By Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, NOFA/Mass Food Access Director

Farmers learn to assess the health of their soil using a variety of observation techniques.

All Farmers, an organization that supports refugee and immigrant farmers in the Springfield, MA area, is currently working with 60 families from various countries in their farming efforts. Most of the families that are involved in the program bring their traditional growing practices from Burundi, Somalia, Nepal, and other countries of origin to the growing spaces that All Farmers provides.

These farmers grow food on plots of land in West Springfield and Northampton, MA. NOFA/Mass is working with All Farmers to provide soil health technical advice and support to the farmers. A small group of farming peers have agreed to share their expertise with these beginning farmers, and will be teaching about how to work with heavy equipment, various no-till farming practices, growing food in greenhouses and managing seedlings. Additionally, All Farmers is working with Immigration Services to provide training on business accounting and marketing to the participants.

This fall, NOFA/Mass hosted two soil health workshops for the peer training group that helped them to develop observation skills to assess the condition of plants and the health of the soil. We also reviewed how to take soil samples.

Measuring the rate of water infiltration in soil is one way to assess soil health.

Aden, a farmer from Somalia was particularly interested in creating better soil through no-till growing practices and how to weave these methods together with techniques that he learned in Somalia. After the two-day training, Aden was extremely happy to be able to use the skills immediately with his fellow farmers.  Jayleel, another All Farmers peer teacher, was interested in learning about the causes of soil compaction. After learning from the soil health test session of the workshop and the mulching demonstration, he noticed a big difference in the size of his plants and the size of his peppers. Jayleel is anticipating being able to demonstrate that lesson to the other farmers. 

After participating in a soil sampling demonstration, the farmers were given a homework assignment to take samples from at least two other farmer plots to analyze. Stay tuned for updates on the All Farmers group’s continued study on soil health and fertility in their growing spaces.

If you would like to donate to All Farmers or to find out more about their farmer training  programs, please visit or contact them via email at [email protected].