Improving cost-effective testing and actionable understanding of holistic soil and plant nutrition for agroecological farmers

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $24,834.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Host Institution Award ID: G346-22-W9210
Grant Recipient: Deep Medicine Circle
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
benjamin Fahrer
Deep Medicine Circle


  • Vegetables: beans, other


  • Crop Production: nutrient management
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Soil Management: soil analysis

    Proposal summary:

    This project seeks to get at persistent questions that impact the seasonal activity and annual livelihood of many farmers dedicated to sustainable agriculture in our region. For this project proposal, we honed in on questions about (a) an evidenced connection between ‘healthy’ soil and ‘nutritious’ crops that community-oriented farmers value and (b) soil and plant nutrient testing methodology that small-time, resource-limited farmers can immediately pick up and use. Our education objective centers on regional ‘underserved’ farmers who, due to historical and still-present socio-economic barriers, do not have ready, meaningful, and/or culturally-appropriate learning opportunities to deepen their sustainable agriculture skills and commitment. Our main project site is in San Mateo County, California, and our regional relationships stretch into San Francisco (San Francisco County) and Oakland (Alameda County). We will trends analysis and a two-part cost-benefit analysis to explore the potential multi-factoral relationships between holistic soil health and crop nutrition, establish a working holistic testing methodology that is farmer-tested, and a baseline understanding of what the costs and benefits of using this testing methodology, year-after-year, may be for ourselves and our fellow farmers. Through farmer-led workshops and participatory Farm Field Days, as well as via state farmer conferences, we will share our learnings and inquiries with regional and state farmers looking to deepen their connection to soil, nutrition, and community and meaningfully reduce expensive and polluting inputs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objective 1: Over 3 years, improve evidence-based understanding of the relationship between ‘healthy’ soil and nutritious crops using holistic soil and plant testing in composted, cover-cropped, no till fields

    Research Objective 2: Over 3 years, investigate holistic soil and plant health testing options in order to establish a working methodology that is meaningful and resource-effective for regional farmers

    Education Objective 1: In Project Years 2-3, 51-63 farmers will be able to identify specific and actionable reasons for investing in their operations’ soil biology in small-scale sustainable production. 

    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.