Sustainable Agriculture – Dig Deeper: What’s In The Soil?

We know that the production of meat causes complex environmental issues. So reach for those veggies! But did you know that fruits and vegetables, even from organic farms, most likely use blood, bone, and manure from animals that are raised unethically? It’s time to look deeper into the ‘skin of the earth’, the soil, and how we are as dumb as dirt to overlook its importance to environmental concerns and perhaps realize…dirt isn’t so dumb after all.

The event Soil Totally Rocks! brought together businesses, non-profits and trailblazers in the field under the umbrella of the Sustainable Business Council of Los Angeles to socialize and give talks on eco-accomplishments as varied as urban farming, composting, and creating water from the air. Like any serious solution, it required an entire committed community coming together to share ideas, resources, as well as good times.

The Faculty-clockwise from center: Josh Levine, Jerrett Johnson and
Dani Nichole on vocals, Brandon Auhmada on keys,Ryan Adams on drums,
Danny Mills on bass, shared a soft release for their new album, Honor Roll.

The Santa Monica Volkswagen dealership provided the venue for a packed crowd and vendor tables offering free samples of their eco-wares. First up were the libations: Owl’s Brew, a cocktail-tea was sponsoring the festivities with free cocktails such as “Midnight Madness”. Some of the other goodies were a free compost starter kit from Wyndbrant Farms, Ecos Laundry Dergent Samples with “Plant-Derived Cleaning Power”, a silver-infused mask compliments of Truth for Gold, a media outlet hosted by the lovely Kiernan Kit that educates and entertains on eco-themes, and a solar-powered backpack raffled by the “SoCal Solaristas”, baristas doling out solar-brewed coffee from a SoCalGas promo truck.

The Faculty, an LA-based indie hip rock band led by rapper/producer Josh Levine, kept attendees on their feet and moving with positive tunes such as “California” before the chairs came out for news the overflowing crowd had to sit down for: cutting edge work from heavy-hitters in the eco-business.

Some of the speakers there to share their heart and work: David Englehart, co-founder of the vegan restaurant Kiss the Ground, an organization that advocates for healthy soil; Nicole Landers, founder of Community Healing Gardens, and Josh Tickell, award-winning author and director of FUEL, The Big Fix, PUMP and an upcoming documentary film Kiss the Ground.

Soil speaks for itself at the Soil Totally Rocks! event-author Katherine King
testing Biodynamic compost from Wynbrandt Farms.

“Civilizations have risen and fallen from the mismanagement of soil,” said David Bronner, CEO of the well-known organic and fair-trade soap line Dr. Bronner’s. He went on to share about the importance of “carbon farming” or “regenerative agriculture,” which absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and puts it back in the ground where it belongs, and how it is incorporated into the business’s practices.

Community participation is key to change, and David Hertz, founder of the Studio of Environmental Architecture and Skywater, a revolutionary system that draws drinking water from the air, gives away the water in Venice to promote awareness and to benefit Venice residents and visitors. As an added layer of outreach the organization employs homeless kids to catch the water from the air.

“The legacy of slavery” provides a steep challenge for Ron Finley, founder of The Ron Finley Project, which teaches South Central kids the importance of soil. They have a mentality, “I don’t touch the soil”, but Finley tells them: “ Money don’t grow on trees? Are you f-ing kidding me? If you want money, plant trees.” He teaches kids the connection between working the land and the gain to themselves and the community. To get better results, says Finley, “We have to make farming sexy again.”

Film director (FUEL, The Big Fix, PUMP, Kiss the Ground) Josh Tickell speaking at
the Soil Totally Rocks! Sustainable Business Council of Los Angeles event.

Steven Wynbrandt of Wynbrandt Farms, the protégé of an elder Biodynamic compost master, spoke extensively on the value of high-quality compost and the importance of the soil. “Nature doesn’t need us; we need nature,” says Wynbrandt, who crafts artisan, biodynamic soil with an even higher standard than organic, and declares that the manure he uses “comes from the happiest dairy cows”. However, farming practices and animal treatment vary widely from farm to farm and even USDA Organic maintains a standard low enough to account for the fact that there just isn’t enough high-standard sourced manure to go around. He urges consumers to buy at local farmer’s markets, but also to educate themselves, even reaching out to the farmers to dig deep into their farming methods and possibly even visit the farms personally.

Sustainability, isn’t enough, asserts Wynbrandt, but rather regenerative practices, that leave soil in a better condition, healing the land and leaving more for future generations.

Katherine King is a writer and actress living in Santa Monica, CA


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