Soil Health Benchmark Study

Soil Health Benchmark Study

Building and preserving soil health is a fundamental component of a secure food system that effectively protects ecosystems and communities.


The Soil Health Benchmark Study is designed to help farmers monitor and evaluate the nuanced soil health strengths and challenges that can exist simultaneously within their fields.

This on-farm research project developed and led by Pasa Sustainable Agriculture that empowers farmers with a comprehensive assessment of their soil health, and provides comparisons of soil health and management data between peer farms. The study, which began in Pennsylvania in 2016, has grown to include more than 100 farms across PA, ME and MD, and is poised to expand even further in 2023.  Future Harvest and the Million Acre Challenge are proud to help grow this important research initiative.

Identifying soil health benchmarks helps farmers determine whether their soil health management  practices are achieving the desired results, or where improvements may be possible.

In addition, farmers will be provided with opportunities to learn from one-another, and collaborate on innovative solutions to soil health management problems- through workshops, webinars and field-school programs.

Soil health indicators measured for the benchmark include physical, chemical and biological attributes, such as aggregate stability, organic matter, microbial respiration and nutrient levels.  These soil attributes will then be placed in the context of field management techniques, including tillage frequency and intensity, cover cropping, and organic matter inputs.

Now in our fourth year of partnering on the benchmark study, Future Harvest and the Million Acre Challenge coordinate over 40  research collaborators from across five regions of Maryland, including diversified vegetable, pastured livestock and grain/row crop farms.

Learn about insights gleaned from the study HERE.

Future Harvest and the Million Acre Challenge participation in the Pasa Soil Health Benchmark Study has been possible thanks to generous support provided by the Town Creek Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Maine Community Foundation, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Who Can Participate: 


If you own or manage a farm in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia* or West Virginia* and are passionate about improving your soil health, you are eligible to participate as a Community Scientist or Research Collaborator. Here’s the difference:

*to find out if you are in an eligible region, fill out the application form below

Community Scientist
Research Collaborator

How to Participate:


We are looking for a diverse array of different farm types from various regions throughout MD, VA, WV and DE. Please fill out this brief survey with some basic farm information, to find out if the Soil Health Benchmark Study is a good fit, for your farm, and for our research objectives.


Got questions? Contact Lisa Garfield at