What Does “Tilth” Mean, Anyway?

compost-handsSeattle Tilth. The “Seattle” part is easy enough to figure out, but have you ever wondered what “Tilth” means and why it’s part of our name? You’re not alone! This is one of our most frequently asked questions and has only become more common as we explore a merger with Tilth Producers of Washington.

“Tilth” is an Old English word that comes from the same root word as “to till” and means the quality of soil. Modern dictionaries define it as “cultivated land; the state of aggregation of a soil especially in relation to its suitability for crop growth.” Soil that’s perfect for planting has “good tilth.” Older meanings associate it with the cultivation of wisdom and spirit, too.

Planning meeting at Pragtree Farm on Aug. 27, 1977 where the name "Tilth" was adopted for the regional organization. (Photo by Jef Jaisun)

Planning meeting at Pragtree Farm on Aug. 27, 1977 where the name “Tilth” was adopted for the regional organization. (Photo by Jef Jaisun)

In 1974, the word “Tilth” was adopted as the name for a regional network of organic farmers and gardeners in the Pacific Northwest called the Tilth Association. Over the years, the Tilth Association has grown into a diverse and dynamic sustainable agricultural movement, now consisting of six different chapters in Washington, including Seattle Tilth and Tilth Producers of Washington.

Interested in learning even more about the word “tilth” and its history among farming organizations in Washington? Read a detailed history of the Tilth movement by Mark Musick, a founding member of the Tilth Association.

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