You know how it is when you look at a photograph or a painting that at first looks like nothing you can recognize and then, as if by magic, it all sorts itself out into something very familiar, and you wonder for a moment how such a minor adjustment in your brain can turn gibberish into something so familiar? It is the same as the “ah ha!” moment with a thought, or, that explosion of clarity on pondering some new data in a science experiment. The proper term for that moment is an epiphany.
It seems to me that the age we live in is pregnant with epiphanies. It is a time of changes revealing themselves now or on the horizon. Our experience of them when we are so blessed can lead to an epiphany. Before an epiphany, however, all is fearful chaos, and the latter is also a dominant characteristic of our time.
Over the past year or so, if you have been reading this column, you may have noticed that time and again I’ve been touching on my personal, and also a global, epiphany occurring with respect to the nature of soil and its innate importance to life, and especially its importance in healing our planet today. This has been a time of excitement and wonder for me! We’ve all looked at soil all our lives, closely at first on all fours, and later noticing it mainly when we clean our clothes, unless we have become gardeners. As a gardener, before this year, I mainly thought of soil as a neutral growing medium in which we put nutrients along with plants. The more plants the more nutrient drawn up and the less nutrients for each plant. Thus the importance of keeping our soil plant-free around our vegetables or ornamentals. There is some value in that, but the truth is that plants create their own food. Most of us have known for a long time that the microbes in the soil were useful, but only this year did I have the epiphany that those microbes were an organism: a living, reacting being! The difference between a being and a medium is that you mostly don’t chop a being into little pieces or leave it exposed and unprotected.
Rondi Lightmark, Sheila Brown and I were partners in this epiphany. We were now more interested in the soil and its promise, and soon discovered a wide range of scientists, farmers, and ranchers that were producing wonderful soil and bountiful crops by observing a few simple rules. 1) Disturbing the structure of the soil is like a tornado ripping through a town, so don’t till. 2) Soil does not like to be exposed, so always keep it covered, either with cover crops or mulch. 3) Soil is a living ecosystem of millions of micro and macro plants and animals, so minimize and ideally eliminate herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. The plants need and use nutrients in the soil but the bulk of a plant is made of light and air! 4) The soil/plant ecosystem, as in a prairie, thrives on diversity, so no monocropping. Even if you are not a grower, you are probably beginning to see that modern industrial agriculture is doing all the wrong things. It might explain why modern agriculture is such a train wreck.
The new movement to build soil is called the soil regeneration movement, and it is catching fire. I heard Pete Buttigieg mention it in a debate. The Green New Deal includes soil regeneration as a prime goal. Our state just passed the Sustainable Farms and Fields Act that will subsidize farmers while they adopt soil regeneration techniques. The reason the state is doing this is because healthy soil also sequesters huge amounts of CO2 from the air.
In fact, soil regeneration is all upsides and no downsides—except that the corporate giants that control our food system while ruining our soil, poisoning our ground, air, water, and us, impoverishing our farmers, destroying wildlife habitat, and exacerbating the climate crisis will have to desist or change.
I mentioned previously that we joined some ardent VIGA farmers and gardeners to form a group called the Soil Ambassadors to promote this knowledge and to maximize the regeneration of our soils here on Vashon. If this interests you, please join us! (email me below.) One of our favorite books on the subject is Kiss the Ground by Josh Tickell. Check out the website of Regeneration International to begin to see how extensive this movement is.
The first of three VIGA Get Growing Programs on Mar 29 at La Biondo Farm will feature regeneration techniques. It is free and open to all. We will also be doing a book study group over five weeks at the Land Trust Building starting Mar. 30, 7-9:30 pm. The book is Climate: A New Story by Charles Eisenstein, which sees the climate crisis as a symptom of a general cultural malaise whose roots are buried in our cultural estrangement from nature and community, and our abnegation of Love as an operant force in ourselves and society. There may be an epiphany for you here! It is also free and the book is available on the book club table at the book store.
Comments or info?