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We are 4 The Soil


Soil is more than the dirt under our feet and the ground we stand on. It’s a living ecosystem and it impacts our world in more ways than we might think. Soil performs many functions to sustain plants, animals, and humans. The functions performed by healthy soil include water storage; good water infiltration and drainage; support high crop yields and high crop quality; providing habitat for diverse soil organisms and high microbial activity; supplying nutrients to plants; retaining and recycling nutrients (N, P, K, S, Mg, Ca, etc.); stores carbon; and reduces greenhouse gases.


We can all be for the soil so let’s take care of it.


4 the Soil is an initiative of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition and Virginia Cooperative Extension to raise awareness of soil as a critical natural resource for current and future generations. By caring for the soil, we can build healthier communities, stronger economies, and a more resilient landscape.

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Why does the logo have the number 4?


While soils are complex, taking care of it can be simple. We follow four core principles of soil health:


  1. Keep soil covered

  2. Minimize disturbance

  3. Maximize living roots

  4. Energize with diversity


Each principle builds on each other. We can start with one and implement each as we grow in ways that fits our lifestyle and landscape.


Building healthy soils might seem like a massive undertaking. Everyday it faces, erosion, compaction, nutrient imbalance, acidification, pollution and decreased water retention. But we can help.

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Why 4 The Soil?


All of us have direct and indirect efforts on the soil. Whether when we maintain acres of farmland, an urban garden, or a lawn, or when we purchase produce and meat at the store, we all influence soil health. Notice how you interact with soil in your daily life.


Whether you're a farmer, a conservation professional, nature lover, or a food lover, you can advocate for and support healthy soils.

Production Partners

Production Partners

See all partners of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition here




Eric Bendfeldt

Community Viability Specialist, Virginia Cooperative Extension

Eric Bendfeldt serves on the Virginia Soil Health Coalition's steering committee and is an extension specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech's School for Plant and Environmental Sciences. He is also the associate director for the Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation and co-coordinates Virginia's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) professional development program.


Mary Sketch Bryant

Coordinator, Virginia Soil Health Coalition, Virginia Tech

Mary is the Coordinator of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition and is based in Richmond, Virginia. She has experience working with collaboratives and coalitions across the country at the intersection of economic and environmental wellbeing with a focus on working lands and rural communities. Prior to working with the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, she worked at the Center for Rural Strategies where she helped coordinate the Rural Assembly, a coalition of rural stakeholders across the US. She received her Master’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Conservation from Virginia Tech and her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Brown University. Through her graduate research she worked directly with agricultural producers and conservation practitioners to gain a deeper understanding of how farmers and ranchers approach conservation and land management decisions.


Jeff Ishee

Host, On The Farm Radio & 4 The Soil: A Conversation Podcast

Jeff Ishee is a farm broadcaster producing daily farm reports for more than 80 radio stations in 12 states. He resides in Augusta County, Virginia.


Sarah Koth

Communications and Advocacy, M.A.

Sarah Koth writes for 4 The Soil’s blog and social media. She has worked with agricultural communities across Virginia and southern Illinois, and holds an M.A. in Environmental Communication & Advocacy from James Madison University.

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Social Impact Studios

Since 1996, the people at Social Impact Studios have combined artistry & activism to engage the public in important social issues and culture. We believe positive, proactive messages should get more attention than anything else. Through the lens of art, history and culture, Social Impact Studios is a place where creative activists collaborate, learn and do the work. From concept to the material, we create action plans, visuals, messages and moving grassroots experiences to make a better world – together.


Katie Trozzo

Food Systems Network and Outreach Specialist, Virginia Tech

Katie Trozzo is a Food Systems Network and Outreach Specialist at Virginia Tech supporting seven food and agriculture systems projects including ones on a local, state, regional, and national level. As part of this work, she is an associate with the Virginia Tech Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation and coordinator of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition.

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