Conservation Outdoors Sustainability

World Soil Day Asheville Celebrates the Earth Beneath Our Feet

By Gina Malone

Residents and organizations around Buncombe County plan to celebrate World Soil Day Asheville on Sunday, December 5, with free activities and events designed to educate communities on the importance of soil biodiversity and sustainable soil management. The day will culminate with a potluck dinner and a screening of the documentary Living Soil at Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville.

The idea for an initiative focusing attention on soil originated with the International Union of Soil Sciences in 2002. The United Nations General Assembly designated December 5, 2014 as the first official World Soil Day. This will be Buncombe County’s first year participating in the international event. The initiative seeks to bring global awareness to soil concerns such as biodiversity, erosion and salinization and to encourage governments, organizations, communities and individuals to learn and put into place best practices for maintaining the health of soil ecosystems and, with that, the health of human beings.

“A major threat to soil is erosion, which is very relevant to Western North Carolina,” says Allison Royer, an organizer with Asheville’s World Soil Day team. “Also, soil is often overworked, which kills many of its beneficial microorganisms and leads to growing food with fewer nutrients and even smaller yields.” Another aim of the event is to bring awareness to the role soil might play in ameliorating climate change. “Soil can provide a major carbon sink, helping our climate by drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere,” says Royer, “but not if we continue to destroy it.”

Several organizations in Buncombe County will be participating in the event, including Lenoir-Rhyne University Asheville, Bountiful Cities, Soil Sanctuary and The Utopian Seed Project. Events will be held throughout the day at various locations. Organizers hope to bring attention to practices everyone can implement—as a home gardener or a small farmer—to cultivate and protect healthy soil, including no-till/no-dig practices and planting a diverse array of crops contiguous to one another. “These practices help increase biodiversity within the soil and let it flourish without disturbance,” says Royer.

Chris Smith, founder and executive director of The Utopian Seed Project, has implemented no-till farming at his experimental farm for, among other reasons, its friendliness to microbes, insects, worms and grubs. “I’ve started seeing mushrooms growing in my rows and I know, both intuitively and scientifically, that this means the soil is healthy and alive,” he says.

Events are still being added to the roster and those interested in participating as an organization or attending as an individual are asked to check Facebook or Eventbrite. Registration is not required for the potluck and film screening, but is encouraged so that organizers have an idea of how many people will be attending. Any changes due to COVID will be posted on Facebook and Eventbrite.

“You can’t talk about responsible farming and sustainable food systems without talking about the soil,” says Smith, “or if you do, then you’re flat-out misinformed. Soil is everything when it comes to growing food. World Soil Day is a chance to honor and highlight the importance of soil in a way it has always deserved but rarely received.”

To learn more, visit Facebook.com/AshevilleWSD. The event page may be found at Facebook.com/events/517898102787594. The Eventbrite link is eventbrite.com/e/world-soil-day-avl-2021-tickets-163423424863. Organizations interested in being a part of the day’s activities may register through Google Docs at forms.gle/P7zdx2b1te3aiWNQ8. Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville is located at 36 Montford Avenue in Asheville.

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