Pilgrims and soil: what’s the connection?

Wisconsin State Farmer

Madison — Imagine arriving in a new land only to discover your food supply plans have fallen through.

Our modern Thanksgiving celebration, often sourced from grocers and accessorized with store-bought decor, is missing these “dirty” details. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) November 15 Soils Matter blog post explains farming challenges the Pilgrims faced, and their survival thanks to help from the Wampanoag Native Americans.

Soil Science Society of America

The early immigrants found unfamiliar conditions in their new setting:

  • They had few farming skills;
  • The soil was shallow, sandy, and stony;
  • They did not have draft animals to help cultivate the soil;
  • The soils were quick to dry out, had few nutrients, and little organic matter.

“For those first Pilgrims, getting to that bountiful harvest was a huge feat,” says blog author Tom Sauer, USDA-ARS. “They wisely accepted the guidance of the Wampanoag…to supplement their lack of knowledge and skills in vegetable and crop production.”

To read the entire blog post, visit

Follow SSSA on Facebook at, Twitter at SSSA_Soils. SSSA has soils information on, for teachers at, and for students through 12th grade,

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, and founded in 1936, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members and 1,000+ certified professionals dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. The Society provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.