The Power Of Dirt

Throughout history, civilizations have risen or fallen depending on the fertility of their topsoil.

Great civilizations have fallen because they failed to prevent the degradation of the soils on which they were founded. The modern world could suffer the same fate. This is according to Professor Mary Scholes and Dr. Bob Scholes who have published a paper in the journal Science, which describes how the productivity of many lands has been dramatically reduced as a result of soil erosion, accumulation of salinity, and nutrient depletion.

Did you know that it takes nature more than 500 years to create one inch of topsoil? Soil has varying amounts of organic matter (living and dead organisms), minerals, and nutrients.  It is chock full of minerals, water, organic matter, and air. So soil is both living and dead! Soil is like an ecosystem and is made up of many different things that all interact with each other to help create stability and fertility for life.

U.S. croplands lose at least three billion tons of topsoil every year.  In one gram of soil, 5,000 to 7,000 different species of bacteria can be found. In one acre, five to ten tons of animal life is thriving. Why is there so much life in the soil? Fungi and bacteria help break down the organic matter. Earthworms digest the organic matter, recycle nutrients, and make the surface soil richer. The roots of plants loosen the soil, allowing oxygen to penetrate. This benefits animals living in the soil. They also hold soil together and help prevent erosion.  A fully functioning soil reduces the risk of floods and protects underground water supplies by neutralizing or filtering out potential pollutants. Soil stores 10% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Why is it so important to humans? Soil provides living things with food, fibers, and fuel. It supports wildlife as well as rural and urban activities.

From the end of the 1940s to the beginning of the 1990s, over 90% of the degradation of productive land was due to overgrazing, deforestation and inappropriate agricultural practices. These changes in the soil affect over 2 billion people, most of the 852 million people suffering from hunger in particular. Farmers use around 300 different types of pesticides on the food we find in our grocery stores today; a significant amount of these end up in our soil. Contaminated soil cannot as effectively remove carbon from the atmosphere, keep our groundwater clean and sustain the food chain that is dependent on it.


Soil is a living ecosystem and is a farmer's most precious asset. A farmer's productive capacity is directly related to the health of his or her soil.”

Howard Warren Buffett


Dirt! The Movie Trailer


Chihuahuan Desert Charities understands the power of soil and is making sure the youth of Las Cruces do too.  They are learning the invaluable skill of how they can improve soil for growing food. The importance of avoiding the use of chemicals for fertilization, as well as pest and weed control.  If nature doesn’t use these, why should we?

To be a successful farmer one must first know the nature of the soil.” - Xenophon, Oeconomicus, 400 B.C.

The DYGUP & SUSTAIN Program is a non-profit dedicated to regenerative organic agricultural practices to teach the benefits of land stewardship in the Paso del Norte Region. DYGUP, an acronym for Developing Youth from the Ground Up, is available to youth ages 14-17. The SUSTAIN program targets adults over 18 and combines "Roots Of Success" Environmental Literacy Curriculum with intensive farmer training. The DYGUP/ Sustain Program has many partnerships in the community including Taylor Hood Farms, Backyard  Farms LC, First Christian Church, and Las Cruces High-School. Chihuahuan Desert Charities is proud to be the fiscal sponsor for DYGUP & Sustain and support their important work in the Las Cruces community.

Support the DYGUP & Sustain Program at Legacy Farm in Las Cruces by visiting