Science, education and fun featured at first-ever Dirt Day Soilebration in Prineville
Learning new things and being outside is a great mix, especially when paired with fun activities, exploring and food.
The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oregon and SunLife Farm and Ranch, located on Gerke Road outside of Prineville, announce the very first official Dirt Day Soilebration on Saturday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
NRCS Oregon's soil conservationists will speak at the event and bring their soil health trailer to conduct real-time demonstrations for one of farming's most critical natural resources, the soil. Visitors can learn about healthy soils and the importance of organic matter.
"The NRCS is an agency that was started after the 1933 Dust Bowl, and it is part of the United States Agriculture Association (USDA), and they are very interested in conservation and working with farmers and partners and anyone interested in agriculture," stated Amy Fox of SunLife Farm and Ranch.
She added that the NRCS' goal is to educate, speak and share information about soil health and conservation, and when they heard that the farm was putting the event together, they expressed a desire to co-host the event.
"We said absolutely, great to have you on board," expressed Fox.
SunLife Farm and Ranch, LLC was founded in 2020 and is now a working operational farm. SunLife produces orchard grass, multiple lavender plant varieties and honey, as the home of BootahBee honeybees located in the BeeBurbs of SunLife's apiary. Beautiful vistas and naturally pristine terrain grace more than 20 miles of trail variations on the 160-acre farm.
The NRCS trailer's rain simulator demonstrates how differently managed soils respond to various weather events.
Stephanie Payne, Small Farms & Organic Specialist with NRCS Oregon, further explained, "Learn about how wind, rain and different management styles impact the soil and its ability to withstand these weather events."
Payne added that the simulator also shows how much erosion takes place via the wind and weather events, as well as a water simulator.
"This shows erosion, like a run-off that can occur due to variables in different land management," said Payne.
Fox pointed out that the simulator will help visitors to see what compact versus healthy soil looks like compared to soil that has been depleted over time.
"It's going to be interesting to people who are science-minded, but we think it will be interesting and fun to people who don't want all the science details either."
The trailer is outfitted with a television, sound system, lights and solar panels.
"It's just great to have that visual as you are talking about all these concepts and actually see it happen in real time. We are really excited," noted Payne.
Amy and husband, Jeff Fox, SunLife's operations manager, have been digging a soil pit, which they created especially for the event.
"In digging out a little bit of the layers of the soil, people can actually see the stratification layers almost down to the bedrock, so these experts are going to be able to tell us about the layers of the soil, what lives in each layer and when and how it is affected by other factors — and potentially how healthy it looks," said Jeff.
There will be a number of agencies coming to the event, including representatives from Crook County Library, the Crooked River Watershed Council, OSU Extension, Bureau of Land Management, Energy Trust of Oregon, Ochoco Irrigation District and local irrigation vendors. Some will set up booths, and there will also be special speakers.
"They are all bringing their own expertise and know-how about soil," added Payne.
Visitors can explore the soil pit and observe the multiple layers of strata beneath the surface of the soil, which by nature of their properties, comprise a soil profile. Soil is one of the most highly diverse ecosystems on the planet, in which communities of bacteria, fungi and protozoa coexist and contribute to a thriving base that is dirt.
"It's going to be a big mixture of fun, and experiential learning and some kid's crafts — and basically just a fun day from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.," said Amy.
SunLife Farm's gathering location for this premiere outdoor event is a two-plus-acre pine grove on the farm, transformed into an educational, science-packed festival in honor of the amazing soil microbiome.
"We are so pleased to have local experts share tips on cultivating healthy soil for growing and agricultural management," said Jeff. "We invite visitors to stroll our Sun Dirt Roads and meander to Bootah's common area for refreshments and food."
On Dirt Day, Bootah's, the farm's concessions, will provide standard offerings of ice cream, shakes and SunFreezes, along with food and other drinks. Part science, part education and entertainment, Amy and Jeff Fox hope that Dirt Day will please your inner scientist, farmer or any child.
For more information on NRCS, visit www.or.nrcs.usda.gov.
For more information on Dirt Day, visit sunlifefarm.com/farming-events.
SunLife Farm and Ranch
Jeff and Amy Fox
located at 1607 NW Gerke Road
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