Soil Quality Monitoring
Farmers and ranchers in Paradise Valley know a thing or two about having a full plate. There are never enough hours in the day for the seemingly endless tasks that need to get done. So why would we ask you to add one more to your to do list?
The answer is every farmer and rancher has a vast army of free labor eager to improve your bottom line, free up days of man hours and build value in your largest asset. These free laborers are microbes and there are more of them in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people in the world. You don’t have to put them on the payroll, you don’t have to feed them ever increasing amounts of expensive conventional inputs and when taken care of, they will take care of you. Learn more about the benefits of healthy soil here. and how microbes help create usable nitrogen for plants.
You can’t manage for something you don’t know and you don’t know what you have living in your soil until you test. Testing with Earthfort Labs will give you insight into who you have on your free payroll. Are you understaffed? Do you have the right ratio of microbes for what you are growing? Are they functioning to their full potential?
Testing & Enhancing Your Soil
In partnership with Montana State University (Jed Eberly), Organic Lawn Montana (Ford & Vern Smith), Earthfort, our tech interns, we are providing scientific, technical, and (where needed) financial support for local farmers to not only test and interpret their soil microbiology, but to do something about it.
To get this started, we are working with Earthfort to get local producers two advanced microbiology soil test kits, a one quart combo pack to treat a quarter acre and 15 minutes of consulting to go over all test results. Producers can get this package for $200 and Earthfort will donate the other half of the costs. What we ask from the producer is to pick a piece of their operation that is doing poorly, test with the first kit, use a clean backpack sprayer to apply product to a quarter acre and then retest that same spot two weeks later.
We are all in this together. By testing and learning about your soil microbiology, you are joining a group of producers who are dedicated to improving their operations’ bottom line and our shared environment. Our goal is to work together as neighbors and friends to implement the best set of practices to encourage healthy soils and better bottom lines. Going over our test results together later this fall will help us get one step closer!
To participate, please complete the form below and we will send you a soil sample test kit and call you to provide guidance.
Instructions for Collecting Soil Samples
General tips to achieve accurate results:
Make sure you have received our soil text box kit. You will also need quart‐size plastic bags with a zipper-type closing and a soil core tool which can be purchased at most home and garden stores, or here.
Wash hands thoroughly or put on latex gloves before handling material to be sampled.
Take sample only when it is possible to package and ship immediately.
Keep samples cool but do not freeze. Freezing and thawing kills many beneficial microbes.
Follow recommended sample delivery time frames (3‐4 days for soils).
Identify the problem area in your field, or other area of interest to take the sample from. If you have multiple irrigated fields, choose for example, your best and worst field and send in a test results for each field. This will double the cost, but you won't have to test every field.
Using a soil core sampling tool (select one to purchase here), take sample cores from 5-10 different, randomly selected locations in your field, garden or lawn.
Begin at the top of the soil, so wipe away any debris or organic matter sitting on top of the soil. The best cores are from the root zone of the desired plant. If the root zone cannot be located, cores from 3-4 inches down into the soil will work.
Collect and place each of the 5-10 core samples (without touching the soil) into a heavy-duty plastic baggie and shake and mix the bag so that each of the cores is blended together. You need to have a minimum of 10 ounces (250g or approximately two cups) of total soil in the bag. Leave some air space in the bag upon sealing.
Using our paid postage shipping boxes, place the soil sample bag in the box and ship the SAME DAY that you collected the soil cores. The mailing label will be sent to: Earthfort, 635 SW Western Blvd, Corvallis, OR 97333.
This test takes approximately 15 working days to complete and we do give recommendations as to what your soil needs to be at optimum health. Once you receive your report via email you can call and schedule a phone appointment to discuss the results and interpret the report. You can get a sense of what your results report will look like by looking at this "before" and "after" spraying reports taken at Reedfly Farm in Paradise Valley.
How To Take a Soil Sample
Understanding your Earthfort Biology Report
Local land owners, Field Technicians, Organic Lawn Montana and students are collecting soil samples from the following major locations on the Yellowstone Yellowstone watershed. Through sharing best practices with one another, we hope to increase our productivity and protect the health of our soils in the Upper Yellowstone Watershed. Optionally, participants can share their data results publicly via our web report below.
Fill out our sign-up form above to Adopt your own Soil site.
Currently Participating Locations:
Triple Creek Ranch
Vern Smith Farm
Dave Raich Farm