Restoring Water Quality
Below the surface of the Sharing Our Roots Farm is a drainage system designed to remove excess water. That drainage – called tiling – is common in the Upper Midwest and made our farm productive for growing corn and soybeans through the years. The tiling, however, also produced many environmental problems such as water flowing too quickly to the adjacent Mud Creek, eroding its banks. The tiling and other farming practices, including yearly tillage and use of farm chemicals, resulted in serious water quality problems for the Cannon River and destroyed wetland habitat.
Sharing Our Roots staff and consultants used the land’s tiling history -- the original blueprints, sketches and current maps – to design a perennial system that will help keep precipitation on the ground where it falls. The farm now features a bioswale (a grassed trench way that collects water), ponds and restored wetlands. Through the years, water quality will improve and wildlife will return. We have already identified a variety of wildlife species that have emerged.
Building Soil Health
Improving the soils on the Sharing Our Roots Farm is key to restoration efforts. We follow basic soil health principles:
● Keep the ground covered.
● Keep roots in the ground year round.
● Minimize disturbance of the soils.
● Increase diversity of plants and animals on the farm.
We have planted perennial crops such as Elderflower and Hazelnut. Crops including garlic, asparagus and other botanicals have been added, and the soil planted to grasses and forbs. In addition we have included sheep and chickens that now forage on the farm.
All of this restoration will improve the organic matter, carbon levels and biological activity in our soils. The perennial ground cover at Sharing Our Roots Farm will provide a variety of ecosystem services, such as controlling wind and water erosion, reducing compaction of the soil and allowing pollinators and other wildlife to thrive.
Sharing Our Roots takes regular water and soil tests along with wildlife surveys, which guide our efforts and help document the ecological improvements we are working to establish.