A Citizen Science Approach to Building Multiple Johnson-Su Bioreactors to Increase Soil Health, Vegetable Nutrient Density and Urban Food Sovereignty

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,619.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Sankara Farm LLC
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Ryan Tenney
Sankara Farm LLC


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance, workshop
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil microbiology
  • Sustainable Communities: community development

    Proposal summary:

    Municipalities are strategizing to mitigate the direct negative impacts of climate change. The Kansas City Climate Action Playbook published in 2019 stated: 


    ..City staff and contractors can transition away from the use of conventional fertilizers to the use of biochar or compost mixes that will improve the soil’s capacity to sequester carbon, feed plants and hold rainwater. 


    Citizen science initiatives increase knowledge transmission and community participation in the production of innovative solutions and local knowledge. People's protagonism presents a method of mobilizing ecological stewardship, social responsibility and organizing local agricultural producers and gardeners to increase local environmental awareness and agency. Our project utilizes art to enhance our capacity to shift focus from soil amendments to soil microbes. 


    Local agricultural producers have the capacity to enact traditional sustainable practices and investigate new strategies to mitigate climate change. Healthy soil is vital to both production of nutritious food and carbon sequestration. Access to soil testing is a major barrier for many urban growers because of both cost and technical capacity. This project will increase the awareness of soil ecology, provide tool access to research soil health and facilitate the capacity to produce and test living compost containing beneficial microbiology. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The Community Soil Science Cooperative initiated by farmers, backyard gardeners and agricultural professionals will produce and monitor Johnson-Su compost, and research its impact on soil health, plant growth, and nutrient density.  Realizing that farms are sites of research and education, the Cooperative will utilize hands-on workshops to increase awareness of the Universe of microorganisms in the soil and provide training on tools made available in a network of soil science tool libraries. Extensive AgroArt multimedia outreach materials will increase awareness of soil ecology and carbon sequestration will be made available on our websites.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.