The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

Growing Organically Since 1982

Soil Science for Gardeners

April 13, 2019 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
Allyn Cox Reservation
82 Eastern Avenue
Essex, MA

NOFA Members: $72 / Non-members: $90*



 *Scholarships available. Click here to apply.

Soil is an often underappreciated and abused natural resource, yet it is critical for our survival as a species-- and, moreover, is an ecosystem in its own right. The interplay of micro- and macro-organisms with the physical and chemical processes of a healthy soil are more aptly compared to a tropical rainforest or coral reef than to the inert media commonly used in sterilized potting mixes. Yet for decades, soil was thought of as little more than a medium for receiving amendments and holding up plants.

Recent advances in the field of soil ecology - combined with the focus on soil health brought by the rise of the organic food movement - have led to a much richer understanding of soil as a living system. The more we understand and appreciate how soil works, the better we can steward the land to feed us in a way that is at least sustainable; at best, regenerative.

This full-day course is designed for gardeners who have practical hands-on experience with soil, but may never have studied it before. Topics will include soil formation and the mineral components of soil, nutrient cycling, soil organic matter and the soil ecosystem, the impact of soil management on global environmental issues such as climate change and water pollution, and practical management strategies for those who tend this vital living resource.

  • 9am - Introductions
  • 9:15am - The Mineral Soil: glacial history of eastern Massachusetts, particle size and soil classification, clay chemistry and cation exchange capacity.
  • 10:30am - Biology and Nutrient Cycling: soil food web, organic matter, rhizosphere biology, nitrogen cycle, phosphorus cycle.
  • Noon - Potluck Lunch
  • 1pm - Field Tests: A hands-on look at soil, including assessment of soil health and carbon sequestration capacity. What we can learn before we send in a soil test?
  • 2:30pm - Soil Tests: what they tell us, what they don't.
  • 3:00pm - Soil Building Strategies: organic fertilizers, calculations, field recipes, cover cropping and fertility strategies.
  • 4:30pm - Wrap up


Noah Courser-Kellerman is the Co-owner and Co-operator of Alprilla Farm in Essex, MA where he grows vegetables, grains, and grass-fed beef.

*In order to keep this event affordable for our participants, lunch for this event is potluck-style. Participants are expected to bring a food item to contribute, with serving utensils and a list of ingredients to accommodate those with food sensitivities. Please bring your own reusable utensils to help reduce waste.

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More Info

For information on our refund and inclement weather policy, click here.

For questions contact Doug Cook, Education Events Coordinator, at or (603) 969-8195.

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