Menoken Farm Garden
Most agricultural soils in the United States are currently in a state of poor health, showing symptoms of erosion, water runoff, nutrient loss, drought, and low fertility. Fortunately, soil health can be restored through proper management.
Recognizing a need for Soil Health education in North Dakota, NRCS and the Burleigh County Soil Conservation District (BCSCD) formed a Soil Health team in the early 1990s. The team concentrated on moving cropping and grazing systems toward sustainability. The first tours and workshops were small, but continued to grow each year. Today, the annual Soil Health Winter Workshop averages 450 participants. In addition, the team has received speaking requests from the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Australia, Canada, and other states.
In 2009, the BCSCD acquired the Menoken Farm. The 150 acre farm is owned and operated by the district with a goal to restore soil health. In 2011, they added a garden. This half acre garden utilized soil health principles including minimal soil disturbance, cover crops, surface armor, crop diversity, compost, and compost tea. No commercial fertilizers or pesticides were used.
A team consisting of the BCSCD, NRCS, and the First Presbyterian Church – Bismarck, North Dakota, came together to plan, plant, and harvest the garden. The fresh produce was donated to local food pantries to support USDA’s People’s Garden and the Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Project.
During the summer the farm hosted visitors from four countries and 12 states, all finding the garden to be a tour highlight. During fall harvest, the team found out what happens when soil health is applied to a garden. The yields included:
Sweet Corn – 1,500 ears
Potatoes – 1,500 pounds
Squash & Pumpkin – 1 pickup load
Pole Beans – 360 pounds
The garden is one of many NRCS projects to bridge generations, providing opportunity for team members of all ages to work and learn side-by-side; planting ideas and discussing our need as a Nation to foster garden fresh food for everyone.