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New York launches free soil testing program for community gardens

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  • Staff Report 

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in collaboration with the Cornell Soil Health Lab, announced a new initiative offering free soil testing for food-producing community gardens across New York State. Part of Governor Kathy Hochul’s 2023 State of the State plan, this program aims to enhance the quality and productivity of community gardens by providing crucial soil health assessments at no cost to garden members, reflecting recommendations from the Community Gardens Task Force’s 2023 Annual Report.

State Ag Commissioner Richard Ball highlighted the importance of community gardens in providing fresh food to underserved areas and fostering a connection with agriculture and the community. The program, designed to ensure the health of soil in these gardens, will assist in maximizing their yield and impact. Up to 800 soil tests will be conducted for eligible gardens, aiding in determining soil acidity, nutrient levels, and the presence of heavy metals, with Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York offering guidance on interpreting results and improving soil conditions.

This initiative not only supports the sustainability of community gardens but also promotes food security and urban greening. Community gardens serve as vital spaces for fresh produce, education, and neighborhood engagement, contributing to the well-being of New York’s urban areas. Eligible gardens are encouraged to apply for the soil testing program, furthering the state’s commitment to fostering healthy, productive, and connected communities.