Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis


Science, Technology and Society

First Advisor

Sean Berthrong


The growing trend of healthier diets and localized food systems has led to the emergence of many urban farms throughout Indianapolis. Communities now have access to arable land where they can grow high quality produce for families and communities. However, many of the farms are built on land with past industrial or commercial legacies. These postindustrial soils could contain contaminants, like heavy metals, some of which are potentially harmful to humans. These sites also have poor soil quality, so farmers often have to import soil and use large amounts of fertilizer or compost to ensure viable growing conditions. To isolate imported soil from the possibly contaminated, farms typically lay down around 24 inches of mulch between the original land and the growing medium. To test if this method is effective and providing healthy soil, we took four soil samples from six urban farms in the Indianapolis area: two from the growing medium and the other two from the original land. Samples were tested for a number of soil health indicators, as well as for concentrations of an array of heavy metals. We found wide variation in heavy metal concentrations, though growing medium was significantly lower than the original land. Organic matter was also related to soil respiration suggesting increased soil health with compost addition. This research will educate gardeners and general public on soil health within urban gardens. This will help farmers become more efficient with their methodology, as well as alert them to any potential hazards.