Meet at the market: the state of our soil

Written by
Alison Hensley with Katie, or “Patti the Pickle.” (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Each week we meet up with Katie Hershfelt of Cultivate Events as she chats with farmers, chefs and shoppers at the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market.

This week, donned in her Fermentation Festival pickle suit, she spoke with Alison Hensley of Los Olivos Roots Organic Farm about the state of our soil.

Roots Organic Farm in Los Olivos. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Alison’s tips for nutrient rich soil:

  • Cover your crops. Bare soil dries up and loses nutrients. For home gardeners, Alison recommends planting clovers or fava beans, which are high in nitrogen.
  • Till minimally. When farmers till soil, nutrients are ripped, turned over and then exposed to the sun. “It becomes more like dirt than soil,” says Hensley.
  • Rotate crops. If the same crop is planted over and over, the same types of nutrients are being pulled out.
  • Practice diversity. Plant a row of one vegetable, and something different next to it.
  • Try compost tea. No, not to drink. The “tea” is made by steeping nutrient dense material, like compost or earthworm waste, in water. That’s then sprayed on leaves or around plant roots.

Creating more nutrient soil can also combat global warming, says Hensley. “If we are all working on growing the mass of our soil in our region, backyard and planter boxes by putting the carbon back in the ground, we can make a huge impact on carbon levels in the atmosphere.”

The Fermentation Festival is on Sunday, September 20th in Goleta. Alison Hensley will moderate an interactive conversation on how soil and water impact the well-being of our food, featuring Dr. Zach Bush, M.D., of Biomic Sciences, Oscar Carmona of Healing Grounds Nursery, Tim Heuer of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, Ahlem of Water with Life Systems and Lauren Tucker of Kiss the Ground

To check out all our past farmers market segments, click here.