By Tony Ends

SUBMITTED PHOTO The Independent-Register
Tony Ends works soil with a broad fork in a market garden of a village in Guinea, West Africa, earlier this year, while serving a second time with the Peace Corps as a UN field officer with the World Food Programme.

American soil speaks to me.

It asks, “Whose soil is it, anyway?”

Nourished as my children, in loving service and protection,
American soil cakes my fingers affectionately – every day.

It speaks with more than words, as a little child does in gratitude for attention and devotion.

In spaces Dela and I’ve rented from landowners northeast of Brodhead for 24 years, I’ve watched soil come ever-more alive under our tending.

We’ve applied winter bedding from our goats, chickens and sheep. We’ve worked in compost from weeks of layering brown and green vegetation with scraps from Dela’s interminable cooking, canning and preserving. We’ve rotated years of hay and small grains crops with our vegetables.

Soil has responded, as a child nourished and fed physically and spiritually, maturing in tilth and texture, becoming ever so slowly, easier to turn, to cultivate, to give back as well as to take. It can take Nature 100 years to make an inch of fertile soil. For human beings, it takes a lifetime to conserve and restore fertility we rob from the soil in farming.


Read the rest of Tony’s story in the July 4th edition of the Independent-Register