2010 Inaugural Soil Health Conference

New Jersey’s First Annual Soil Health Conference was held on March 9,2010 at the Enterprise Center at Burlington County College. Over 200 farmers, engineers, landscape architects, soil scientists, planners, regulators, builders, landscape contractors, and concerned individuals gathered together to listen to the range of problems related to soil health and to contribute to solutions that work for everyone.

Soil kept in good “health” can fulfill its potential in producing our food, filtering and cleaning stormwater, absorbing and storing moisture (making it available in dry periods), providing clean drinking water from wells and rivers, and creating wholesome habitat for trout in our streams and shellfish in our estuaries. Healthy soil allows for luxuriant plant growth, which not only produces food and fiber, but acquires and stores carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus playing a role in climate stability. Healthy soil can recycle many “wastes” back into nutrients and valuable products. The effects of damaged soils are indirect, but avoiding damages that must be expensively remedied later is a direct benefit!

photo of Jeff Moyer

Jeff Moyer

Email Jeff Moyer – 610-683-1420

  • Farm Director, Rodale Institute
  • Lehigh County Community College, AAS Civil Engineering and Construction Technology
  • Paul Smiths College, Preprofessional Forestry/Surveying
I’ve worked for the Rodale Institute for over 33 years and have been the Farm Manager/Director for the past 27 years. I direct all the farming operations involving all the planted areas, research trials, production fields, greenhouses, gardens and grounds. The Institute farm is a 333 acres research and education facility in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

I currently serve as Chairman of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), helped write the national compost standards, pasture regulations, and aquaculture standards for fish production. I hold a position on the Leonardo Academy’s (ANSI) committee for sustainable ag and am frequently requested to speak at farming seminars and workshops nationally and around the world.

Currently as Farm Director I have vast experience and knowledge regarding organic farming, agronomic crops, vegetable production, livestock production (dairy and beef), apples, and composting systems. I have provided the media with a reliable source and perspective for information on the current agricultural issues.

“Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People”“Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People”
I’m the project leader on the highly acclaimed Biological No-Till project where cover crop systems and specialized rolling equipment are being developed to facilitate no-till planting systems without herbicides.

Fred Schoenagel

Fred C. Schoenagel III

Email Fred C. Schoenagel III – 908-735-0737 x 106

Fred’s presentation will involve two demonstrations to be performed on stage. The first demonstration is of “aggregate stability” where two soil samples will be placed in a column (cylinder) of water; one soil sample has good soil stability and the other does not. The second demonstration is an “infiltration simulator” where water movement is demonstrated through two samples of soil, one with good soil structure and one with bad soil structure.

Demonstrations emphasized the importance of soil structure/pore space to the overall function of a healthy soil.ce, Penn State University

“Soils are living ecosystems that interact with every other ecosystem on the planet. Soils that are not “healthy” cannot carry out their normal functions and will inhibit these interactions, and eventually all the adjoining ecosystems may collapse. For this reason, healthy soils are essential to the overall health of the planet.”

Eileen Miller Photo

Eileen B. Miller

Email Eileen B. Miller – 856 205 1225 ext 125

"The Barnegat Bay Soil Health Scorecard" The Barnegat Bay Soil Health Scorecard
"Urban Soil Primer" Urban Soil Primer

Eileen Miller is a Resource Conservationist with the USDA NRCS and has worked there since graduating from college in 1992. She assists NRCS field offices with technical issues relating to sustainable soil management, nutrient management, water quality & quantity issues, soil erosion control, agronomy and sustainable agriculture in the NJ Coastal Plain area.

“Healthy soil means to me that our ecosystem is fully functioning. It means a soil that can buffer nutrients, absorb water, is rich in living organisms and can produce healthy food and fiber for our world to enjoy. It is the source of our existence.”

photo of Joseph Skupien

Joseph J. Skupien, PE, PP


  • President – Storm Water Management Consulting, LLC
  • Rutgers University BSCE
Mr. Skupien is a licensed professional engineer and planner in New Jersey. He is a principal author of the New Jersey Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual and developer of the NJDEP’s Nonstructural Strategies Point System program. In 2007, Mr. Skupien was selected Civil Engineer of the Year by the New Jersey Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“Soil conditions play a key role in both the reality and science of stormwater runoff. As such, healthy soil conditions can play a key role in our efforts to manage runoff and the activities that affect it.”

Tim Reilly Photo

Tim Reilly

Email Timothy J. Reilly – 609-771-3962

  • Research Hydrologist – Water Resources Division – US Geological Survey
  • B.S. and M.S. in Geological Sciences from Rutgers University
Tim has spent the past 12 years with the USGS studying the occurrence and fate of contaminants in the unsaturated zone and shallow ground-water systems. Today he will be discussing the relationship between soil and the quality and quantity of stream recharge.

“A healthy soil is a critical buffer of chemicals used at the land surface and represents the gateway for recharge of underlying aquifers.”

Jenifer Wightman Photo

Jenifer Wightman

Jenifer has worked on agricultural greenhouse gas inventories and bioenergy production since 2003. She directed a NESARE-funded carbon trading education outreach grant for Central New York Resource Conservation and Development. These education materials can be accessed at www.agcarbontrading.org. She currently works at Cornell as a member of a team of researchers looking at biomass production at multiple scales (DoE for national, SunGrant for NE region, and NYSERDA for NY). She specializes in the life cycle accounting of greenhouse gas emissions from biomass production for bioenergy purposes.

“I am obsessed with the exponential function. That is, with growing world population and growing energy and material consumption we do three critical things:

  1. We develop land away from farm and forest activities for housing or other industries,
  2. We exponentially deplete the non-renewable fuels that drive our contemporary society, and
  3. As we deplete the soils, the farm/forest base, and the fossil fuel reserves, we exponentially grow the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
Soil health is part of the portfolio for meeting our food and fuel needs most efficiently while also helping to capture carbon in soil and in energy-rich biomass. Soil health is an imperative to capturing real-time energy from the sun.

Healthy soil has a reflexive relationship:

  1. The better the soil health, the greater the production potential to minimize our use of the non-renewable fossil fuel trust-fund and
  2. A healthy biomass production system recycles surface carbon while also maintaining soil health.

That is, healthy soils keep farm and forest land productive, they have the potential to reduce the rate of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, and they capture the finite sunlight of today to fuel our contemporary population (fossil fuel, after all, is just ancient photosynthesis captured over millions of years on the same surface of the earth and sequestered until we mine it, combust it, and release the carbon dioxide to the atmosphere). A firm grounding in the land-base secures soil and fossil energy resources while stabilizing the climate for future generations.”

Rusty Rodriguez photo

Dr. Rusty Rodriguez

Email Dr. Rusty Rodriguez – 206-526-6596

  • Project Leader – Microbiologist / Affiliate Associate Professor
  • U.S. Geological Survey / University of Washington
  • Ph.D. Microbiology, Oregon State University
  • B.S. Microbiology, University of California at Davis
  • President, International Symbiosis SocietyBiological Resources Division
Project Leader for the USGS and an affiliate Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Washington. Trained in microbiology with a Ph.D. from Oregon State University. Current research involves mitigating impacts of climate change on plant communities, invasive species, plant microbe symbioses, decreasing impacts of agriculture on aquatic ecosystems.

“Soil health is directly related to the structure of soil microbial communities which are responsible for critical ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling, beneficial plant symbioses, food web stability; the vulnerability of habitats to invasive species; and the origin of many chemicals used for human health.”

Mary Barbercheck photo

Dr. Mary Barbercheck

Dr. Mary Barbercheck – 814-863-2982

  • Professor – Department of Entomology – Penn State University
  • B.A. Environmental Biology, UC Santa Barbara;
  • M.S. Plant Protection & Pest Management, UC Davis;
  • Ph.D. Entomology, UC Davis
Research focus on soil entomology and ecology, effects of agricultural production practices on soil-dwelling insect pathogens (nematodes and fungi), soil arthropod diversity and soil function as related to system sustainability. Extension focus on the soil food web and soil quality in agricultural production systems, IPM in organic production systems.

“Soil health in agricultural systems is strongly linked to conservation of beneficial organisms and the services they provide. Growing crops in systems that build soil health also promotes the biological diversity that helps keep pest arthropod populations in check, reducing the need to apply insecticides.”

Robert Nicholson photo

Robert Nicholson

Email Robert Nicholson – 609-771-3915

  • Environmental Studies Program – New Jersey Water Science Center – U.S. Geological Survey
  • M.S. Environmental Engineering, Drexel University
  • B.A. Environmental Studies, UC Santa Barbara
Bob Nicholson is Chief of the Environmental Studies Program at the U.S. Geological Survey, New Jersey Water Science Center. His group conducts hydrologic and ecological investigations, providing science support for water-resource decisions of cooperating agencies. He is the USGS liaison to the Barnegat Bay National Estuary Program.

Bob’s presentation will describe some of the problems facing Barnegat Bay and what we have learned about the relations between nonpoint-source contaminants, watershed processes, and the Barnegat Bay ecosystem. The case study illustrates how healthier soils in the bay’s watershed could help lead to healthier coastal resources.

“A healthy soil, like any other essential environmental component that we would describe as healthy, is one that fully provides all the functions and services we attribute to it as a life-sustaining part of a healthy environment. Healthy soil functions and services are many, and would include providing clean water, recharging aquifers, and storing and filtering storm water.”