Aug. 5, 2015
As much as I love girly clothes, high heels and nail polish, I’m not afraid in the least of a little dirt. I remember making mud pies, helping plant flowers in the yard, picking tomatoes from the garden, rolling around in the grass and practicing sliding into home base. I loved digging for potatoes in the mounds of my great-uncle Art’s garden and walking barefoot in mud. I’m sure I ate my fair share of the earth – but a little dirt never hurt anyone.
Now that I’m grown up, I still don’t mind digging into the soil and getting a bit dirty. All through winter I long for warm enough days to plant flowers in the yard. Sure, it ruins my nail polish, but there’s something satisfying about getting a little dirt under your nails every so often. I still like to venture out into my dad’s garden and steal a few tomatoes, and I’m competitive enough to take a dive into the dirt during pretty much any sport if it will help me win.
A few weeks ago I went camping – in a tent. I’m pretty sure I brought home a fair amount of Tawas Point State Park dirt home with me, but that’s what camping is all about. A few years ago when I traveled the world as part of Spartans Will.360, getting dirty was part of the gig. When you travel to remote areas in 11 countries in eight weeks, with two pair of shoes and about five outfits, dirt is inevitable. I didn’t mind it a bit. Dirt washes off, but a missed adventure can fill a life with regret.
Dirt – what would we do without it? Without soil to grow crops, we would be in a world of hurt. It’s literally the foundation of agriculture that sustains people around the world so it’s crucial that we protect it. My guess is most people don’t really think about the soil that much, but many MSU researchers are dedicated to preserving this vital resource. Check out the MSUToday Feature: MSU Digs In, to learn about just a few ways MSU scientists are getting their hands dirty to solve this world challenge.
Nicole Mason, is another researcher who is digging in to find solutions. As a young environmental education and agroforestry Peace Corps volunteer in the African nation of Guinea, she discovered her passion for working with smallholder farmers in Africa, which led her to graduate school at MSU and her current position. She has studied the effects of fertilizers and crop patterns, and she says improving soil health is high on the public policy agenda. Read her FACULTY VOICE: Collaborating Across Africa, to learn more about her work.
Evan Milton is a fourth-year student in the MSU College of Human Medicine who also isn’t afraid to dig in and make a difference. He’s a Fulbright Scholarship winner who will return to Honduras this fall to study public health and improvements to medical care. Read his STUDENT VIEW: Enduring Connections, to learn more about his project.
Last May, my husband and I were part of a huge volunteer effort to plant trees in Detroit where vacant buildings had been removed. There were literally hundreds of people digging in the dirt, hauling mulch and working hard. One of the first things I noticed were how many Spartans there seemed to be. I swear, every other person was wearing MSU apparel and shouts of “Go Green! Go White!” could be heard on the bus taking us to the location. It wasn’t an MSU event – but Spartans were everywhere. The first woman I talked with had graduated from the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine just the day before, and there she was, digging in dirt the next day to make a difference.
But that’s just what Spartans do. Spartans aren’t afraid of a little dirt and will always dig in to make a difference in the world. We’re bold and we’ve got gumption. Whether we’re researchers, students or alumni, we’re the first to grab the shovels and help. Novelist Margaret Atwood once said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” So get out there, dig in and never be afraid of a little dirt.
Photo of Spartan John Mulcrone digging in by Lisa Mulcrone