Soils And Men – USDA – 1938

By Eliot Coleman

There is an amazing library of organic farming information in one single book of 1232 pages. The title is Soils and Men. It contains a chapter on soil organic matter by William Albrecht, another by Adrian Pieters on green manures and one specifically on the relationship of soil to plant and animal nutrition.

Significantly, Soils and Men was the 1938 yearbook of the US Department of Agriculture, so it is especially ironic that the USDA experts were telling us back in the 1960s, when I started farming, that organic farming was impossible.

The foreword by Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace (later Roosevelt’s vice-president) is worth re-reading. (Abridged below.)

“The earth is the mother of us all – plants, animals, and men. The phosphorus and calcium of the earth build our skeletons and nervous systems. Everything our bodies need except air and sun comes from the earth.

Nature treats the earth kindly. We treat her harshly. We overplow the cropland, overgraze the pastureland, and destroy millions of acres completely. We know what can be done and we are beginning to do it. The soil requires a duty which we have been slow to recognize.

In this book the effort is made to discover our debt and duty to the soil. The scientists examine the soil problem from every possible angle. This book must be reckoned with by all who would build a firm foundation for the future of the United States.”