Dear friends –
We have had such a wonderful summer since re-opening in July, reconnecting with the forest and with our guests after long weeks of lockdown.
As life returns to normal, many of us have learned lessons and are perhaps reflecting on how to create more resilience in our own lives, and in our global economic and food systems.
Below Emma Eberhardt, a volunteer at Eco Retreats, continues her series on food systems, reflecting on soil as the foundation of resilience.
Soil as the foundation of resilience
“The coronavirus crisis has seeded an opportunity for a new world. In fact, this might be our last chance to change the structures that have been prioritising economic growth over social equality and ecosystem functioning before ecological breakdown becomes irreversible. We rely on the natural world for food, materials, building construction, medicine and wellbeing because we are a part of the planet whose health is interlinked with ours. Ecosystem services and Gaia theory are scientific terms which address this area of research.
The start of the outbreak showed that citizens’ most immediate concern was food shortages. The possible threat to this daily necessity that has become so overlooked in Western nations was a stark reminder that we cannot eat money. While those privileged to do so stockpiled food, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation warned of a possible food shortage caused by reduced trade and workers. While environmentalists have been advocating for a more resilient food production system for years, it has become obvious in the past few weeks and months that the way we produce food has to change if we are to adapt to future shocks. So, what has soil got to do with it?
Healthy soil, healthy food
Soil is the foundation of all land based food we eat. It isn’t simply a medium used to grow crops, but a living ecosystem which supports life. Today soil is being depleted of nutrients and micro-organisms by the intensive tillage and chemical use agricultural industries implement. Like all living things, soil needs to be fed and undisturbed in order to fully function. We have treated soil like dirt since the Agricultural Revolution, but this rich substance holds many secrets which scientists are trying to unpick. Research shows that soil with high organic and nutrient content will render a more productive yield of high nutrient content.
Soil doesn’t only produce healthy food for us to eat a balanced diet, it’s also a natural antidepressant. Exposure to soil bacteria stimulates serotonin production, which makes us relaxed and happier. Recent research has also found that exposure to soil microbes enhances our immune system, protecting against allergies and other inflammatory diseases.
Of course, soil doesn’t just support us; we are merely a part of the wider ecosystem it sustains. There are others who benefit from a healthy soil: from the worms and millipedes, to the fungi and plants, to the trees and birds. Soil feeds each and every one of those beings and they in turn feed each other, contributing to the interlinked web of life.
Support your soil
As benefactors of the wonders of soil, we must stop depleting soil and start regenerating it. By prioritising soil (and all wildlife which benefits from it), we would be building a more resilient and productive food system than we currently have.
If you have a garden or an allotment, you can adopt no dig methods in your vegetable patch. Feed your soil using compost, mulch and well-rotted manure. Leave dead leaves and weeds to mulch down. Messy is good for wildlife and less effort for you! Support local organic farmers who are using regenerative methods by buying their produce. Voice your concern as an active citizen by communicating with your MP, participating in campaigns and joining grassroot movements.
COVID-19 is giving us a chance to re-imagine the way we produce food so that everyone can have access to affordable and nutritious food locally.”
We are so excited by the growing consciousness and dawn of a new way of living, and overwhelmed by the profound effect being in the forest is having on our guests, as always. Time and again we are hearing from guests how much they needed this escape this year.
We still have a couple of slots left in late September and some space in October to book your getaway – check out our availability and secure your spot here: www.ecoretreats.co.uk.