OREGON, Marion SWCD – After 60 days in the ground, not much remained of the white cotton underwear buried by Gayle Goschie at her family’s farm in Silverton, Ore.
Goschie, who grows 500 acres of hops and 150 acres of wine grapes in the Mid-Willamette Valley, was one of 10 female farmers who participated in the “Soil Your Undies” challenge organized by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Marion Soil & Water Conservation District.
The challenge is meant to demonstrate healthy soils in a uniquely visual way. Farmers “planted” a pair of oversized tighty-whities in early May, leaving tiny microbes and bacteria to break down the organic cotton over several months. The more tattered and threadbare the undies, the healthier the soil. Sure enough, when Goschie dug up the briefs from between the rows of hops vines, all that was left was the elastic band.
“I thought it would be a really great experiment,” Goschie said. “It tells me that the efforts we make to farm as conservatively as possible is working.”