - 3: A Purposeful Soil Health Mindset with Rebekah Slabach of Virginia Tech Part II

    30 ENE. 2024 · How does a purposeful mindset contribute to soil health and rebuilding soil fertility? What can we learn from culture, history, and mindset in storing our farm landscapes? Rebekah Slabach recently became the associate director for the Alliance to Advance Climate-Smart Agriculture within Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Formerly, Rebekah was an extension agent for agriculture and natural resources with Virginia Cooperative Extension in Halifax County. Rebekah reminds us that culture and history are part of agriculture and that managing soil health through changing weather, markets, and environmental demands requires a purposeful mindset. In striving to keep the soil covered with more species of cover crops, Rebekah emphasizes that a planted cover crop is better than waiting to plant the perfect cover crop mixture and that something covering the soil is better than a bare fallow. The Alliance to Advance Climate-Smart Agriculture is a pilot program that seeks to incentivize and reward farmers and ranchers for adopting climate-smart agricultural practices. To learn more about the Alliance and Virginia Tech's role, please visit https://www.allianceforcsa.org/ The basic information and core principles of soil health, along with two years of the 4 The Soil: A Conversation podcast archives, can be accessed at https://www.4thesoil.org/podcast. To pledge your support to 4 The Soil, fill out the form at https://www.4thesoil.org/take-the-pledge and tell us about your mindset for building soil resilience and health in your community.
    18m 2s

Soil. What is it, really? It’s more than the dirt under our feet and the ground we stand on. Soil is living and life-giving. Listen as we unlock the mysteries...

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Soil. What is it, really? It’s more than the dirt under our feet and the ground we stand on.

Soil is living and life-giving.

Listen as we unlock the mysteries of soil by speaking with people at the forefront of the soil health movement.

“4 The Soil: A Conversation” is part of the 4 The Soil Awareness Campaign led by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Soil Health Coalition. The campaign’s purpose is to raise awareness of soil as an agricultural and natural resource critical to social, economic, and environmental health.

Hear and learn from farmers, agricultural professionals, conservation leaders, master gardeners, and many more on how and why to be 4 The Soil.

The podcast is a collaboration of Virginia Tech's School of Plant and Environmental Sciences and Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation, Virginia Cooperative Extension, On The Farm Radio, USDA-NRCS, and the Virginia Soil Health Coalition with specific funding from the Agua Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Virginia Tech’s Department of Agriculture, Leadership, and Community Education’s Community Viability grant program.

Stay tuned for the release of our first episode in October!
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