When you think about ‘soil’, do you imagine it as ‘dirt’ or as a universe of millions of micro-organisms interacting with each other? In other words, do you see it as ‘dead’ or ‘alive’?
This video invites us into a conversation between Dianne Kretschmar, a 73-year-old organic farmer two hours north of Toronto, and Fernando Garcia , a 42-year-old Mexican organic agricultural consultant based in Guadalajara, Mexico. In 2001, Fernando had completed an agronomy degree and worked for the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, but had learned nothing about organic agriculture, so came to Ontario for a summer to work with Dianne. For Dianne, the relationship with Fernando was magical: “There was quite a difference in our ages, like huge, I could be his mother, but we were soul mates.”
As part of the Earth to Tables Legacies Exchange, we brought Fernando back to Grenville Farm in 2016. They reconnected easily as they shared some of the same questions about the problem of ‘over-cultivation’ and their lack of understanding of the soil. As Dianne concluded, “What I realized is that both conventional and organic farmers, through excess cultivation, have destroyed the fungal component of the soil.” In this video, she describes their common awakening as ‘morphic resonance’, or a convergence of ideas where everyone’s saying “Oh, oh, we have to change what we’re doing.”
Western and Indigenous sciences are coming together around this deeper understanding of the soil, of the fungal networks transmitting information as the internet of the soil, communicating between plants and trees deep beneath the surface. Dianne suggests shifting from a growing system based on cultivation to preparing seedbeds of cover crops, and planting into the cover; this will keep living roots in the soil and maintain its water-holding capacity. She recognizes that Indigenous practices probably are built on this understanding of the soil as alive.
To generate an intercultural conversation, we asked project advisor and Tuscarora knowledge-keeper Rick Hill to offer a Haudenosaunee perspective of the soil. This is Rick speaking in an excerpt from that video: “When you think about the earth, the soil, it’s nothing more than everything that lived before – all the plants, the birds, the animals, the trees, the bushes, and people, my ancestors put into the ground. They become the soil, they give life to the soil. This is why our people say there’s a spirit in everything, there’s a spirit in the ground, in the stone, in the tree, a spirit in the animals. Because it’s that spirit that makes the Earth come alive.”
The accompanying facilitator’s guide can be used to catalyze deeper conversations about the issues of over-cultivation, soil structure, fungal networks, and morphic resonance.