Why Soil Remediation?

Backyard farms, community gardens, parklands, rail trails and dozens of other creative repurposings of land are transforming our landscape. Many of these changes involve introducing agricultural activities where they had not existed for many years. In the past decade the number of community gardens in the US incereased from 6,000 to 18,000, and the trend is accelerating. But as more of us come to live in cities, or try to bring into production land that has had previous contaminating uses, we need to be more thoughtful about avoiding toxic chemicals, heavy metals, or other man-made problems in our soil.

This issue is an attempt to survey the topic of Soil Remediation and report on groups that are in the trenches (literally, in some cases) dealing with contaminated ground and the current methods – in some cases physical barriers, in other cases planting in containers, some using plants to accumulate or microbes to detoxify contaminants, others applying humic substances to immobilize them – for making soil usable again.

Those of us blessed with rural farm locations and healthy soils may not think twice about how fortunate we are to have such gifts. But even pristine environments now sometimes suffer spills and dumpings, so it behooves us to be aware of how easily healthy soil can turn toxic. Also, reading about how much time and effort is necessary to repair tainted land should make us all more grateful for the miracle of living, active soil that we can so easily take for granted.

Some wise person once observed that the only thing standing between humanity and starvation is a few inches of biologically active topsoil. It is humbling to think that most of what we do as farmers and gardeners is tend forces that we don’t really understand, letting the knowledge bound up in seeds and soil sustain us. We hope that you enjoy this issue and it energizes your appreciation of these mundane miracles.