Dirt Series


The Natural and Cultural History of Soil:

Cultivating Fertile Soil, Generating Resilient Communities


The Natural and Cultural History of Soil is a series of educational events on the theme of soil as the foundation of a healthy food system - - and society. Macarthur Fellow, scientist, and author, Dr. David R. Montgomery, will share his research on the history and future of soil here in the Monadnock region in November with complimentary events in October leading up to his talks.

Dr. Montgomery will visit from the University of Washington and offer two talks in early November.

Leading up to Dr. Montgomery’s visit there will be a film showing of Dirt! The Movie on October 3rd and facilitated panel and round table book discussion led by Dr. Mark C. Long, Professor of English and American Studies at Keene State College and President of the Association for the Study of the Literature and Environment on October 19th.


See below for individual event details!



    David Montgomery book covers

    An engaging account that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are—and have long been—using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. A rich mix of history, archaeology and geology, Dirt traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, China, European colonialism, Central America, and the American push westward. We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil—as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt. David R. Montgomery sees in the recent rise of no-till farming the hope for a new agricultural revival that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations.

    His most recent book, Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life cuts through debates about conventional and organic farming, showing how a soil health revolution could bring farmland soil back to life.  Combining ancient wisdom with modern science, Montgomery offers a vision where agriculture becomes the solution to environmental problems, helping feed us all and cool the planet.

    Fifty books by Dr. Montgomery will be made available for community members to borrow at the Keene Public Library and the Cheshire County Conservation District office in Walpole, library card not needed. 

      Supported in part by a New Hampshire Humanities Community   Project Grant, the series of events is sponsored by the Cheshire County Conservation District in partnership with Keene State College. It is a collaborative venture that will further an urgent project at the heart of the environmental humanities: the connection of people, ideas, and the land.   The Conservation District works with the farming community on improving management practices that enhance soil health and viability and to educate the general public on the foundation for a healthy food system.


      This project poses a series of challenging questions about human culture and agriculture. 

      • What do our current agricultural practices say about us both individually and collectively?
      • How do we understand the social needs and demands of our local agricultural economy, the natural constraints of ecology and the political imperatives of democracy?
      • And how do we reconcile agricultural practices, community health and resiliency, food health and security, with our insatiable consumer economy? 





      Upcoming Events in our DIRT SERIES


      October 3rd @6PM –  Film Screening of  Dirt! The Movie and Facilitated Discussion by Dr. Mark C. Long of Keene State College, Stonewall Farm, 242 Chesterfield Rd, Keene, Parking available on site, to register visit www.cheshireconservation.org/film-screening-dirt-the-movie or contact at 603-756-2988 ext.116 or amanda@cheshireconservation.org


      October 19th @6PM – Panel and Roundtable Discussion of ideas raised by Dr. David Montgomery’s books Dirt: the Erosion of Civilizations and Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, Facilitated by Dr. Mark C. Long of Keene State College,  Stonewall Farm, 242 Chesterfield Rd, Keene, Parking available on site, to register visit www.cheshireconservation.org/dirt-series-panel-roundtable-discussion or contact at 603-756-2988 ext.116 or amanda@cheshireconservation.org


      November 2nd @5PM – NH Association of Conservation Districts Annual Meeting & Working Lands Conference, Keynote address by David Montgomery, Courtyard Marriott, 75 Railroad St, Keene, Parking available downtown, $20 ticketed banquet dinner open to public (dinner is included for those attending) to register visit www.cheshireconservation.org/working-lands-conference or contact at 603-756-2988 ext.116 or amanda@cheshireconservation.org


      November 3rd @11AM – Free, Public Talk by David Montgomery – Growing a Revolution, Keene State College Alumni Center, Centennial Hall at the Alumni Center, 229 Main Street, Keene, Parking available on street and limited parking on site, to register visit www.cheshireconservation.org/growing-a-revolution or contact at 603-756-2988 ext.116 or amanda@cheshireconservation.org



      David Montgomery headshot

      David R. Montgomery is a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He is an internationally recognized geologist who studies landscape evolution and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. An author of award-winning popular-science books, he has been featured in documentary films, network and cable news, and on a wide variety of TV and radio programs, including NOVA, PBS NewsHour, Fox and Friends, and All Things Considered. When not writing or doing geology, he plays in the band Big Dirt. He lives in Seattle, with his wife Anne Biklé and their black lab guide-dog dropout Loki.  Connect with him at www.dig2grow.com or follow him on Twitter (@dig2grow).