Getting the dirt on soil health in Soil Health Style

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Soil often gets a bad rap; we dismiss it as just “dirt” that needs to be kept off of ourselves and the surfaces around us. What we don’t usually think about when we are doing this is soil is alive, breathing, and gives us life. That’s the message the Water Rocks! creative team wanted to send when writing the song “Soil Health Style” and making the subsequent video.

Backed by a good beat, the song is a catchy mash-up of sung and spoken phrases relating to soil health. Inspired by the Korean artist Psy and his crazy infectious song “Gangnam Style” this is not a tune you can listen to and quickly forget. Phrases such as “grow with it,” “unlock the secrets,” and “infiltration syncopation” particularly jump out. Jacqueline Comito, Water Rocks! program director, came up with the song’s initial concept then tasked Todd Stevens, one of Water Rocks! resident songwriters, to run with it and have fun.

Stevens started with the base beat, going for a modern and electronic feel that was also dance worthy. When asked what his litmus test is for knowing when he’s got a hit on his hands Stevens immediately mentioned his two youngest children.

“I have a five-year-old and seven-year-old in my home,” he explained. “They are great for testing my songs. After I have the music to a particular song ready I will take it out to the living room and blast it on the stereo. If the kids start dancing, it’s a hit.”

So what happened when Stevens played “Soil Health Style” for his kids the first time?

“Kids were dancing!” Stevens gushed.

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For those who are familiar with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Unlock the Secrets in the Soil campaign this song may sound familiar as many of the phrases in “Soil Health Style” are also key phrases in the campaign. The NRCS has been a longtime partner of Water Rocks! so it felt right for the team to give the campaign a nod in the song and music video.

As Comito said, “we do a lot of work with the NRCS and this was our way of celebrating what they do.”

The song and video certainly feel like a celebration of soil and all the wonderful things it does for us.

The whole concept for the Soil Health Style video took shape with the help of filmmaker Alyssa Dreeszen.

The visuals are particularly striking, shifting from three Ames area high schoolers performing choreographed motions to symbolize the unlocking of soil health, to time lapse images of some amazing soil processes, then back to the trio pushing and pulling the song’s key phrases. Dreezen wanted the themes of unlocking and growing to be expressed in the movements of the actors, so when Rachel Glaza, a dancer and Iowa Department of Natural Resources employee, stepped in to do the choreography it all came together.

This week is Soil and Water Conservation Week in Iowa, so Soil Health Style is the perfect reminder of how critically important soil is to nearly everything we make, see, and do.

Comito was asked what her ultimate hope is for the message people take home after watching Soil Health Style and she had this to say: “Soil is alive and precious. We need to do everything we can to keep it healthy. We couldn’t live without it. Everything we are comes from soil and water.”

Need even more reasons to celebrate Soil Health Style? Here are two more: Soil Health Style received two Awards of Achievement from the Iowa Motion Picture Association for original music score, and corporate and community marketing!

To watch Soil Health Style head over to the Water Rocks! YouTube Channel, and be sure to check out more Water Rocks! content about soil and water conservation on the Water Rocks! website.