December 5 is World Soil Day. What does this mean, and why should we care about soil health? It’s a lot more important that you might think! Here, I’m delighted to share with you an interview with Holly Rose. She’s an environmentalist, a writer, and a regenerative agriculture advocate from whom I have learned so much since first following her blog and Instagram. If you haven’t heard of her or regenerative agriculture before, you’re in for a treat! I sincerely hope you enjoy this interview, and I highly recommend following her online to learn much, much more.
For those who aren’t already following you, can you briefly introduce yourself and your work?
My name is Holly Rose, I’m from Winnipeg, Canada, but currently, live in a seaside town in England. I’m a writer, soil advocate, and environmentalist sharing tales of regeneration and rewilding through my blog and Instagram HollyRose.eco and soon via a multimedia project I’m launching in the new year called Gather Grounded.
December 5 is World Soil Day. Why should we be thinking about soil? Why is it important? How is it connected to climate change?
There is more life in a teaspoon of soil then there are humans on this earth. But we look and treat soil like dirt. The truth is, healthy soil is essential for human survival and also essential for climate and social justice as well.
When soil is healthy it looks and feels like chocolate cake, in that state, it provides nutritious food which positively affects our health, it makes our lands resilient against drought and flooding as it stores moisture like a reservoir instead of running off into our waterways, and reverses global warming by drawing down the overpopulation of carbon in our atmosphere (which gets there by burning fossil fuels) converting it into topsoil (which is what we grow our food in).
Right now, we’re losing it at a rate 10x faster than soil is replenished, meaning we only have about 50 harvests left. The degenerative way we farm, especially when it comes to industrial farming practices, has reduced the nutrient content of our food by up to 80%. You would have to eat about 8 oranges to get the nutrients our grandparents got in one. In addition, the toxic chemicals we’re poisoning our crops, and by proxy, our land and waterways with, is causing the health of life above and below ground to rapidly decline and is contributing to global heating and soil desertification.
Can you give us a very quick primer on regenerative agriculture, and how it helps to support soil health?
One of the most effective ways to protect the soil while producing food is through Regenerative Agriculture, which is sometimes called Carbon Farming and is a portion of the umbrella of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge known as Agroecology. It’s a system of farming principles that increase biodiversity, enrich the soil, improve watersheds, and enhance ecosystem services.
When food is produced regeneratively, it is produced in a way that protects the life below ground and the strength of soil aggregates (essentially what holds the land together and acts as sort of a coral reef for life below ground) leaving the roots of the plants in the ground.
- This means the land is not tilled (because that breaks up the soil aggregates), and the crops are cultivated without toxic chemicals, so no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or nitrogen fertilizer (all of which poison life, land, and water).
- Often these farms feature animals who holistically graze the land (mimicking the natural movement of native species but with humans to keep them from overgrazing since we’ve killed all their natural predators).
- These farmers also use cover crops meaning the soil is never left uncovered (that is how carbon escapes, how life below land perishes, and how flood and drought happens).
What can people do in their day-to-day lives to help support soil health and promote regenerative living?
- Eat as local and seasonal as possible. Try to shop at your local farmer’s market so you can ask the local farmers directly what type of farming they do. Kiss The Ground has a great PDF you can save on your phone to use as a guide when you’re talking to farmers.
- Purchase regenerative lifestyle products. When you’re buying fashion or beauty products, try to find out what type of ingredients have gone into them, and for fashion buy clothing made from upcycled natural fibres, or shop on Fibershed’s Marketplace.
- Compost! The breakdown of organic matter is what creates humus, an amazingly effective way to protect soil is to make soil from your own organic waste.
- Plant a garden. One of the biggest acts of love you can do for the earth is to plant a garden, even if it’s just a window box with a few herbs and flowers. It makes a world of a difference.
- Donate to grassroots projects aiding farmers in converting their farms to regenerative, by giving to Kiss The Ground or Farmer’s Footprints.
For those would would like to do more, what resources can we check out? Which experts can we learn from?
For me, doing the soil advocacy course with Kiss The Ground was lifechanging. It completely transformed my fears and anxieties about climate breakdown into hope and action. They have a new course starting in January teaching how to live a regenerative lifestyle which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Apart from that, there are some great books and documentaries out there, my favourites are Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer and The Biggest Little Farm.
A huge thank you to Holly for participating and sharing her thoughts!
Photos courtesy of Holly Rose.