Nenahnezad Harvest Festival participants learn about soil health

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Community members look over information before the start of a Harvest Festival presentation, Friday, Sept. 21. 2018 at the Nenahnezad Chapter House in Fruitland.

NENAHNEZAD — Learning about soil health was among the topics shared at the Nenahnezad Harvest Festival on Friday.

Kevin Lombard, superintendent for the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center, talked about the composition of soil and the importance of soil testing.

An option for farmers to find out the health and composition of soil is through testing by a laboratory, Lombard said.

To undergo testing, up to 10 inches of soil is collected and placed in a storage bag, which should be marked with the date and location of where the sample was taken, he said.

"It's a worthwhile investment," Lombard said.

He added if the individual needs help interpreting the report, they can see an extension agent at the NMSU offices in Shiprock and Aztec.

At right, Maxine Tsosie, a community health worker with the Navajo Nation Department of Health talks provides information on health screenings to community members, Friday, Sept. 21. 2018 during the Nenahnezad Harvest Festival at the Nenahnezad Chapter House in Fruitland.

Personnel at the agricultural science center can test soil using a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, a device that detects and identifies metals in soil.

Another area Lombard talked about was soil salinity, which is the salt content in soil.

Among the causes of salinity is over irrigation using poor quality water, or failing to remove the salt content by under irrigation.

Lombard also presented information about ongoing monitoring of areas near the Animas and San Juan rivers because of the Gold King Mine spill.

The August 2015 spill released more than three million gallons of toxic wastewater in the Animas, a tributary of the San Juan.

NMSU continues to study the after effects of the mine spill, including sites located in Fruitland and Shiprock.

Sites were tested before, during and after the growing season in 2017.

The results for field soils, irrigation water, leaf tissue and edible produce show that levels for metals and minerals do not exceed federal standards, he said.

Monitoring and testing by the university will continue for two more years due to funding, he added.

Lombard's presentation was one of several that focused on food storage, grass management, estate planning and the tribe's animal control program.

Tracy Raymond, chairperson for the festival, said this is the third year for the harvest festival, which is a celebration for the community, as well as a showcase for produce, and provides agricultural education.

New Mexico State University Associate Professor of Horticulture Kevin Lombard gives a presentation entitled "Enhanced Soil for Gardens", Friday, Sept. 21. 2018 during the Nenahnezad Harvest Festival at the Nenahnezad Chapter House in Fruitland.

Raymond presented information about probates for farm and grazing permits issued by the Navajo Nation.

He said it is important to understand this process because there are young tribal members who want to farm, but navigating the laws can be cumbersome.

"There are a lot of farms that are idle, and permits are not being passed down to the youth. The youth don't have the privilege to farm," Raymond said.

In addition to presentations, the event had vendors who sold produce, baked items and arts and crafts.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at