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This program’s goal is to promote a systematic approach to urban and small-scale agriculture by enabling local efforts to deliver technical assistance, training, education and outreach related to soil health management systems to urban landowners, land-users, and other interested groups. We aim to reach new and underserved audiences in the small-scale farming arena, and promote focused efforts specializing in urban soil health.

Our program staff will work with partners, including farmers and non-traditional partners, to help form local working groups across the state to provide new programming and address the needs of small-scale growers. Our vision is that these local working groups will become self-sustaining, with assistance and leadership from our regional and state-wide program staff. Our Urban Soil Health Specialists and working group members will provide training to local conservation staff, growers and the general public at field days, workshops, one-on-one meetings, and via site visits and technical assistance.


Mission: Improve soil health on Indiana’s urban and community small-scale agricultural land.


  • Enhance local partnerships to form self-sustaining working groups across Indiana to address soil health in urban and small farm settings.
  • Increase the adoption of soil health management systems by urban and small-scale farmers and gardeners in production processes.
  • Provide resources, technical assistance, and education on soil health principles to farmers and gardeners that operate diverse production systems. Co-learn from these growers’ expertise and practices, and share experience with a wider audience.

The core of this program is centered around the 4 principles of soil health:

1) minimize disturbance
2) maximize soil cover
3) maximize biodiversity
4) maximize continuous living roots

Key soil health management practices include cover cropping, mulching, crop rotation, no-till / low till, nutrient management, and native and beneficial plants and insects.

Don’t think you’re an “urban” farm?

Maybe think again.

A 5-acre diverse vegetable market farm outside of town, a community garden, a Master Gardener’s demo garden at the Fairgrounds, a vacant lot being transformed to grow food in the city, a church garden growing food to donate, a university’s demonstration farm – these are just a few of the core group of farmers we’re trying to reach. 

This program is designed to reach and assist a broad audience of traditionally underserved populations in agriculture.

Get in touch to see how you can participate.

Flowers and produce grown by a non-profit urban farm in Indianapolis.


As of March 1st, 2021 we have 4 full-time staff: 3 Regional Urban Soil Health Specialists, and 1 Urban Soil Health Program Director. All are employees of the IASWCD, and work closely with Indiana Conservation Partnership organizations and staff, community farmers and small-scale producers, and other partners.

Elli Blaine
Urban Soil Health Program Director

Elli has a background in Environmental Studies, and has worked for the past four years with the non-profit farm Indy Urban Acres. She has also worked on soil health outreach with urban and small farms with the Marion and Hendricks County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Elli is excited to work with a team of enthusiastic and dedicated staff and a range of farmers and partners to improve soil health on urban and small-scale farms throughout the state.

Elli is based in Indianapolis in the IASWCD office.

Jamie Perry
Regional Urban Soil Health Specialist
Northeast Area

Jamie is a local grower based in Fort Wayne, whose background includes managing a greenhouse, mentoring Burmese refugee farmers, and teaching agriculture courses at Ivy Tech Community College. His passion for soil is evident by his current attendance at Oregon State University’s Soil Science program.

Jamie is based in the Fort Wayne NRCS Area Office.

Marian Rodriguez-Soto
Regional Urban Soil Health Specialist
Northwest Area

Marian has a background in agricultural sciences, crop protection, and soil ecology, and this spring will complete her master’s degree through the Department of Entomology at Purdue, where she studies soil pest management systems. As part of her degree, she participates in outreach programs and communicates the results of her research. She has been a regular volunteer with NICHES Land Trust.

Marian is based in the Lafayette NRCS Area Office.

Casey Kennett
Regional Urban Soil Health Specialist
Southeast Area

Casey recently worked for the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), where she co-led multiple SWCDs to form their very own local urban soil health working group PHISH (People Helping Improve Soil Health). In collaboration with SWCDs, Indiana Conservation Partnership members, and landowners, Kennett has organized events and workshops, written conservation grant applications, and implemented various programs advocating for conservation.

Casey is based in the North Vernon NRCS Area Office.

Holly McCutchan, Urban Conservationist with the Warrick County Soil and Water Conservation District, will continue in her position and participate in this initiative as the Southwest Area Region Specialist. Holly.Mccutchan@in.nacdnet.net

Map of regional areas and staff contact information.


Please use this form to contact our staff if you are interested in the Urban Soil Health Program, want to find out about how to be involved, and stay informed about our activities.



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