Food Systems: Soil as the foundation of resilience

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.

Wellbeing

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.

love

Margaret

 

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Simon Edgar
Simon Edgar
2020-08-13T08:59:02+0000
An amazing location perfect to escape the outside world and enjoy life
Emma Leigh Burton
Emma Leigh Burton
2019-10-13T17:43:06+0000
We have just had the best weekend here in the ash valley yurt ! It’s definitely a holiday everyone will remember for a long time ! Thank you for making such... a special placeread more
Suzy Box
Suzy Box
2019-10-01T14:52:05+0000
Great place to unwind and reconnect as a couple
Natalie Morris
Natalie Morris
2019-08-28T15:32:34+0000
Just had an amazing few days relaxing in the River Yurt. Beautiful stunning location, peace & tranquility a time to just chill out and watch our daughter play... on the open meadow & river. The outdoor bath was perfect on a summer evening to lay back and watch the sky come alive with stars!! Would definitely recommendread more
Rachel Harper
Rachel Harper
2019-08-26T10:57:20+0000
We’ve just had the best 2 nights in the Ash Valley yurt! The outdoor bath was brilliant! Complete privacy, if you don’t include the sheep 🐑 my 11yo boys... have loved chopping wood, starting fires, making dens and playing in the stream whilst my partner and I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the peace 😌 I would 100% recommend this place, Margaret and her daughter were most welcoming. You have everything you need already there. Thank you for such a lovely experience xread more
Charlotte Edwards
Charlotte Edwards
2019-08-23T15:10:33+0000
Absolutely magical 😍 I so wish I'd booked for more than two nights! We stayed in the meadow yurt, complete privacy, surrounded by forest and mountains, and... nothing to hear but for birds and waterfalls. There is so much on site to explore we didn't have time to see half of it! We spent an afternoon climbing up the hill behind the yurt and swimming in waterfalls before jumping in that beautiful wood fired bath 😍 and visited a few beautiful spots in Snowdonia. Can't wait to come back!read more
Chris Lowe
Chris Lowe
2019-08-22T19:48:00+0000
Peaceful, wonderful setting.
Shea Hollis
Shea Hollis
2019-08-18T16:05:41+0000
Honestly, this place is truly magical. Utter blissful escapism for all ages. Fireheated outdoor bath and your own private waterfall? Just perfect.
Vik Taylor
Vik Taylor
2018-10-24T19:49:57+0000
We enjoyed our 1st stay last week for 4 nights with our baby in a tipi and we loved every second of it. we had a warm welcome when we arrived, tipi already... warmed up too. we were supplied with every thing we needed. we enjoyed the lush hot bath looking at the clear sky at night. the view every morning was beautifal. everything so peaceful and quiet. all we could hear was the sound of the running water, trees rustling in the wind and the shoothing sound of wildlife. It was perfect. thankyou to Angus and Margaret. you literally thought of everything. thankyou. Will be booking for next year. cant wait.read more
Stewart Hoyle
Stewart Hoyle
2018-08-24T20:01:19+0000
a get-away from technology
Karen Morley
Karen Morley
2018-07-24T20:27:58+0000
Had a brilliant time in the meadow yurt with our 2 children. It was so peaceful and relaxing, everything that we needed was supplied. It was lovely being... able to sit outside by the fire toasting marshmallows and having bbqs. The bath was amazing being able to totally relax outside in the peace and quiet. Our boys loved it especially the bath and paddling in the river. We would recommend to go try it to every one.read more
Neil Stanton
Neil Stanton
2018-06-18T14:38:49+0000
Beautiful location and the facilities were excellent. Spent a very relaxing weekend in the Cwm Onnen Tipi enjoying the scenery. Very comfortable and loved the... wood-fired bath. We'll be back next year (hopefully with slightly better weather).read more
Jason Stirzaker
Jason Stirzaker
2018-04-04T11:02:49+0000
After a last minute decision to go away for the night we came across Eco-Retreats and their amazing looking Tipis and Yurts, set in equally amazing... surroundings. They were so accomadating for us as we could only stay one night, and had rang up on the same morning we were staying. We got such a warm, friendly welcome and they really do go out their way to be there to meet & greet you (you'll understand just how much when you go). What a truly beautiful site quite literally away from it all. We stayed in the Forest Tipi which was set within it's own patch of land up a short trail to really give it an extra isolated feel. The outdoor bath really is amazing and well worth the wait to warm up, even in early April temperatures and light rain so would be absolutely perfect on more warmer nights. The Tipi itself was equipped with all that you'd need and the Chimenea did a good job of keeping us warm, even with the surprise blanket of snow we got in the night. I'd highly recommend this place to anyone wanting a truly different experience and appreciates being close to nature and getting back to basics, while still retaining the comfort of a bed at night.read more
Eric Stannard
Eric Stannard
2017-08-21T20:43:59+0000
From booking to arrival they were very helpful. After a quick overview of how to operate the tipi and fires we were left to our own devises to enjoy the... tranquility and setting of the waterfall tipi. The tipi has everything you need for your stay and we found it warm and dry despite the wet weather. The fire in the tipi takes the place of the TV and the dancing flames soon become mesmerising; the background sounds of the waterfall and rain on canvas are relaxing and the dancing flames of the tea lights in the lanterns complete your escape from the modern world. The rain stopped long enough for us to enjoy a warm bath in the open air in the woods and is well worth the effort of keeping the fire going. All in all a fantastic escape away from modern distractions.read more
Louise Gresty
Louise Gresty
2017-07-26T17:43:03+0000
Brilliant feeling of being miles from anywhere, in a lovely peaceful setting with amazing views, having your own fire either indoors in the stove or outside... campfire and it was very comfortable too.read more
Dan Shephard
Dan Shephard
2017-07-23T21:05:33+0000
Christopher Charles
Christopher Charles
2017-05-25T07:10:31+0000
The most beautiful and remotest place I've ever found in wales � we go back year after year and it just gets better... ����������������read more
Gracie Hindley
Gracie Hindley
2017-05-15T08:29:13+0000
My boyfriend and I stayed in the Meadow Yurt last weekend. The trip was everything we could have wanted, and more! Beautiful yurt filled with all the equipment... you need for your stay. The wood fired bath was also a huge highlight for us. Would thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting a quiet, stress-free getaway!read more
Andrew Calogirou
Andrew Calogirou
2017-05-04T05:36:23+0000
Amazing location and the River Yurt is amazing. Been 2 years in a row now and want to go again already.
Megan Hunt
Megan Hunt
2017-05-02T22:11:54+0000
We loved it here and can not wait to return one day.
Rachel Smiler Berwick
Rachel Smiler Berwick
2017-04-27T14:02:26+0000
Cannot recommend this place enough. It was our 2nd year back this year with our 4 year old & it never fails to impress. We just love staying in the waterfall... Tipi :) booking process is excellent & the stay is even better especially being able to have a bath in the forest ;) thankyou again and we will see you next year xxxxread more
Kerrie Henriques
Kerrie Henriques
2017-04-14T18:58:51+0000
Absolutely amazing, such a great experience. Super friendly staff. Thank you �
Will Sfakiotakis
Will Sfakiotakis
2017-04-14T18:53:22+0000
Highly recommended! (River Yurt) A beautiful place to be, hosted by genuine, welcoming, and helpful staff. We will be coming back! A truly grounding and... humbling experience. Loved it ��read more
Robert Cox
Robert Cox
2016-10-13T19:11:56+0000
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Emma Jill Eberhardt

Emma Jill Eberhardt

Emma is a volunteer at Eco Retreats. She is currently working down the road from Eco Retreats at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Emma recently graduated with a BSc in Environmental Sciences specialising in agroecology, sustainable living and engagement with nature. Emma is really passionate about environmental issues and sustainable living and has been involved with numerous community projects in Cornwall. When she is not leading a project, taking a course, writing or volunteering, Emma can be found somewhere outdoors or exploring her creativity through photography, filming and painting. Emma has recently grown an interest in the need to change our mindsets and nurture our connectivity with nature in order to successfully change our lifestyles to live more sustainably, which led her to get involved with Eco Retreats.
Emma Jill Eberhardt

Emma Jill Eberhardt

Emma is a volunteer at Eco Retreats. She is currently working down the road from Eco Retreats at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Emma recently graduated with a BSc in Environmental Sciences specialising in agroecology, sustainable living and engagement with nature. Emma is really passionate about environmental issues and sustainable living and has been involved with numerous community projects in Cornwall. When she is not leading a project, taking a course, writing or volunteering, Emma can be found somewhere outdoors or exploring her creativity through photography, filming and painting. Emma has recently grown an interest in the need to change our mindsets and nurture our connectivity with nature in order to successfully change our lifestyles to live more sustainably, which led her to get involved with Eco Retreats.
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