Soil Tunnel Debuts at the Colusa Farm Show

Staff pose with the inflatable soil health tunnel, which made its debut at the Colusa County farm show

For this year’s Colusa Farm Show, the goal of the Colusa County Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Colusa County Resource Conservation District (CCRCD) was to avoid the typical outreach effort (e.g. workshop with coffee, donuts, PowerPoint slideshow, low attendance in a chilly room, and so on) and use a tactic that would do more to spark the imagination. NRCS’ Soil Tunnel—a 1,000 pound inflatable exhibit—offered an interactive educational opportunity that both agencies felt would be an engaging and effective alternative. Getting the Soil Tunnel to the Farm Show was a Herculean effort, but through collaboration and many helping hands it was successfully exhibited for the first time in California in early February.

Wendy, NRCS District Conservationist for Colusa County, did not shy away from the liability and logistics of getting the tunnel to the Farm Show. The tunnel was shipped from Iowa during the “polar vortex” and arrived right on time for opening day. Brandi Murphy, Soil Conservationist, and Elyse Blaker, Farm Bill Assistant, left early that morning to pick it up at a UPS Distribution Center in Sacramento, and it was fully inflated by 10 am that day.

NRCS employees from the Sacramento Valley, including Emily Harmon, who is also CCRCD’s Natural Resource Coordinator, volunteered to staff it for all three days of the Farm Show.  

As visitors walked through the Soil Tunnel, which offers a rare glimpse of the world below the ground, they learned about the importance of soil cycles, the soil food web, and keys to soil health.

But this interactive exhibit was not just about the tunnel. Staff set up a number of soil health assessment demonstrations on the lawn surrounding the tunnel as well. Soil samples on display taken from Arbuckle, Colusa, and Bear Valley showed the different layers and the evolution of soil over time. At the CCRCD booth, visitors could enter to win a “Colusa County Grown” commodity basket by completing a soil trivia questionnaire in which all the answers were found on the Soil Tunnel. 

Bringing the Soil Tunnel to the Colusa Farm Show turned out to be an exciting education and outreach opportunity for all involved, and exemplified once again the strong partnership between the RCDs and NRCS.