Soil School 2021
Join us and our partner, West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, for the ninth annual Soil School! Local soil experts will share their knowledge of topics related to soil and soil health, and will be available to answer your soil-related questions.
Register for each virtual session that interests you by following the unique link found in the presentation descriptions below. Not able to attend live? Skip registration and watch a recording of each session on our YouTube channel after the event ends.
April 6, 2021 @ 6:00 pm – April 29, 2021 @ 7:00 pm
April 6th, 6:00pm – Opening Session: It’s all about SOIL!
Get ready to learn what soil actually IS and how it actually WORKS and what that means for civilization (and your garden) going forward! SOIL!!!
Presenter: James Cassidy, Oregon State University
James Cassidy has been a Senior Instructor at Oregon State University teaching Introductory Soil Science and Sustainable & Organic Agriculture for over 13 years. He is also the founder and faculty advisor for the wildly popular OSU Organic Growers Club – OSU’s student farm just beginning its 19th season. Coming from a non-traditional background (he was in the music industry for over 35 years) he is passionate about soil and is a popular instructor and speaker. He’s been speaking at Soil School since it began in 2012!
To register, visit:
April 8th, 6:00pm – Four Principles of Soil Health
This session will put backyard gardening through the filter of the principles of soil health. We will explore how different gardening practices can increase soil function by exploring minimizing disturbance, maximize diversity, maximizing soil cover, and maximizing continuous live roots.
Presenter: Cory Owens, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Cory Owens is the NRCS’s State Soil Scientist and Soil Health Coordinator based out of Portland. She leads the technical soil services program across the state including helping farmers, ranchers, and foresters learn how a healthy soil can help them. Cory completed her undergraduate work in Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University and her graduate work at the University of California, Davis earning a M.S. in Soil Science. Her favorite soil is Amity.
To register, visit:
April 13th, 6:00pm – How To Meadowscape for Carbon Sequestration
Learn how urban landscapes can pull CO2 from the atmosphere while also building more healthy resilient soils and supporting plant and wildlife biodiversity and habitat connectivity. If a significant number of people converted their lawns to native grass and wildflower meadows, it could have a quantifiable and significant impact on the ecosystem by providing habitat and stormwater benefits, using less water and requiring no fertilizer or mowing. In addition, deep-rooted meadow plants have shown the ability to enhance soil structure and infiltration rates. Learn more about how to “meadowscape” or landscape with native meadow wildflowers and grasses at home, and take home a FREE Meadowscaping Guide (version 2.0 is now available)!
Presenter: Laura Taylor, West Multnomah SWCD
Laura is a Conservationist and Education Coordinator at West Multnomah SWCD, where she manages the monitoring program for rural restoration projects, coordinates with rural conservationists on project implementation and maintenance, and runs the Education Program working with school and community gardens, environmental education, and community science pollinator monitoring. She has worked for over thirteen years providing botanical and ecological expertise to a range of public, non-profit, and private organizations. She earned a B.S. in botany and forest ecology from The Evergreen State College, in Olympia, WA and an M.S. in invasive plant ecology from Portland State University, Department of Biology.
To register, visit:
April 15th, 6:00pm – KEYNOTE: Indigenous Traditional Ecological and Cultural Knowledge Practices
In a 21st Century industrialized world, how are Indigenous ways of knowing informing regional strategies for a healthy and sustainable future. How are universities, governments, and tribal and urban Native communities collaborating in a dynamic process that is guided by and integrates Indigenous Traditional Ecological and Cultural Knowledge (ITECK) practices? Long-term relationship building and prioritizing culturally-centered collaborative processes acknowledge the interdependence of People and Place for revitalizing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health so crucial to vibrant communities. Inherent in this work is its connectedness to climate changes, social/cultural/environmental justice, and healthy communities for us and all our relatives, highlighting themes of Sustainability/7th Generation ethics. Indigenous land practices to regenerate First Foods and medicines, healthy lifeways, education, identity, social and environmental justice, tribal sovereignty and treaty rights may serve to guide policy and inform strategies for sustainability in the Northwest region and beyond.
Presenter: Judy Bluehorse Skelton, Portland State University
Judy BlueHorse Skelton, Assistant Professor, Indigenous Nations Studies Dept., Portland State University, teaches Indigenous Ecological Healing Practices, Contemporary Issues in Indian Country, Indigenous Women Leadership, and Indigenous Gardens and Food Justice. She’s worked with federal, state and local Native organizations and tribes throughout the Northwest for more than 25 years, conducting cultural activities focusing on traditional and contemporary uses of native plants for food, medicine, ceremony, and healthy lifeways. In 2017 she received the PSU President’s Diversity Award and in 2014, the Oregon Indian Education Association’s award for Outstanding Indian Educator. Collaborative work includes the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the Native American Rehabilitation Assn., the Native American Community Advisory Council, Portland Parks, Metro, Bureau of Environmental Services and US Fish and Wildlife Service, integrating Indigenous land practices with Indigenous traditional ecological and cultural knowledge (ITECK) to address Food Sovereignty/Justice and reclaim the urban forest for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
To register, visit:
April 20th, 6:00pm – Economics of Soil Health
Soil health has a plethora of research detailing what happens in the soil’s environment when landowners begin to care for it, but one piece that tends to be missing is the economics. When landowners implement soil health practices there are costs and benefits associated with those measures. This workshop will shift the focus from organisms living in the soil to focusing on costs and benefits of soil health. We will discuss economic principles, economics of soil health conservation practices, and lessons learned.
Presenter: Lakeitha Ruffin, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Lakeitha Ruffin is an Agricultural Economist with the Oregon Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In 2010, she began her career with the NRCS in Bozeman, Montana and moved to the Oregon in 2016. Lakeitha received a Master of Science Degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville. In her spare time, Lakeitha enjoys hiking, reading, meditation, and she serves as a member on the Living Yoga Board of Directors.
To register, visit:
April 22nd, 6:00pm – Soil Microbes: The Unseen World Beneath Our Feet
Soil is one of our nation’s most valuable resources that provides life -sustaining functions. There are literally billions of organisms living below ground that are critical to support plant, animal, and human health aboveground. This session aims to unravel some of these unseen mysterious life forces and explain how they contribute to and support soil health. Learn not only what they are doing for your soils, but also what you can do to help support them. By shifting our view of soils from an inert growing material to a biologically diverse and active ecosystem, we can help create more sustainable farms, ranches, gardens and forests to provide the food and fiber for our rapidly growing population while protecting land, air and water resources for future generations. (SG)
Presenter: Jen Moore, USDA – Agricultural Research Service
Jennifer Moore recently joined (March 29, 2021) the USDA Agricultural Research Service as a Research Soil Scientist in Corvallis, OR. Her research will focus on soil health and soil carbon in forage, grass, and cover crop seed production systems in the Willamette Valley. Jennifer has over 25 years’ experience in soil science research including work in multiple cropping systems and natural landscapes across the country. Before joining the ARS, Jennifer has held positions as the Climate Initiative Director at American Farmland Trust, the Western Soil Health team leader with the NRCS Soil Health Division, and as an associate professor of soil and environmental microbiology at Texas Tech University. She holds a B.A. in biology and environmental studies from Binghamton University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in soil science from Iowa State University and Oregon State University, respectively.
To register, visit
April 27th, 6:00pm – Biochar: An Ancient Amendment and Its Modern Day Applications
Biochar, or charcoal that is added to soil, has been used to improve agronomic soils in both ancient and modern cultures. A growing interest in biochar has prompted the development of products and soil amendments that are available for both large and small-scale farming applications. We’ll discuss the history, salient properties, and uses of biochar and will provide tools that will help biochar users determine if biochar will help them achieve individual agronomic goals.
Presenter: Kristin Trippe, USDA Agricultural Research Service
Kristin Trippe is a Research Microbiologist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit in Corvallis, Oregon. Her interests include restoration of marginally fertile soil, soil health, microbial ecology, and natural product development. She is a Board member of the US Biochar Initiative, past chair of the Soil Biology and Biochemistry Division of the Soil Science Society of America, and is a curates the Pacific Northwest Biochar Atlas.
To register, visit:
April 29th, 6:00pm – Dirt Simple: Carbon Farming at Home
Enlist the living soil to store carbon in your garden. Using best soil practices, you can do your part to slow the advance of climate change. Compaction is the enemy. Become a carbon farmer and join the movement to regenerate soils, by creating a healthy living soil sponge that absorbs stormwater and improves porosity. Work with nature and encourage decomposition and nutrient cycling by doing less work, using the forest and meadow as inspiration. Help your plants help themselves by surrounding them with a community that shares resources and energizes soil microorganisms.
Presenter: Amy Whitworth, Association of Professional Landscape Designers
Amy Whitworth is Lead Designer and Owner of Plan-it Earth Design in SE Portland. For 20 years and counting, Amy has been helping her clients craft earth friendly gardens and deepen their connection with the natural world. She has received numerous awards for her educational and habitat gardens, and has received Best of Houzz awards for both Design and Customer Service for 5 years in a row. Her background combines horticulture and fine arts. She teaches Naturescaping, Native Plants and Rain Garden classes for E. Mult. Soil & Water Conservation District, and presents on various sustainable design topics to homeowners, gardeners and professionals alike. Since 2005 she has been a vocal advocate for the rights of Oregon’s Professional Landscape Designers to practice their trade.