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Virginia Soil Health Partners

 

Virginia Soil Health Coalition: Past, Present and Future

 

No till, plants, crops
cattle, green, mountains, grazing
tractor in field
men's hands, soil, holding soil, dirt

When Virginia NRCS launched its official soil health initiative in 2013, the state team deliberately employed a collaborative approach in which staff, partners and producers worked together to “unlock the secrets” in the soils of farms throughout the Commonwealth.

The Virginia Soil Health Coalition (VSHC) was one of our first efforts to strengthen coordination amongst member organizations and promote consistency in soil health messaging. Joining the coalition was easy in those early days. We simply asked organizations to send us a letter in which they “pledged” to endorse the following four soil health principles when compatible with land managers’ goals and operations:

1. Keep soil covered

2. Minimize soil disturbance

3. Maximize living roots

4. Energize with diversity

Though the original VSHC itself had no formal structure or officers, the individual partners accomplished a great deal in those early years. Many of the original participants collaborated with Virginia NRCS on Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) projects to research, demonstrate or promote one or more aspects of soil health implementation. The combined investment of NRCS and matching resources for more than two dozen such CIG projects exceeded $3,000,000.

These CIG projects are just one example of the many levels of past and ongoing collaboration between NRCS and a wide range of Virginia partners on the topic of soil health. The agency has also helped organize and lead 287 soil health training events for staff and partners with more than 25,400 participants since 2013.

In 2020, NRCS helped Virginia Tech secure grant funding to hire Mary Sketch as the group’s first full-time coordinator. Sketch will spearhead efforts to energize the VSHC and enhance member communications to make a positive impact on Virginia agriculture. For more information or to get involved, please contact Mary Sketch at msketch2@vt.edu or (919) 402-7241.

Partnership Opportunities

Though we no longer accept pledge letters or maintain VSHC partner list on our website, our commitment to the coalition remains strong. Virginia NRCS is still active in the coalition and we encourage partners new and old to contact Mary Sketch to learn more about the broad scope of soil health activities in Virginia.

 

Partners wishing to connect directly with Virginia NRCS on soil health questions or collaboration opportunities should reach out to:

 

man on farm, farm, fence, mountain in background                          

 

 

woman in soil pit, blue polo, dirt in background

 

Chris Lawrence

Soil Health Lead   

                        

State Cropland Agronomist

(804) 287-1680

chris.lawrence@usda.gov

Eva Rondon

Soil Health Public Affairs Contact

 

Public Affairs Specialist

(804) 287-1526

eva.rondon@usda.gov