On April 21 2022, 4 The Soil visited Jason Pall “JP” and Sally Walker to tour their farm Glade Road Growing in Blacksburg, Virginia. The rolling landscape of Glade Road Growing has a healthy silt loam soil and a thriving, diverse ecosystem. For over 12 years, the family has continued to build soil health using the four principles of soil health management.
JP and Walker shared their techniques of contour farming, livestock integration, crop rotation, and nutrient management planning. They led participants through their sunny greenhouses and seed starting house. “Learning about different peoples’ stories is energizing with diversity!” said Mary Sketch Bryant, Coordinator of the Virginia Soil Health Coalition and 4 The Soil. The field day participants included backyard gardeners, soil science graduate students, community advocates, and professors and staff from Virginia Tech. The small group brought diverse perspectives as they enjoyed the tour and conversations. Participants asked about Glade Road Growing’s techniques, including how they plan crop rotations. JP said he decides the same day based on market needs and demand. Building soil health requires an observant eye, remaining flexible, and learning how to adapt to the current environment. Panelists included Lydia Fitzgerald of Virginia Tech and Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS), Dr. Rory Maguire and Dr. Phillip Brown of Virginia Tech’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. Each panelist brought unique insight into how soil health impacts our world. Fitzgerald’s work focuses on soil health implementation and educational work. Dr. Maguire conducts research and extension activities to improve nutrient management practices, farming systems, and profitability. Dr. Brown works in extension programs to focus on the appropriate use, upkeep, and installation of septic systems. They engaged with a variety of topics around soil health and conservation practices. One Glade Road Growing farmer said the panelists inspired them to try new practices and techniques such as using a roller crimper for cover crop termination to minimize tillage. “Every farmer’s journey is different,” said Sketch Bryant. “This goes back to why [4 The Soil] focuses on principles over specific practices.” 4 The Soil also provided materials about the four principles of soil health management and local resources for participants. Glade Road Growing celebrated their 12th anniversary in May! Follow them on Facebook to get updates on their farm stand, recipes, and more. 4 The Soil is gearing up for another gathering soon! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to stay connected and learn about upcoming field days and events.