Harvest Celebration at Tablehurst Farm
At this year’s annual Harvest Celebration, Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch Farms will be exploring the subject of soil with speakers and activities. Here is an introduction to our most important resource….
Soil is Adama in Hebrew and the word Adam (Human/ Man) comes from it. The connection between the two symbolizes the Old Testament creation story. It is considered the beginning and end of our earthly existence. We walk on it, build on it and from it, drill down and mound it up. As farmers and growers, we dig, plough, turn and chop, add and take. Until recently, we have taken it for granted. It has been always there under our feet.
Only in the last few years, the mysteries of what actually happens in the soil are beginning to be explored. No sub-terrainian vehicle can do this. We cannot go there to see because the complexity and the scale is too small and vast to comprehend.
One can look at soil in many different ways. In the past it was seen as the medium for growing plants. The composition of sand, silt and clay and their physical characteristics were all that mattered. The rest was supplemented by soluble nutrients.
Today, Soil is being uncovered as an intricate and interconnected living system. Organic matter in the soil is the foundation of all life. Just imagine, life is sustained on this planet by a layer of topsoil of around 15-20cm thick.
For example, 1 hectare of good pasture will have around 6 tons of living organisms in the soil below it. That equates to around the weight of 12 cows or 75 people. An alien coming from outside the planet would probably want to speak with the beings underground as they are more abundant than what lives above ground.
Looking closer through a microscope the numbers become staggering. In a teaspoon of forest soil one can find up to 40 miles of mycelium (fungi roots). This is understood to be one of the soil’s complex networks. Mycelium connects plant roots together an enables them to access what they need within the soil. Next time when you look at a tree in the forest, ask yourself, where do the roots end? Is it really the drip line which some believe? Or perhaps through this interconnected network, the tree can access nutrients and forces a few miles away? It is the same as asking how far does the internet extend. Bacteria, protozoa, amoeba, spiders, ants, grubs, beetles, worms and the like haven’t even been mentioned yet. The soil is truly teeming with life!
And then one can think about the forces in the soil. The ones which push plants up and help to form them. Those which belong to the earth and those which come from the cosmos.
Last, we ask ourselves, what do we do with all this new knowledge. How will that affect our ways of working with the soil as Farmers and Growers? What are the appropriate ways to cultivate? And when? What is the correct way to treat compost so that it replenishes our soils and improves them? Which crops should we grow? Fertile soil is decreasing and increasingly becoming a precious resource which without we will not be able to live.
Our Harvest Celebration is on 14th September starting at 10am at Tablehurst Farm, Forest Row.
All are welcome.