We are soil farmers here at SiCM’s Urban Farms. Why? Soil is the most essential part of our ability to grow any food or plants at all. One of the main components of soil is humus, decayed organic material that gives soil its texture and allows for the very living complex ecosystem below our feet.

Soil is the sacred Earth we tend and which allows us to grow food to feed ourselves and our communities. If we simply see soil as a medium in which to plant, noticing only the plants that grow, we miss something deep, profound and necessary. We miss the processes of decay and all the microorganisms that flourish in healthy soil and create a beautiful matrix of relationships that allows for healthy growth.

Woman with long hair tied back wears a poncho inside a garden next to a chain-link fence.

Farmer Leah talking about our compost at Fehr Ave Farm during our Spring Equinox ceremony.

Two women transplanting small seedlings inside a community kitchen

Farmers Leah and Suzanne up-potting spring vegetable plants into locally made soil.

Our agricultural soils around the world are at great risk right now (I know, along with everything else).  We have created extensive agricultural systems that rely heavily on tilling and growing food by adding herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. While the plants have grown, our soils have become much less healthy. Recent scientific studies have been finding that even the nutritional value of our food has lessened considerably over the years.

We have created an imbalance in agriculture by taking without giving back. Many of our oldest religious traditions and practices acknowledged our interdependence with all of life and gave back to the earth, to the soils that sustained people, doing this symbolically in ritual and in actual agricultural practices.

And our ancestors, all of our ancestors, came into relationships with plants and animals and co-evolved in the creation of Agri-culture. How we grow our food reflects who we are as a culture. Our role was not just to harvest the plants, getting as much as we possibly could; it was to also give back to the earth, in thanksgiving, for what we took out.

It’s really on us right now. Land filling our food waste is one of the biggest contributors in the creation of excess methane gas which has been linked to our increasingly unstable climate. Instead, we can be putting food scraps back into our soils to aid powerful and complex microbiological processes that build our soil. It’s one way of giving back.

At our Schenectady farms we focus first on our compost. Our compost piles are our human engineered systems to create a rich matter from food scraps and leaves and organic matter we have harvested. While our systems are slow systems they require work turning the compost to help in the processes of decay and monitoring heat levels. It is that decay that allows us all Life.

Our composts at Fehr and Vale farms are Community Composts. We accept food scraps from the community as well as the SiCM food pantry. It is a program we are actively working to grow and expand right now and if this is something that interests you, please get in touch! –Melissa MacKinnon