“Hey, who knew soil is so important,” queried Elizabeth Beyer, a Hingham South elementary school 4th grader. To many who entered the annual essay and illustration contest celebrated at Holly Hill Farm’s Think Spring! celebration on April 25th, sponsored by the Frank White scholarship fund for the non-profit Friends of Holly Hill Farm, the topic of soil was indeed quite important. Each year, a different topic is proposed for all students in grades kindergarten to high school for the Consider This! contest. Named for founding owner Frank White, an educator and farmer who died in 2009, the contest encourages children to find meaningful connection to an important aspect of organic farming. To show how current these thinkers are, the United Nations general assembly has declared 2015 the international year of the soil. All of Elizabeth’s classmates in teacher Clare Paget’s grade 4 class learned, brainstormed, researched and wrote about the topic of soil, its contents, the layers and the source of good, healthy soil. Though classmate Ryan Adams stated in his essay that “soil is everywhere…it’s right under your feet,” many students talked and showed about how it is most essential in the growing of healthy food. Also at South, 2nd grader Clara Williams showed in her illustration the top soil, subsoil, parent material and bedrock.
Down the road a piece from South, every 2nd grader at the St. Paul school collaborated on a colorful collage that depicts the insects and varied microbial life that define soil. In Mrs. Gaughan’s class, the students also drew and described the role soil plays in everyday life. Sophie Rigaud went to great lengths to include a pictorial likeness of Mother Nature with an acrostic poem, “Soil is a natural substance/Over many years it will change/It’s a home for many animals and insects/Land is made up of many things,” with worms, leaves and closed flower bulbs all contributing to soil. One grade up, Ella Richards from St. Paul noted that soil is food for plants and contains nutrients, worms and bacteria. As a 5th grade entry, Amelia (Mimi) Jiang-Yu at the Foster school in Hingham made detailed drawings labeled with the many layers of soil, concluding in her essay, “Soil is amazing in how it forms, how it is alive and how it is supportive for plant growth and development,” terrific words to an organic farmer’s ears. From Cohasset, Nathan Askjaer made sure to include “how plants get their nutrients” in his definition for soil as well as a drawing of a happy bean plant, whose flower, vine, stem and root all benefit.
High schooler Aine Folan at Notre Dame Academy in Hingham aptly quoted Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “A nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself,” with supportive statement of farmers making compost so “their crops can flourish” and conversely noting how “humans [can] cause unsustainable erosion by over plowing land,” among other detrimental activity. Maintaining rich soil is a vital concern, not just for farmers and backyard growers but for thoughtful growers everywhere. Tyrik Worrell in Sarah McDemus’ high school class at the South Shore Educational Collaborative, also in soil omniscient Hingham, mentions how important it is for farmers “to keep their soil and crops rich…using cow and horse manure and also moving one crop to a different field every year so that the soil can replenish with nutrients.” These notable students and others not mentioned in this article, who received a certificate of merit for their time, thoughts, words and illustrations are to be commended for their efforts. Many took the time to submit honorable essays, but the ones I site here stand out for their significance. For a complete listing of the winners, please connect to our website, www.hollyhillfarm.org. Tyrik’s closing argument connects perfectly with Elizabeth’s opening question, because “it’s essential for the public to be more aware of preserving the life of the soil and for human life itself.” My job as a farm educator has just been made easier by Tyrik and everyone else who thoughtfully conveys the mission of understanding the declared international year of the soil.
© 2015, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm