David Brandt

Salvation in the Soil

Student Activity based on “Salvation in the Soil“, from the Jan/Feb 2013 Our Ohio magazine.


Ohio Model Curriculum for English Language Arts
(Grade 7: Reading: Informational Texts: Key ideas and details) In this student activity, students will “separate text into parts for individual study noting several pieces of textual evidence in order to identify the central ideas in a text which may be expressed explicitly as well as from inferences (general conclusions from information given) drawn from text. By analyzing interactions in text, the reader will be provided with textual evidence, which will help in determining the message of the passage.”
(Explanation and key terms are from the Ohio Department of Education, March 2011, Grade 7 Model Curriculum)

Salvation in the Soil

• Ask students to read the article titled “Salvation in the Soil” found in Our Ohio magazine or online.

• As students read, encourage them to notice central ideas and how the author supports these ideas with details.

Discussion points

  1. Explore what the author explicitly and implicitly meant with the title “Salvation in the Soil.”
  2. In your own words, explain what the author means when he states “Dave Brandt is leading an underground movement.”
  3. Why are farmers and environmentalists interested in what Dave Brandt does with his soil?
  4. Who is Obi-Wan Kenobi and why does the author use this reference in the text when referring to Mr. Brandt?
  5. Define “epicenter.” What is the question that Mr. Brandt is trying to answer, according to the text.
  6. Explain what a Green Revolution is and why that is important to someone who grows food?

More with less

  1. When planting crops, a traditional method of preparing the soil for planting is to plow, till or cultivate a field. Then a farmer plants the field with seed.
  2. When Mr. Brandt began farming, he chose not to till his fields before planting. Explain why he made this choice. What supporting details does the author give as benefits to not tilling the fields?

Plants do the work

  1. Farmers use many machines to produce their crops. What does Mr. Brandt state about his combine? What piece of equipment does he value more than the combine? Why?
  2. Give supporting facts about Mr. Brandt’s planting practices to emphasize his dedication to soil quality.
  3. How do his cover crops benefit the soil? Give five facts from the text.
  4. Why do people come to listen to Mr. Brandt share information about farming?
  5. According to the text, what work are plants doing for the soil that the farmer doesn’t have to physically do?

Field research

  1. Who does Mr. Brandt partner with to provide statistical proof that his soil improvement methods work better than other methods?
  2. Many people come to learn from Mr. Brandt and his farming methods. How has his partnership with Ohio State helped to spread that knowledge? How do people learn to improve their own soil quality from what Mr. Brandt does?
  3. What is the goal for all crop production farmers, as stated in this article?
  4. What award has Mr. Brandt received for his work toward improving soil quality and food production?

Hands on at Home or School

  1. Write one sentence that provides the central idea of this informational text.
  2. The headings of the text provide the reader with supporting details.
  3. Provide two facts from each section to support the central idea.
  4. In your opinion, did the author do a good job of providing support that Mr. Brandt is indeed making a difference in soil quality research?
  5. The text states explicitly that Mr. Brandt is the Obi-Wan Kenobi of soil quality. What can the reader infer from this statement?

** Graphic organizer: “Using this text, chart the facts on one side and inferences that can be drawn on the other. This visual representation will give you a clear picture of what the author says explicitly and what the author infers.” (Grade 7 English Model Curriculum, pg 12)

  1. The soil testing done in Mr. Brandt’s fields indicate a high level of organic matter. Can the reader infer that this is better than the levels of organic matter in other fields? Explain.
  2. Provide an objective summary of this text using six sentences.
  3. Where did Mr. Brandt get the idea to use cover crops to improve his soil? How has he influenced others to do the same? Are his ideas convincing enough for other individuals to experiment with cover crops?
  4. Use your favorite Internet search engine with the key words “Dave Brandt Cover Crops”
  5. What other articles about his creative farming techniques did you find?
  6. Watch a Youtube seminar discussing his methods of farming.
  7. Did you discover that the information in this Our Ohio article was consistent with information you found on other websites?
  8. List the numerous sites and publications (resources) for Mr. Brandt’s media exposure that you found on the Internet.


  1. Using a map of Ohio located at the Ohio Department of Transportation, or your own map, locate:
  • Fairfield County, Ohio

This student activity was prepared by Camille Kopczewski, who is coordinator of religious education at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Grove City. She is a former sixth grade social studies teacher for South-Western City Schools. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in education.