Aug 26, 2020
Understanding soil health at the 2020 Great Lakes EXPO

For vegetable growers, the fertility and quality of your soil is of the utmost importance. At the 2020 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO, a couple of the highlighted sessions will focus on not only producing quality soil, but educating growers on how to identify areas of need.

Julie Grossman, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, will be presenting two sessions on soil health at the 2020 Great Lakes EXPO.

In the “Virtues of Cover Crops to Support Soil & Crop Health” and “Observing and Assessing Soil Health Indicators on your Farm” sessions, Julie Grossman, an associate professor in soil, agroecology and organic food systems at the University of Minnesota, will be presenting on the importance and benefits of cover crops for providing nutrients and improving soil health.

Grossman, who is also the organic programs coordinator for the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, works in the university’s Department of Horticultural Science, and has formal training as a soil biologist. She says that while she primarily works specifically with organic management approaches, farmers and growers of all types will be able to walk away from her sessions with valuable information.

“The information we provide aims to be really useful to everybody, not just organic producers” Grossman said. “What we’re discussing will be applicable to any grower interested in improving their soil.” 

The goal of the sessions will not only be to inform growers and educate them about the benefits of utilizing cover crops to promote healthier soil, but about equipping the growers themselves to apply what they learn to their own operations.

“(Growers) that come to these sessions will learn about cover crop species that can be used to improve soils, and when to use them,” Grossman said. “We will cover everything from how to manage cover crop growth and termination, to calculating the amount of nitrogen provided via legume cover crops, and help farmers understand the difference between myths and realities of what we know, and we don’t (yet) understand. In both sessions we will provide tips, tools and tricks farmers can use to help improve their soil health. 

Grossman says that attending sessions on soil health isn’t as much about explaining research as it is helping farmers and growers learn to “be scientists themselves,” by diving into the science and the “how-to” of soil management.

“Soil is the foundation of our agricultural systems, and we have to take care of (those systems),” Grossman said. “These sessions will help growers know what they can do, as stewards of the land, to produce better crops and sustainably manage their farms and their soil.”

While this will be Grossman’s first time presenting at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market EXPO, she notes that attending, whether as a business or an individual, can be incredibly beneficial for growers from all crops and industries. 

“I think it’s really important to attend sessions presenting information gained via research, so that farmers can build on their own good information, and add-on to what they know does and doesn’t work for their farms,” Grossman said. “By attending sessions and learning to be scientists themselves, they can learn how not to rely solely on scientists and labs, and can do these things for themselves based on their own farm or their own soil.” 

To learn more about the 2020 Great Lakes EXPO, visit

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