Random Read

Knowing the Soil {excerpt}

Seasoned farmers can judge a soil at first glance, first touch, first taste. Dark means fertile. Loose and coarse is appropriate for root crops such as beets and potatoes. A “sour” taste indicates a low pH—well suited to blueberries, for example. Shortly after my great-great-grandfather arrived in this country in the middle of his life of farming he discovered soils in the northwestern corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula that reminded him of the rich dirt of his homeland, the marine province of Friesland in The Netherlands. While visiting he bagged a handful of that soil then brought it home to his farm in southern Michigan. Everyone was offered a look. Maybe they fingered the dirt as well, or tried a pinch on their tongues. On the virtues of that bag of soil, he purchased 90 acres up north from a lumber company. There my great-great-grandfather and his sons cleared the virgin hardwood forest to raise dairy cattle and establish potato fields, corn fields, and cherry orchards that remain today, worked by my cousins.

Sustainable Eating, May 2006