Soil History Lesson:
The Dirty '30s, American Dustbowl

Cover cropping is a traditional regenerative agriculture technique designed to protect and replenish the soil in a manner that mimics Mother Nature. Their crucial importance in healthy food systems was highlighted by the Dust Bowl, one of the worst ecological disasters in North American history. 

In the 1910s and 20s, rising wheat prices and new mechanical equipment encouraged farmers to plow up millions of acres of native grasslands in the Southern Plains of the US to plant wheat. When the Great Depression hit in the 30s prices plummeted, leaving a surplus of wheat in the market and farmers unable to recover the costs of production.

Without the funds for planting, fields were left bare for the season. Unfortunately, the new plowing technique that had so easily broken up the soil and removed weeds a few years earlier, now left topsoil vulnerable to the elements. As the region plunged into drought, there was nothing left to hold the soil in place. High winds and dry conditions created large dust storms or "black blizzards" that stripped fields of their topsoil, carrying them in massive clouds across the Plains and dumping millions of pounds of soil and sand in cities like Chicago and New York - hence the term "the dirty thirties". 

The erosion was so extreme that the Dust Bowl destroyed millions of acres of farmland, local ecosystems, and infrastructure. In response to the tragedy, President Roosevelt initiated programming to conserve soil, eventually resulting in the Natural Resources and Conservation Service.

Today we understand that bare soil bare is a recipe for disaster, as well as a big contributor to the climate crisis. Help save your soil (and our planet) this fall by working with the Oats and Peas super-heros found in our Living Mulch Cover Crop Kit.