Soil Health is Always in Style

I think most of us can agree on this: How we spend our time determines our priorities. The most successful people and organizations know what their priorities are and focus on projects that meet that priority. Someone with a goal of becoming a Fortune 500 CEO won’t reach it by playing video games eight hours a day--it just doesn’t happen that way. Except maybe in the movies.

Conservation districts nationwide have a broad scope. When you talk about conserving soil and water, you can tailor programs to encompass about any topic under the sun.  Each district must determine its priorities based on the local resource needs of its county. And it’s tough to narrow the focus because so many projects are interesting and worthy that we’d like to try to be all things to all people.

At our recent planning meeting, the Holmes SWCD board and staff has reinforced two main objectives:

  • Work on projects that improve soil health and water quality.
  • Provide education about this these priorities.

Soil health is not a new concept, but is back in style (much in the way that my husband was surprised to see a college student wearing Sperry topsiders the other day, and I told him they have been back in style for at least five years). Conservationists are actively promoting healthy soil because it meets so many conservation objectives. Research shows that:  

  1. Healthy soil holds more water (by binding it to organic matter), and loses less water to runoff and evaporation.
  2. Organic matter builds as tillage declines and plants and residue cover the soil. Organic matter holds 18-20 times its weight in water and recycles nutrients for plants to use.
  3. One percent of organic matter in the top six inches of soil holds approximately 20,000 gallons of water per acre.
  4. Most farmers can increase their soil organic matter in 3-5 years if they are motivated about adopting conservation practices to achieve this goal.

Our district initiatives to improve soil health includes our cover crop program, 4R Tomorrow initiative, soil testing program, as well as a multi-county effort to promote the concept collaboratively with other districts with the same goal. Staff members use these initiatives to sit down one-on-one with a producer to discuss management goals that improve the farmer’s income and meet conservation objectives as well.

Healthy soil reduces sediment runoff, and if we encourage more practices that reduce livestock and nutrient runoff, this effort will lead to increased water quality. Planning and engineering advice for headquarters and pastures (which includes feedlot runoff, nutrient management, fencing, and many others) improves farm management and herd health. Ohio is blessed with an abundance of water, and keeping it clean so we can drink it and use it for recreation is something we can all get behind.

Contact our office if soil health and increased water quality are goals for you as well. Call us at 330-674-2811 or email

IMG_0897 (2).JPG


Michelle Wood oversees the day to day operations of the district and the diverse activities offered to promote clean water and healthy soil. With a lifelong passion for the outdoors and a background in communications, she appreciates the conservation district grassroots model which enables the local board and staff to create programs that meet the conservation needs of Holmes County.  Michelle is a member of several state and national committees.  Contact Michelle at 330-674-2811 or at