The Center is uniquely situated on prime muck soil or “black dirt,” formed when the region’s first farmers drained glacial lakes with a system of ditches in the 1860s.

By supporting organic research and demonstrating the viability of organic practices on such land, there is the opportunity to make a tremendous environmental impact not only on the Chester Agricultural Center, but also on the entire black-dirt region.

Although its structure makes this soil unsuitable for construction, which alleviates development pressure, black-dirt soil creates specific conservation and environmental-management issues for agriculture. Wetlands, ditches, and other water-management infrastructure need to be properly maintained to protect crops from floods and droughts, and the high weed pressure on these organic soils must be controlled for viable yields. Currently, most black-dirt farmers rely heavily on herbicides; very few utilize organic practices.