By: David Cohlmeyer
Published: May, 2013
Image Credit: Arte Huichol and José Benítez Sánchez

“This Huichol Yarn Painting is my favorite depiction of soil-life.”

Despite soil being abundant and nearby, less than 10% of this incredible diversity has even been described, named and catalogued. The plants that nourish and shelter people have spent millennia developing resilient relationships with the living soil. Insects, birds, animals and humans have also evolved alongside this complex process. Scientists are far from understanding how all this works. The magic is that all this works so well to benefit so many diverse species. The end result is the Terroir that thoughtful diners long for.

I find it presumptuous that over the past century some “experts” have determined how to make all this more “efficient” – and their bosses have pocketed a lot of money in the process. Yes, the current cost of food has been reduced. But this has been done at the cost of significantly depleting our soil’s organic (carbon) matter and the reserve of nutrients in the soil’s pores. Plant health is compromised making it prone to pests and diseases. Plus less flavourful food leads to excess use of sugar, salt and fat which then leads to diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.  Then soil texture degrades leading to less water-holding capacity leading to more draughts, floods, erosion and desertification.

 There is no quick or inexpensive way to bring back the magic of biologically active soil. In the past hundred years, Canada has lost over half its valuable topsoil. But with time, appropriate inputs and new practices, we do not have to wait for millennia to replace what we have been recklessly depleting over the last few decades.

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