BF 110: Soil Health

Investing in the Vitality of Your Farm

The health and productivity of our soils are the basis for a farm’s or garden’s success and profitability, as well as its ecological sustainability. Farmers need a holistic approach to preserving and building soil health and fertility. Stewardship of the soil is arguably the most important job of any farmer or gardener.

Target Audience

This course is specifically targeted to farmers with 1-10 years of experience who will be able to directly apply the management strategies discussed in the course. Aspiring farmers or anyone else is welcome to take it, but people without any land access will not be able to experience all the benefits of the material presented. While the concepts in this course will apply no matter where you are farming, some of the management systems presented may be most relevant to growers in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest.

Course Objectives

This course will help you:

  • Understand the importance of soil health to the environment and to the productivity and profitability of the farm or garden
  • Provide a framework for thinking about and evaluating the various methods of improving soil health, and
  • Provide some details about different methods of soil protection and improvement and resources for further independent research during and after the class


The bulk of the course happens on your own time, with discussions, readings, and assignments in MOODLE, our virtual classroom. To add to the experience, webinars will be woven into the online interface of the course to allow you to meet on a weekly basis to learn from outside presenters, ask questions, and collaborate with other participants and the instructor to address your farm issues in real time. If you miss one, they are always recorded and posted for later viewing.

Qualifying for Loans

If you are considering applying for a low-interest beginning farmer loan though the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), completing this course may help you qualify, if you meet other eligibility requirements. For farmers in NY who have already applied for an FSA loan and been told they need borrower training credit, all of our courses are pre-approved to provide you with this credit, if you complete all course requirements. For more information, visit the FSA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Loans website.


David Belding raises pastured pigs, beef, chickens, goats, vegetables, honey and maple syrup with his partner Dani Baker at Cross Island Farms on Wellesley Island, NY.


Next offered in Oct 2012, with registration opening in August.

Course Outline

  • Week 1: Introduction and Welcome
    Topics covered: Why care about soil health, meeting each other, navigating MOODLE (the course interface)
  • Week 2: Aspects of Soil Health and How to Assess Them
    Topics covered: soil health basics, goals and challenges, soil testing
  • Week 3: Soil-Building Techniques I
    Topics covered: Cover crops/green manures, animal manures, other organic matter
  • Week 4: Soil-Building Techniques II
    Topics covered: Cultivation methods, crop rotation, managing livestock
  • Week 5: Developing Your Soil Health Management Plan
    Topics covered: Considerations based on your operation and management objectives
  • Week 6: Review, Evaluation, and Further Study

Cost and Registration

Course fee is $175. Registration is currently closed. This course will be offered again in October 2012, with registration opening in mid-August.

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