Healthy Soils, Healthy Farmers: Assessing Farmers’ Soil Contact Activities and Soil Contamination on Urban and Rural Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Johns Hopkins University
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Keeve Nachman, PhD
Johns Hopkins BSPH

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Soil Management: soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    Agricultural soils may be contaminated with chemicals that pose risks to farmers. Despite this, farmers’ contact with soils is poorly understood. As a result, safety standards to address farmers’ soil contact are either reliant on limited data or absent entirely. To remedy this, information on the frequency and duration of soil contact among both urban and rural farmers is needed. Such information would support evidence-based public health guidance for soil contaminant testing and exposure reduction strategies. Differences in growing practices, specific activities and behaviors, and proximity to sources of chemical pollutants may impact farmers’ exposure to soil contaminants. This project will describe the soil contact activities and behaviors of urban and rural farmers and update an existing survey tool to quantify farmers’ soil contact activities for future occupational health assessments. We will also measure and compare soil contaminant concentrations on rural and urban farms to contextualize risks of potential exposure to soil contaminants in Maryland. Understanding farmers’ soil contact activities and how these behaviors and the occurrence of contaminants may differ between urban and rural locations is critical to develop specific and practicable evidence-based guidelines and recommendations to ensure safe and sustainable food production and improve the quality of life for farmers and their employees.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1. Describe the activities and behaviors of rural farmers that impact soil exposure.

    Objective 2. Quantify the activities and behaviors of rural farmers that impact soil exposure.

    Objective 3. Compare activities and behaviors of rural and urban farmers that impact soil exposure.

    Objective 4. Measure and compare concentrations of soil contaminants on urban and rural farms in Maryland

    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.