Common Soil

Summer of Soil Newsletter – February 2015

Happy 2015! International Year of Soil

We wish you a very well 2015! The United Nations declared 2015 International Year of Soil, which is a major opportunity to put soil on the agenda. In this newsletter we bring you some wonderful contributions from Summer of Soil participants and an organisational reflection from our team:

We acknowledge that you have not heard from us in a while. The Summer of Soil in 2013 was our first big event, where we probably met. In 2014 we hosted a smaller selection of events, including the Living Soil & Food exhibition. This coming year we will not be hosting a Summer of Soil as such, for reasons you can read in our reflection below. There is a lot to read in this newsletter though, so enjoy!

In the bottom of this newsletter you find some wonderful resources like the new Soil Atlas and the Global Soil Week in the International Year of Soil. We look forward to meeting you this year!

My home soil

By Hannah Steenbergen

During Summer of Soil 2013 the question of, “where is your home soil?” was asked several times. In the last few weeks I have been back to my home soil, of the North Yorkshire Moors in north east England. More specifically, my home soil is a biodynamic farm in a green valley among the peaty moorland. Although the actual soil is covered with a layer of snow now, it is a very busy time of year for Stormy Hall Seeds, a small biodynamic seed company. Farmers and gardeners are reading their seed catalogues and sending in their seed orders, ready for spring planting. My father, Hans Steenbergen, started Stormy Hall Seeds 20 years ago, from literally a few seeds. Through years of dedicated hard work, it now offers customers in the UK and across Europe with over 300 high quality open pollinated vegetable, herb and flower varieties. The whole process of seed production is carried out on site: seeds are sown, grown, harvested, cleaned, sorted, packaged and distributed. All those many hours of intense work are done by volunteers who are part of Botton Village, a community for adults with special needs. Going back to my ‘home soil’ is certainly never boring.

Photo: Hans Steenbergen

As I sit weighing out a package of 150 tiny Derby Day cabbage seeds, I try to imagine in which soil the big tasty cabbages will soon grow. The attention to seeds at this time is, of course, relevant for any grower planning the potential of the year ahead, and traditionally used to be marked by the festivals of Candlemas or Imbolc. It is a time of life waking up just below the surface, when candle flames were lit in the ground as symbols of the light and warmth returning.

While those seeds are preparing to burst through the soil, this Spring I will be helping to bring a project to life that has been dormant since Summer of Soil. As you may remember, the idea of a global network of ‘beacon farms’ was developed during the Living Soil Forum in 2013 through group discussions in the “designing for wiser action” process. For the next few months I have the great opportunity to work with the Sustainable Food Trust on developing the foundations for this project. I’m very much looking forward to seeing some promising seeds sprouting this Spring!

Stormy Hall Seeds are available for order online at:

How did Summer of Soil change my path?

By Niklas Kullik (Germany)

My studies in Environmental Sciences at Leuphana University Lüneburg in Germany led me to the field of permaculture. During the Summer of Soil 2013 I participated in the Permaculture Design Course hold by Richard Perkins. This course totally changed my perspective on nature and landscapes. My perception shifted towards seeing patterns everywhere, which helped me focussing on understanding systems rather than just seeing symptoms. I started acknowledging the importance of healthy and fertile soils. I realised that most agricultural systems are lacking a future-proof design as well as management strategies. Therefore I got excited about regenerative agriculture. During my Internship at Ridgedale Permaculture in Sweden in 2014. I gained more experience working with Keyline Design, perennial cropping, Holistic Management and annual vegetable production. Understanding the importance of microorganisms within and around us made me even more excited about producing food that is beneficial for us and the ecosystem. For the upcoming season I will be part of the core-team as a Farm Manager at Ridgedale’s working 6 months in an international team of people who are committed to restore ecosystems and soils whilst producing beyond organic food.

I have a very deep connection to the Kulturhuset and the surrounding area in Järna, since it creates a learning atmosphere for personal development and reflection, especially through people-oriented and skilful facilitation. I experienced a great art of hosting, which invited me and others to share our knowledge and ideas. Looking back, I see the Summer of Soil as a important source of inspiration on my learning path, which helped me finding a field of interest I am passionate about. I had the opportunity to become a part of a very dynamic group of soil-stewards and feel like I am now taking on this role more than ever before.

Summer of Soil was a success

This last fall we were reviewing the events and their impact on restoring soils. We came to a few important conclusions:

  1. The events allowed us to network and build a community around the cause for soil, which we are extremely grateful for. Thank you for joining!
  2. We reached hundreds if not thousands of people through our website, events and exhibition, and have changed some peoples paths, like Niklas shared.
  3. Some of the projects coming out of the Living Soil Forum are very successful;

However, we also concluded that

  1. Our team was mostly doing office-based logistics event management and communications, and little actual soil restoration and regeneration.
  2. We do not have the infrastructure or organisation to continue organising events like this, or support more of the projects to become realised.
  3. Many others (organisations and people) are doing great work already, do we need to become yet another organisation?

At the same time some of us also had made our own conclusions of what we want to contribute to soil, and what we think is most needed now.

We decided that organising annual events in Järna is not the most strategic use of resources and people towards our goal of saving soil. The majority in our team wants to be more hands-on involved with actual restoration, while also raising awareness, offering education and hosting events. These conversations have led to a few new visions and commitments, of which the next one is an example:

Common Soil

Common Soil is a platform for a new grassroots network of citizens that take actions to restore and steward living soil. It’s main feature will be Common Soil Campus & Academy. Common Soil Campus aims to be an international learning centre for regenerative agriculture, land restoration, regional food systems and land stewardship that aims to inspire the next generations of farmers and citizens to become stewards of living soil. From the campus, Common Soil will also coordinate education, trainings and events, as well as public awareness campaigns and communications, crafting a story of inspiration, restoration and hope. Read more

The campus is currently a vision, and we are hoping to realise this vision in the next two years. (2015-2016). This website and document are our main communication tools to build a community and network around this vision.

Our main challenge right now is to find a good location.

We are currently building our capacity to run this project and a network of people to help us in this ambitious restoration effort. Our team is not fixed, and various others have been involved in co-designing or have shown interest in joining the project.

Our first priorities (2015 – 2016) are:

  1. Build capacity in the core team in the form of networking, trainings, courses or studies
  2. Expand network and build community around project vision, mainly through website, social media, newsletter and event participation
  3. Build on 2015 International Year of Soil activities to gain momentum, build network, attract attention and stay tuned to the movement.
  4. Get access to land; secure ownership or long-term lease for 50-100ha land through networking. Abandoned farms, degraded land, potential partners with land, etc.
  5. Secure funding for the startup phase by reaching out to foundations, grants, crowdfunding
  6. Attract potential participants for the Pioneering Year

We welcome you to get in touch if you are interested and or willing to help!

You can connect with Common Soil through Facebook, Twitter, our new Website, Email and Newsletter:

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Summer of Soil team visits Ayoo de Vidriales

15.10.2014 By: Transfer LBC

On October 14th Pieter Ploeg, Nakyta Grimm and Lyra Skusa from the Summer of Soil visited the project site in Ayoo de Vidriales. Their project is based in Sweden and they heard about the project through the documentary ‘Green Gold 2’ of VPRO Tegenlicht. They are on a study trip through Spain and Portugal visiting all kind of projects and locations where ecosystem restoration through proper soil usage is at stake.

Pedro Alonso and Egbert Sonneveld explained the goals of the project and the instruments that are being used. Pedro showed pictures of how the fields have developed during the last 2 years and explained why we are so excited by the speed that the soil seems to react to the change of working the soil and the use of products with microorganisms and natural nutrients from PlantHealthCure. Due to some heavy rain falls, the plot was difficult to enter but they got a good impression of what we are trying to achieve. […]

Read more

What to do now?

So what can you do now during the International Year of Soil?

  1. Follow and share the Regenerating Agricultural Soils Facebook Page (very interesting links and articles are being shared there, they are friends of us)
  2. Watch and share the Symphony of the Soil documentary and Facebook page (this documentary sums up the story of soil and the also share cool stuff)
  3. Attend or organise an event (see a listing here)
  4. Come to the Global Soil Week from 19 – 23 April 2015 in Berlin (Find more information below, some of us will be there as well)
  5. Read and spread the new Soil Atlas (see below)

We always love to hear about your initiative, so feel free to send us links, websites, events, ideas, suggestions, stories and plans.

Greetings from Lyra, Nakyta & Pieter on behalf of the Summer of Soil team.

The Soil Atlas 2015 presents facts and figures about earth, land and fields.

Download English or German version

The Soil Atlas 2015 provides insights into the current state of the soils on which we depend and highlights the threats posed to them in numerous illustrations and texts.

The Soil Atlas 2015 is jointly published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Berlin, Germany, and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany.


The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils

More information and international events.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has been nominated to implement the IYS 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with Governments and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The IYS 2015 aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

The third Global Soil Week will take place in Berlin, Germany from 19 to 23 April, 2015.

Download Global Soil Week 2015 Brochure.

In the UN International Year of Soils, the Global Soil Week offers a window of opportunity to put soil and land on the international political agenda as a key to sustainable development. The demands for the finite resource of soil are many and the stakes are high. Soils are fundamental in the provisioning of water, energy and food security for the 9 billion citizens expected to inhabit the planet in the year 2050, and thus to maintain and enable thriving societies now and in the future.