Two years ago, at the farm of soil health pioneer Dave Brandt in Carroll, Ohio, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service officially launched the “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil.” The Brandt Farm was a fitting birthplace for a soil health education and awareness effort, since Brandt has been a leader, advocate and teacher of soil health principles for nearly three decades.

He continues to dedicate much of his time and energy to teaching farmers and others about the basics and benefits of soil health. And speaking of benefits, healthy soil is loaded with them.

We know that conservation systems that enhance soil health also help increase carbon sequestration and organic matter, enhance nutrient cycling, provide pollinator habitat, reduce energy use and produce the food, fiber and bioenergy needs of our rapidly growing population.

Farmers tell us that enhancing soil health also increases their profitability, thereby strengthening rural economies. That’s a lot of bang for the conservation buck.

An increasing number of farmers and stakeholder groups are recognizing the many benefits of improving the health of our nation’s soil and are working to help spread the word and the knowledge. (Hear from some of our soil health farmers in NRCS’ “Profiles in Soil Health” videos.)

Since the kick-off of the campaign on Oct. 11, 2012, the soil health effort has blossomed across the country with dozens of local, state and national stakeholder groups teaming up to help mobilize this growing movement.

Local workshops, field days and demonstrations on the basics and benefits of soil health and cover crops are being conducted throughout the year, in nearly every state by a wide range of producer groups and stakeholder groups, as well as the NRCS.

Thanks to the on-going work of our dedicated conservation community, and to the ingenuity, innovation, and skill of our nation’s farmers and ranchers, there is renewed energy and excitement in harvesting the many on- and off-farm benefits of improving the health of our nation’s soil.

In a recent message to employees and stakeholder groups, NRCS Chief Jason Weller wrote: “NRCS’s soil health campaign was not created to make a splash, it was created to make a difference. And thanks to all of you, we are making a profound difference across the landscapes of this great nation—today and for generations to come.”

Happy Birthday and long live the soil.

To get started with NRCS, visit your local USDA Service Center or www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.