I am going to start with a confession. I thought about writing a preamble to cushion the confession but instead I am going to come straight out with it: I have never given much thought to soil. There, I said it. But judging by the look on my friends faces when I said ‘I am going to a thing about soil tonight’ I don’t think I’m alone. I have, however, given a lot of thought to food. I love food. As a nutritionist my traditional approach has been that it if is healthy, then I’m happy. However, recently I have begun to wonder ‘while food is healthy for me, am I healthy for food?’ As I have been tucking into my ‘5-a-day’ words like food miles, seasonality and, most grandly, food provenance have been creeping onto my dinner plate and making me question whether the New Zealand kiwi or the out of season strawberries are such a good choice after all.
And it is this recognition of the need for a change to my diet that brought me to the Green Tease event as part of the Soil City project. The link between soil and food is clear but alongside community food growers the event was attended by artists, a soil scientist, a housing officer, a stalled space officer and a visual arts consultant so it seems the interest in soil is wide ranging. After some delicious soup in a quirky lab under the train arches on Osbourne Street we set out on our soil investigations. Using a mixture of samples, some with their own accompanying worms and beasties, we smelled, we squeezed, we prodded, we rubbed, we sprayed and we talked. Whilst it lacked the scientific rigour of the soil investigations that the project is doing at various sites in the city, it still gave a great insight into all the things there is to know about soil.
After getting our hands dirty we sat in a circle and chatted as a group about, of course, soil. We talked about contaminated soil, pioneer plants, road verges, feral commons, risky play, derelict land, community spaces, food waste, compost sales and even martian poo. Soil was at the heart of all these discussions and everyone had stories to tell. It was fun, informative and I sensed a real desire to facilitate change. I would like to thank the Open Jar Collective for their ambitious project and allowing me to be involved. I will definitely look at soil in a whole new way. Which is good, because soil is all around and I will have a constant reminder of the promises I made myself to eat better, not just healthily, but better.