The Importance of Soil

soil farming

Don’t miss these important facts about soil. (photo credit:

The U.S. Geological Survey recently released new maps that show what is in our soil.  This information is beneficial to both agriculture and public health experts because it helps pinpoint places where food safety issues might arise because of the composition of the soil.

The release of these new maps got us at Fill Your Plate  thinking about the important role soil plays in producing the food we all use to fill our plates.  The quality of the soil impacts everything from what kind of food we can grow to the cleanliness of our water.  It is the foundation of every ecosystem on the planet and these new maps increase our understanding of the natural variations in soil composition across the country.

One of the goals of this mapping project was to provide a baseline of the current status of the soil across the country. This baseline will allow scientists and other experts to monitor changes in the soil over time.  Creating this baseline will make it possible to determine if future changes in soil composition are naturally occurring or if they are a consequence of human habitation.   Without this baseline, it is impossible to determine if increases in certain minerals or chemicals in the soil are due to waste disposal practices or if they have occurred naturally.

The mapping project was a massive effort and more than 24,000 soil samples were collected from 4,800 locations over a three year period.  Sample collectors came from a variety of government agencies and universities and followed guidelines defining where soil samples could be sourced within pre-selected target areas.  According to these guidelines, soil samples could not be taken:

  • Within 200 meters of a major highway
  • Within 100 meters of any building or manmade structure
  • Within 50 meters of a rural road or street
  • Within 5 kilometers downwind of any power plant or smoke stack

As part of the collection process, sample takers obtained permission from any private land owners prior to collecting any samples.  The success of the project is partially credited to the numerous landowners who happily cooperated and allowed soil samples to be taken from their property.

Prior to the release of this study, much of the national scale data available came from a study conducted in the 1960s and 1970s that used outdated techniques and methodology.  Creating this baseline allows experts in a variety of fields spanning from agriculture to public health to understand how changes in the nation’s soil composition are occurring and how those changes impact our water, food supply, health, and future.   With a better understanding of how specific practices, types of pollution, or waste management practices impact the soil, policy makers will be better able to protect this valuable natural resource.

For more information about the Geochemical and Mineralogical Data for Soils of the Conterminous United States survey visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s report here.


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Apples, Apples, Everywhere….Arizona Apples


Be sure to try one of these delicious recipes using in season apples (photo credit:

Apple season is just around the corner and this year looks to be one for the history books.  Experts are predicting the third largest apple crop in U.S. History despite the fact that two of the primary apple producers, Michigan and New York, are expecting a lighter yield than normal.  The U.S. is expected to produce 260 million, 40 pound boxes this year which may send apple prices falling unless the major producer can arrange for additional exports.

Washington state, one of the top producer’s in the country is expected to produce 150 million, 40 pound boxes of apples this season which is significantly higher than the previous record for the state set in 2012.  It is this extraordinary Washington crop that has pushed this year into the top three of all time.  If New York and Michigan had experienced even a normal year, there is no question 2014 would be the year with the largest apple crop ever.

Here in Arizona, apples also have a strong showing.  Although not one of the major crops produced in the state, apple orchards are springing up all over the Southeastern part of the state.   This means you will be able to find apples at many of the farmers markets throughout the state beginning in mid-late August.

The apples grown in Arizona are known for their sweet crisp flavor and they make great additions to salads, snacks, and breakfast plates.  One of the great things about apples is their versatility.  They can be eaten as is, sliced, peeled and sliced, chopped, mashed into sauce, and they go with just about any dish at almost any meal.

As we head toward the autumn, make sure to take advantage of the huge crop to stock up on delicious, healthy, Arizona grown apples.  You can find them at the local farmers market or in the bins at your grocery store.    From apple pie to apple sauce, make this August all about apples with these delicious recipes featuring Arizona apples.








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Support Your Local Farmers’ Market

Farmers Markets

Know these tips to help you have the best experience while shopping at your local farmer’s market (photo credit:

National Farmers’ Market Week was held in recognition of the increasingly important role farmers’ markets play in our local and national food supply.  The number of farmers’ markets operating across the country has nearly doubled in the last 5 years and there were more than 8,000 farmers’ markets operating in 2013.

Here in Arizona, there are almost 100 farmer’s markets open for business all across the state.  While some of our markets close down in during the hottest parts of the summer, the fall harvest season is right around the corner and the availability of everything from produce to dairy products will increase over the next couple weeks.

If you are new to the farmers’ market shopping, take this week as a great opportunity to check out your local market to see what kinds of fresh Arizona products you can get.  We make it easy to find a market close to you by searching Fill Your Plate’s farmers’ market listing.

Not sure a farmers’ market sounds like your ‘thing’?  Here’s how local farmers’ markets benefit you and your community:

  • When you shop at local farmers’ markets or request local produce and meat at your grocery store, it boosts the local economy and makes it possible for farmer’s to continue to produce food locally.
  • Shopping at the farmers’ market means you are getting the freshest food possible.
  • Farmers’ markets make it easier to eat according to the season.
  • Food from the farmers’ market can even be less expensive than the same food imported from somewhere else because of decreased transportation costs and less middle men taking a cut between the producer on the farm and you, the consumer.

If you are planning your first trip to a farmers’ market or if you have been in the past, but didn’t have a great experience, here are some tips to help you make the most of this fantastic local resource.

  • Get there early.  Unlike grocery stores, the farmers at the market generally have a limited amount of each thing they are selling and if you have specific things you are looking for or if you want to have the biggest selection, go when the market opens.
  • Manage expectations.  When you get ready to go to the market, think seasonal and local.  You are not likely to find exotic fruits or out of season vegetables like you would in the grocery store.
  • Bring your reusable shopping bags.  While some vendors at the market will have bags you can use to carry your purchases, not everyone will provide a bag with your purchase.
  • Bring cash.  With the increased availability of pay via mobile phone apps, more farmers’ market vendors are accepting credit and debit cards than ever before, but you are still going to find many stalls that only take cash.  Plus, paying with cash doesn’t cost you more but it does cost them less as even the mobile phone options charge a fee for each transaction.
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Can Prunes Help Whittle Your Waistline?


Prunes are a healthy addition to many recipes to help whittle your waistline away. (photo credit:

If most of us think of prunes at all, we think of them as something senior citizens eat because of their high fiber content.  But a new study may have everyone talking about prunes as the next weight loss “superfood”.   According to research from the University of Liverpool, eating a couple prunes each day can help keep you from getting hungry and make it easier to lose weight.

The intent of the study, which included 100 participants who were either overweight or obese, was to determine the effect of prunes on weight loss.  In addition to being overweight, all participants were also low-fiber consumers. The goals of the study were to understand if including prunes as part of a weight-loss diet had any effect on weight reduction, to determine if people who were low fiber consumers could tolerate eating large quantities of these high fiber fruits, and to see if eating prunes had any effect on appetite.

The study spanned a 12 week timeframe where participants were separated into two groups.  One group consumed a specific amount of prunes everyday as part of their regular weight loss diet.  The other group was given advice on how to select healthy snacks, but there was no mandatory intake of prunes.

The findings indicate that eating just 5-6 grams of prunes everyday has a demonstrable effect on weight loss.  Those in the prune group lost almost twice as many pounds over the 12 week period as their healthy snack peers.  On average, the prune group members lost 2.5 kg or about 5.5 pounds while their non-prune eating peers averaged about 1.5 kg or 3.3 pounds lost over the length of the study.

In addition to the difference in weight loss, those participants in the prune group saw an increase in their rate of weight loss in the final weeks of the study.  They also reported experiencing greater feelings of fullness.  None of those in the prune group had any difficulty tolerating the high fiber food even though they generally ate low fiber diets.

The research team believes that one of the main reasons the prune group lost more weight was because the high-fiber prunes helped reduce hunger and control appetite by making participants feel fuller, longer.

These findings indicate that including prunes as part of an overall weight loss/management strategy may help those who are overweight or obese lose more weight than they would by following the same diet without the prunes.  This will change the conventional wisdom that generally omits dried fruit from weight loss and weight management diets.

For ways to get some prunes onto your plate, try these great recipes featuring the fiber-rich dried fruit.


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Mortimer Family Farms Sweet Corn Festival

Mortimer Family Farms Sweet Corn Festival

Locally  owned Mortimer Family  Farms  invites the public to attend their Sweet  Corn  Festival  on  August  16 -17 & 23 -24 in  Dewey,  Arizona.

This  festival  will feature everything  “CORN!”  Come for the “a-MAIZE-ing”  attractions, games,  farm activities, barn dance, and much more!

Admission  is  only  $10.00  per  person  which  includes  entertainment  for  the  entire  family!

  • Younger guests will enjoy the  Pig Races, Farm Animal Petting Zoo,  Buckaroo  Pony Corner, Farm Slide,  Corn Bath,  Straw Maze,  Barrel Train, Bounce Playhouse Farmland, and Barrel Train!
  • Teen  guests  won’t  want  to  miss  the  Bubble  Run,  Pig  Races,  Laser  Tag,  Roping Dummies,  Obstacle Course, Water Rides,  and  Lawn Mower Races!
  • The whole family will relish  Fresh Picked Sweet Corn, Vegetables,  Antique Tractor Show, Hay Rides, Music, Barn Dance, Live Entertainment, Craft Vendors,  and  “a-MAIZE-ing” farm food set in the middle of  the  growing  fields!

Are  you  competitive?   Test  your  skills  with  a  Corn  Eating competition, Corn Shucking competition, and Corn Toss with prizes being awarded!

The Mile High Tractor Club will be displaying antique tractors for all to enjoy! Watch as they compete for “Top Pull”  every Saturday,  seeing which  Operator &  Antique  Tractor can pull the weighted sled the farthest.

Meet  Farmer Buzz  on a hayride tour of the farm with lots of stories and history about the area  –  he will even take you to the fields  to pick your own Sweet Corn right off the stalk. Learn about agriculture,  the history of Dewey-Humboldt, and watch a real Blacksmith create works of art in iron! Check out a detailed schedule at to see the daily bands and entertainment.

There will be a Farm Dance both  Saturdays, in the 4  -  7 Barn.  The dance is for all ages to enjoy and it is a MUST!  Be ready for this Boot  Scootin’ good time from 7:00-10:00 pm along with all festival attractions.

Their Country Store and “My Grandma’s Kitchen” is open daily from 8-6 where you will find  farm  raised:   Sweet  Corn,  Tomatoes,  Peppers,  Squash,  Zucchini,  Cucumbers,  Herbs, Black  Angus  Beef,  Chicken,  Home  baked  Cookies,  Pies,  Cakes,  Fudge,  Sandwiches  and more!  Their  baked  goods  utilize  farm  fresh  ingredients,  making  everything  from  scratch  – just like Grandma always did!  The recipes are family favorites and they are delicious.

The  vegetables  have  arrived!  The  store  and  festival  will  be  loaded  with  Sweet  Corn, Tomatoes, Squash, Peppers and other Summer Vegetables grown on the Farm. 

Join Mortimer Family Farms today for an  “a-MAIZE-ing”  Time at our Sweet Corn Festival!  At the Corner of Highway 69 & 169 in Dewey – Mortimer Family Farms!


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