Utilizing Microscopic Testing Protocols to analyze our soil and compost to make the correct actions to improve our soil quality.

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Baby Greens Family Farm
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Glenda George
Baby Greens Family Farm

Information Products

2023 NWI Times Article (Article/Newsletter/Blog)


  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), leeks, okra, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), tomatoes, turnips
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: no-till, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, study circle, technical assistance, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: composting, earthworms, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil quality/health, toxic status mitigation
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life, sustainability measures, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration

    Proposal summary:

    Northwest Indiana has a long history of heavy industry that has negatively impacted much of the soil within many communities along Lake Michigan.  We grow in Gary and we want to strengthen the biome of our soil on a microbial level and be more discerning with the soil amendments we select.  Overall, we’d like to stop guessing as to what our soil needs, do more than yearly soil tests, and build more effective composting and sustainable practices.   We focused our questions on (1) can frequent soil analysis on a microbial level help to quickly and accurately mitigate issues, (2) can frequent soil analysis reduce the cost to improve soil health, (3) can we find and share the existence of trends of contaminants (that are not indigenous to the region, i.e. lead and arsenic) that we can find creative solutions found in nature to remove, (4) can we take the Soil Food Web Course and create comprehensive protocols for local farmers that can speed the process of creating healthier soil, and (5) can our testing results aid in educating the community on the health benefits derived from our nutrient dense foods thereby promoting the consumption of local and organically/naturally grown foods.



    Project objectives from proposal:

    We are farmers that utilize organic practices and we’re seeking to increase our knowledge as we expand our farming operation in partnership with another farm.  We seek to be educated on a deeper level of regenerative growing methods that will give us actionable scientific information as often as we need it.   By taking Dr. Elaine Ingham’s Soil Food Web Course, we will learn comprehensive methods to restore and invigorate our soil taught in ways that growers can do themselves. Her course can help us achieve our goals while placing us in the position to offer the same beneficial methods to other local socially underrepresented growers.  We believe having this skill set of literally knowing the health of the soil that feeds the food we grow encourages more people to grow in spaces such as Gary that is a food desert.  This will also help shift the negative perception regarding the safety of our locally grown foods throughout the region.  

    Microscopic examination of our soil and compost provides an integral component for our local farmers who need immediate, frequent and consistent soil analysis results.  With completion of the course we will also be empowered to build effective responses to take the necessary remedial actions that will arise within the soil while collecting data that could help address the historical impact of industry to the region.   This, coupled with Dr. Ingham’s specific methods for aerated compost development, will allow us to create self-sustaining healthy soil biomes.  Additionally, microscopic soil analysis allows us to spend money on the correct soil amendments that will have the greatest impact on the soil.     

    As Certified Soil Food Web Lab-Tech and Consultants we will create a laboratory space that houses the microscopes, beakers, testing tools, compost tea brewers, compost tea sprayers, thermometers, compost covers and other tools specifically recommended by Dr. Elaine Ingham.  Eventually we will be able to open ourselves to additional lab related opportunities while supporting this initiative in our community.  For example, we want to take our data regarding the contaminants found in the soil and and find partners interested in determining if there are microbial solutions that are capable of ridding the soil of those specific contaminants, i.e. the fungi, pestalotiopsis microspora, has been found to eat plastic.  

    Educational Objective 1: Attend Dr. Elaine Ingham's Soil Food Web School as soon as the funds are released in 2023.  These courses are intended to "dramatically accelerate soil regeneration projects by focusing on the soil biome. This can boost the productivity of farms, provide super-nutritious foods, protect and purify waterways, and reduce the effects of Climate Change. No background in farming or biology is required for our Foundation Courses. Classes are online & self-paced, and students are supported by highly-trained Soil Food Web School mentors."  http://soilfoodweb.com/about Upon completion we will be certified as soil food web technician, consultant capable of testing our soil as well as others. 

    Educational Objective 2: Take initial soil samples (planting spaces and existing compost piles) from the four farms initially involved in our project.  Develop an action plan that addresses the inadequacies in the current soil that will rebuild the soil's biome over the course of three years.  Review each farm's composting methods and make the necessary changes.  Create and implement testing schedules for the farms.  

    Educational Objective 3: Conduct ongoing courses to community farmers so that they can take the same steps to develop regenerative soil and compost.  Collectively discuss trends, best practices and results that are unique to our urban spaces.

    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.