Winners Chosen for Voices of the Soil Essay Contest

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Today NRDC and our partners at Lexicon of Sustainability announced the winners of the Voices of the Soil Essay Contest.

Young agricultural students, farmers, and soil enthusiasts from all over the country sent us their stories about soil, full of inspiration and well-grounded in the relationships between soil, water, climate, and community.

Many of the entries were unexpected, like the one-act play by Arianna Stokes of New Hampshire, overall winner for best essay.

Most of them put a personal spin on the issues that NRDC works to address. Maria Doerr, of Columbia, Missouri, wrote about the Hinkson Creek watershed where she grew up. Urban watersheds face many challenges, in the form of runoff from development, parking lots, wastewater, and golf courses, while they may also suffer from the impacts of intensive monoculture cropping on upstream soils. "Water and soil are inherently connected: without good soil, you won't have good water," wrote Maria. Now she is a student of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, learning how to protect and improve natural systems in urban environments.

Growing up in the rural, agricultural Pinelands region of New Jersey, video winner Alyssa Bruns learned to love nature and later majored in Geography and Environmental Studies at George Washington University in DC. During a visual media internship, Alyssa became more interested in fighting climate change. "To mitigate global climate change and maintain a healthy planet, we need to return carbon where it belongs - in our soils," says Alyssa.

Videographer Weenta Girmay, originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, created a great visual explanation of soil subsidence in New Orleans, where she now resides. Liam Trumble, a cinematography student in Chicago and overall winner for the best video, also used strong visuals to talk about soil and climate. Liam grew up near Indiana corn and soybean fields and entered our contest because the topic of agriculture, soil, and climate resonated with him.

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Joanna Brown, originally from Wisconsin but also a former resident of Washington DC and Mongolia, is now focusing her graduate studies on food security and soil carbon at Tufts University. Joanna writes beautifully about the importance of retaining and restoring soil carbon.

"Carbon has been fundamental to life since the birth of our planet. It's the source of all wealth and the conduit of all joy. Carbon cycles amongst and between billions of interconnected earthlings, whose fates teeter on the element's return trip to the soil." - Joanna Brown

These are just a few highlights, but each winning entry is a treat to read or watch, and can be accessed in full at Lexicon of Sustainability's webpage. While you are there, I highly recommend browsing the entire site, especially the new site for Lexicon of Food. It's a great place to find information about sustainable agriculture, food, and water, all presented with striking visuals by the aces at Lexicon of Sustainability (thanks Samantha and Nina!). Our collaboration with such a superlative organization was truly a delight and an essential partnership; there is no way NRDC could have executed this contest alone.

My sincere thanks to every person who took the time to create written and video stories about soil; there were so many excellent entries and it is a shame that we could only select and highlight a few.

Read our press release to see the full list of winners or see all the entries at Lexicon of Sustainability.

Images are screenshots from winning video entries from Weenta Girmay and Liam Trumble.