Tha Alchemy of Compost How 2+2=9, if YOU let it

This is the full text of the speech I gave in England on April 15th at the request of HRH Prince Charles.

The Alchemy of Compost: How 2+2=9 if You let it

A speech given by Stan Slaughter M.A. Biology at the invitation of His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, at Highgrove, a Garden Celebrated, the first ever garden festival at Highgrove near Tetbury, U.K. on Friday April 15th, 2016

Good afternoon!…It’s a great honor to be here today!  Thank you, Kate, for the introduction and I’m so looking forward to our time together. 


I’m here today at the invitation of His Royal Highness Prince Charles and because of the leadership and vision he’s shown in the field of sustainability for 35 years. Linda and I bought his book, Harmony, very soon after we received the invitation. We soon realized the extraordinary leadership that was behind this Celebration and we were thrilled to be coming.

Let me introduce my wife, Linda Chubbuck, my collaborator, confidant, best friend and, as my friends say, my way-better half.


I’ve been digging around in the dirt and talking about compost for at least, oh, 35 years now…. in fact, my son… I wouldn’t dare tell his friends this, but my son was toilet trained on a home-built composting toilet.   I was really into it!   For the past 25 years, as the Eco-Troubadour, I’ve been teaching children - and adults - what compost is, and how it’s the best organic recycling program in existence.


My seventh grade science teacher told us that he wanted to be buried two feet down in a cardboard box, because he wanted to be the first one to grow flowers. That statement bent my young brain and sent me down the very different track I’ve taken. It led me to sing songs like Put Me in the Compost Pile, publish Compost posters and design a card game called Compost Gin.


Nowadays, I’m composting in a suburban back yard - our own - and my biggest problems are keeping the compost wet enough, keeping the possums out and making sure my neighbors never complain.   I preempt any problems by generously sharing the vegetables when they ripen.  As we say in Kansas, There’s just two things that money can’t buy and that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes.  


As you no doubt can tell by my speech - my accent you might call it! - I’ve come a long way to be here, and I’m not here to teach you HOW to compost….  I’m guessing many of you already compost? Or certainly use compost. - but rather to share with you stories that will re-inspire you about why we compost, what composting is capable of, and the incredible behind-the scenes “goings-on” that create healthy soil, and in turn healthy plants and ultimately,  healthy people.


Two plus 2 really does equal 9 - or even 17, or 20, in the world of composting. In this world - of natural decay and transformation encouraged and facilitated by humans - entire sequences of activity are launched, by the bacteria for which we create a habitat. This alchemy is a function of the age and complexity of this process. With millions of players being this long at the job, these synergies shouldn’t be unexpected. Bacteria reproduce every twenty minutes and can exchange DNA with almost any organism around them. Their potential for evolutionary change is huge. The phenomena they orchestrate- such as root exudate parties - are for the most part unknown to the typical gardener, and yet, so amazing as to seem like science fiction.  


Today I’ll share with you the trends in biological farming, the mycorrhizal connection, stories of urban composting, radiation resistant soil, and more.  


But first, I’d like to share with you a bit about my lifelong compost hero - almost a mentor, actually but only through his writing.  My first fifteen months were his last. He was born and raised about 90 miles from here (in Shropshire) but became a world traveler, and was knighted by Queen Victoria only 3 years after publishing - and distributing - a little pamphlet entitled “The Waste Products of Agriculture,” about his work to develop a practical system of making large scale compost in India. He had no idea of the influence he was having around the empire, but when he retired and sailed back to England, He was shanghaied in Kenya by the plantation owners and taken of a tour to see the amazing effect his compost was having on many different crops. The empire had been using synthetic fertilizers for some time and the soils were losing their vitality. His pamphlet was perfectly timed to revitalize the crops of the Empire.


Sir Albert Howard went on to become the father of the organic farming movement and after his retirement spent the rest of his life as a staunch advocate and spokesman for compost.  


His foundational teaching is what he called the Law of Return: 

What comes from the soil must be returned to the soil.


In the book, “A Forest Journey” John Perlin describes human history in terms of the exploitation of the forests, starting in Mesopotamia some 6,000 years ago.

In the American piece of the story, the settlers would clear cut the virgin forest, bare the soil to the sun’s oxidation, the rain’s erosion and the crop’s hungry roots. When it became depleted 7-10 years later, the settlers would move, like locusts, further west and repeat the process. By the time they reached the Mississippi River, this process had become standard procedure- Ignoring the Law of Return in favor of a belief in throw-away land. Unfortunately Sir Albert’s law is still not being heeded in mainstream agriculture.


Nature - to be vibrant and fertile - demands a reserve. Crops will falter and die until that reserve is created or restored, but in their deaths, the reserve will begin to be restored.   Sir Albert came to this understanding early in his career when he was tasked with stopping a fungus infestation. He observed that the fungus never invaded where there was ample organic matter. His superiors wanted, not to change the practices of the farmers, but to find a “cure”, a chemical to protect the weakened crop. He called this “working at the wrong end of the problem” and but would have to wait more than twenty years to get the attention of the world. 


Composting was at the heart of what he did, because it is the human assisted process of returning organic matter back to the soil.  Composting is a multi-faceted, miraculous process in itself. Are you imagining a little backyard garden heap, where you throw the dried stalks at the end of the season?   Yes, that’s one form of composting.  But like the blind men describing what they could feel of the elephant, there are diverse and varied ways to compost, and myriad compostable materials.  


The essence of composting is assisting nature in the Law of Return - facilitating the breakdown of organic materials into soil and bacteria, so that they will create a rich ground for the next generation of living beings.   With no human intervention, this process happens slowly over hundreds or thousands of years.  But with human assistance, this process can happen rapidly, creating greater fertility and abundance, as well as healthier soils and plants. The five steps in composting are Moisture, Materials, Mass, Turning and Time or MMMTT

Moisture- A pile should be on half water, the consistency of a wrung out sponge. The creatures in the pile are essentially aquatic, breathing by means of a film of water on every surface. Covering a dry pile after watering it can help in keeping the humidity up and eventually moistening material like leaves which have a cuticle.

Materials- We need carbohydrates, energy food to fuel the metabolism of the organisms in the pile. These are often dry, brown materials, such as leaves, wood chips, stalks and stems, etc. We call them browns because they are dry, brown. might burn and store well. We also need nitrogen-rich materials to be the raw materials for the proteins we will need to build the bodies of the bacteria and other creatures whose population will be skyrocketing in the pile. Manure, food scraps, grass clippings are common examples. Wet green materials that have the potential to create unpleasant odors. Greens go off. They can’t be stored and need to be incorporated into a pile in a timely manner.

Mass- A pile needs volume. My Texas friend says, “There needs to be some there there. We want to build and elephant and not a mouse. The former will retain heat and moisture in a core. The latter is too small to retain either for long. Three to four feet on a side is a good dimension. Above 5 feet a lack of oxygen may change the pile to anaerobic chemistry, slowing down the process and producing phytotoxic gases.

Turning- The skin of the pile will dry out and not compost. Turning the pile after an initial period of heating up will remix the unused food into the core of the pile and “reheat” the pile. Also turning will mix the nutrients to make them more available to the creatures.

Time-In an optimum process, the materials can be unrecognizable and uniformly dark brown in three weeks. Three months with at least one turning is a more likely time frame, but it’s not a race. I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Compost Happens” and in all but the driest deserts, organic matter will decompose eventually.



Today we’ll talk about 9 examples of the miraculous-The alchemy of composting


The first of the example of Alchemy is the Gifts from the Dark Side.

The Buddhists remind us that the beauty of the lotus is not possible without the muck where they are rooted. Sir Albert said that being alive, we put a natural emphasis on the affairs of the living and have an aversion to the critical part of the cycle concerned with death, transformation and renewal. As a teacher of composting, I’ve experienced this. I call it the ugh factor. Some people look down with disdain on the under side of life and won’t listen. It has been said that one can tell the maturity of a culture by how it handles its waste. In this measure my country is in its early teens.


Composting offers the rapid transformation of the useless, fouled, worn out, fetid and diseased to totally different, new, fertile, sweet smelling, from devoid of life to brimming with life.   From contagious and contaminating, to antifungal and powerfully promoting of life

Concentrated from low density to high density nutrient


It is the gift of the smallest of creatures among us who live, reproduce and die to give us and the wastes around us new life.

Composting fairly brims with metaphor, even traces of spirituality. My Texas-based compost-educator friend, Larry Wilhelm, calls himself an Evangelical Composter and routinely speaks to Baptist Churches where he helps them understand that composting is a crucial part of good stewardship and to “see the light, brother”. Though we can’t do the work of composting, we can “get our hands in” the creation of new life by befriending our little helpers and anticipating their needs.


The second of the magical areas is Amazing Versatility

Our bacterial friends are busy these days. Though our use of them goes back as far as the history of fermentation, today we are utilizing our knowledge of composting organisms in amazing ways. From turning corn stalks into automotive fuel to cleaning up toxic waste, one of the hottest trends on the planet is the use of bacteria. John Montgomery, co-author of The Hidden Half of Nature, calls the knowledge revolution happening now.- the ascendancy of the micro-biome of the soil and of the gut, the most profound scientific change since we learned that the earth revolves around the sun.


Composting could mean saving food scraps and feeding a bin full of worms. This is not a silly idea. One cubic yard of worm castings sells for $1,400.

It could be the processing of mortalities from animal agriculture. I spent 17 years touring very rural, agricultural Kansas. A large chicken facility with 30,000 chickens can easily have 200 mortalities a day. Wood chips are laid in a 2 foot high pile then a one foot high layer of dead chickens, followed by a foot of wood chips. I tell you folks in about three days you have the best, slow-roasted….. No really, in three weeks you have nothing but a few beaks and claws. The same process is used for pigs, cows and horses. It features no water or air pollution and compost ready for the using at the end of the process.


In Dodge City, Kansas the packing plants slaughter 6,000 cattle per day. Every cow has bushel of paunch manure in the intestines. This material is half way through the process of digestion and has characteristics of both wet grass and manure. The answer to this massive problem, of course, is composting.


It could be using bacteria to digest the contents of spray paint cans - propane propellant and hydrocarbon paint or a semi-trailer load of spoiled Pizza dough. Imagine a semi-trailer and three black SUV’s pull into the compost facility. Black suited agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with bullet proof vests stand guard while workers slowly open and pour out bottle after bottle of over-age Chevas-Regal scotch. It’s a scene to make a grown man cry, but our bacterial buddies are up to the challenge.


Compost can neutralize both strong alkaline or acidic feedstocks and leave a neutral pH. It contains enzymes to separate the strong inorganic bonds and organic ions that render them harmless.


Compost teas are a powerful way to influence crops. Spraying a mixture of a compost tea and molasses is a tried and true technique in organic farming. Very specialized strains of bacterial inoculants are even capable of giving a crop a systemically acquired resistance to a pest.


In Fresno, California, Ron Helend was making special blends of bacterially active topsoil for playing fields. The weather forced him to leave some of his special soil on an asphalt parking lot for 6 months. When he returned to remove the compost, the bacteria had eaten all the asphalt, leaving the just the clean rocks. He collected some of the bottom layer of the compost and started culturing compost tea from it.


From the initial 5,600 species of bacteria, he mixed 12 strains into an affordable compost tea spray. 300 species in his blend are previously unknown to science. 5 species in his blend have DNA so strange that they can’t even be placed in a phylum. His product was tested against the anti-nematode products from agri-chemical giants, Monsanto and Cyngenta.  One thousand strawberries plants were treated in each plot. Both the agri-giants plots lost 600 of the 1,000 to nematode pests.  Our hero’s plot lost 6 plants out of 1,000 to the nematodes.


Though these strains of bacteria are naturally occurring, it’s finders-keepers when it comes to the most promising products, with fortunes in the balance for the finders. To date, this gentleman has built a robust business selling his product and has turned down checks in the billions.


Even the way we compost is changing greatly. My friend Jim McNelly, a founder of the US Compost Council, has invented the Natur-Tech composting system based on shipping containers. He loads the containers with a special mix of materials, computer controls the oxygen and temperature levels and uses finished compost to absorb the odors as a biofilter. He can process completed batches in only a few weeks with no turning necessary. The process has even been used in the parking lots of downtown hotels. With precise control of the ingredients and the process, Jim makes “designer compost” to meet his client’s standards. He was the first to produce enriched compost with an NPK analysis of 4-1-1. Normal compost has an analysis of 1-1-1 and is not considered a fertilizer.


The third miracle is the Threshold to Vitality.”

America’s Organic Gardening magazine refers to an important level of life in the soil. Above the level of 4-5% organic matter, plants have a good supply of food to rely on. This threshold is where the magic of organic production begins.


When crops have enough to eat, i.e. organic matter from which to draw their building blocks, they are able to assemble their proteins from a full storehouse of materials. Their fruits are sweeter. They store longer. They have the immunity factors to resist fungus and disease. The other members of the living community add benefits to the plants and offer such things as growth hormones and extra nitrogen.

Animals fed on these crops consume 15-20% less feed because they are satiated more quickly. The book Hay Belly Nation describes the phenomenon in cattle where the animals eat continually hoping to be satisfied nutritionally from deficient feed. The Nation half of the title takes the analogy to the people of America who seem to do the same.


Below this threshold of life in the soil, protein synthesis is deficient. Fewer sugars will be stored. Crops will be overcome with diseases or pests. Nature knows what to do with deficient crops. She wipes them out and adds them to her store of organic matter. She will continue to do so until the soil reaches that threshold.

Imagine two ears of corn mounted on two platforms in the woods. One is organic and one is grown conventionally. Squirrels will eat every kernel of the organic corn before one kernel is taken from the conventional ear.


Virgin forest and prairie soils usually contain that magic 4-5% level. It is said to take 500 years to make and inch of soil. American farm soil ranges from 1 to 4 % organic matter with the majority of farms at the low end of the range. Progress upward is being made in the Midwest but for most farmers synthetics are cheap and there’s no benefit to growing a nutritious crop.


The fourth miracle is Crumb Structure. Composting is like baking a cake. Various ingredients are mixed, heated and transformed into a completely different material that looks nothing like the original. The work is done by bacteria. They reproduce until they run out of food and then die. About one third of finished compost is the skins of those dead bacteria. Those skins are sticky. The material is called muco-polysaccharide. It is both plant food and soil glue.

Take a garden hose and blast our typical farm soil and a clump will break down and be washed away very quickly. The hose will have very little effect on a clump of compost and dried worm manure is like a brick. Its nutrition is glued up awaiting the enzymes of a plants roots to break it down.


When organic matter is added to the soil, the glue starts to stick soil particles together. The process is called agglutination. These crumbs of compost-glued soil allow air and water to permeate. In clay soils, known for their tiny particle size and impermeable nature, compost opens them up by building crumbs. In sandy soils with too much permeability compost glues larger sand particles together and holds water through it’s sponge-like nature. How strange that the same living substance can create opposite effects in two different types of soil.


The fifth alchemical element is On-Demand Nitrogen- We’ve only recently discovered how plants get most of their nitrogen. Plants use some of the sugars they produce and push those sugars out into the soil. This seems like a bad idea until you realize that bacteria are in the soil and they love sugar. They go nuts and start reproducing like crazy.


Predators come and start eating the bacteria. The waste products from this messy life and death struggle are full of aqueous ammonium and nitrate from the belches and poops of the predators. The roots clean up the mess.  So by sharing their bounty with the bacteria in the soil, plants get the nitrogen they need delivered on-time, at their root tips, in a perfect form for them to use. In this way plants create a living sheath of their symbionts around their roots like a protective stocking. Invaders have to “deal with” the vibrant living army of plant-helpers before they can invade.

But, this only happens when the soil has a good supply of organic matter in the first place. Plants won’t do this unless they have the minimum food in the soil. It’s like Billy Preston’s old song- Nothin’ from Nothin’ Leaves Nothin,’ You gotta’ have somethin’, if you wanna be with me. The soil must have that reserve before this can happen. Compost is the perfect food to use.


Sixth is the Mycorrhyzal Connection- A plant uses its roots to pick up the water and minerals it needs. Getting enough water and minerals can be a challenge. Building more roots takes extra energy that plants don’t have. But plants have that rare and valuable sugar as an ace in the hole. So they make a deal with tiny root-like fungal hairs. Visualize the familiar mushroom at the center of a network of fungal hyphae (thin whispy roots). If you mentally remove the mushroom and put plant roots there, you’ll have a good idea.

The plant feeds some of its sugars to a network of these tiny hairs. The hairs are only one cell wide and can grow out long distances. The fungus grows into the root’s tip. This is an ENDO-mycorrhizal fungus. The hyphae enter the root and are digested by the root as food in an ongoing process. In this case they provide protein from their bodies as well an minerals and water. Other mycorrhizal fungi are ECTO- fungi in that they attach at the surface and do not penetrate the root.


The fungus uses the plant’s sugars for energy to grow and in return expands the area that the plant can cover by 300 times. That’s a 30,000 percent increase!

The plant gets a vastly increased network to draw from in exchange for a little sugar. The fungus can actually dissolve rock particles and create liquid minerals where there were none. Just think of sand in the soil. It’s totally unuseable but the fungal hairs secrete acids that break down the sand into silicon compounds the plant needs to build those tough cell walls.


This means that our soil test may not mean as much as we think. Yes, there may only be a few minerals in the soil we scrape up to test, but the plants have a root network hundreds of times larger. This is another example of how sharing resources can solve problems in unexpected ways.


Again this only happens when there is a basic minimum of compost  or organic matter in the soil


Our seventh miracle is The Claws of Life- Compost is made by trillions of bacteria, It contains both food for microorganisms and the critters themselves. When the soil is rich, compost has the ability to latch onto harmful chemicals and hold them out of circulation. The word for this is Chelation and it comes from the Latin word for claw.


In 1986 The Russian nuclear reactor at Chernobyl blew up. The explosion scattered a 100 mile-wide swath of intense radiation centered on Vienna, Austria. What is particularly dangerous are radioactive Cesium and Strontium atoms. These two atoms will displace Calcium and end up in the bones causing cancer. Food production in the area was shut down by government decree.


One farmer in Austria was selling vegetables to his regular customers. He was reported and inspectors came out to test his soil. His soil was contaminated so the officials ordered him to shut down. The farmer insisted that they test his vegetables. The vegetables were clean.


The inspector recalibrated his test equipment several times over several trips and eventually agreed that he could sell his vegetables. This was much needed as all the food was being trucked in from uncontaminated areas.

His soil had been built up over ten years to 16.4% organic matter. This is so rich that he can walk out in any area of his field and stick his arm into the ground up to the elbow. Midwest Biosystems sells a compost turner that uses bacterial innoculants to make humus, not compost.


I was told this story by Midwest’s owner, Edwin Blosser. Edwin stresses the importance of making finished plant food-humus instead of just compost. One way to understand this is to think of all living things as made of lego blocks. The process of composting breaks down materials into very basic components. Humus is more complex, a reassembling of the legos into a more available plant food. Compost that has been cured has a better availability to plants because it has more humus in it.


This purifying effect of organic matter is just another benefit of rich soil. In the U.S. Brown fields - old, contaminated industrial areas in our “Rust belt” - are a thorny problem. Heavy metals and hydrocarbons are the main problems but they are no match for organic matter, compost and even mushrooms.


Really, the only way anything in our environment is cleaned is through the help of the “Little Ones,” bacteria, algae and fungi.


Out eighth miracle is Biological Farming- The idea that our food systems produce food that is less than it could be is no secret.  There are more than 50 farmers markets in the Kansas City Metro. Consumers are flocking to them. Organic agriculture has been growing at 20% per year for the past 15 years. Farmers are looking for better ways to produce that don’t waste energy or damage the life in the soil.


A farmer near Emporia, Kansas, Gail Fuller, has implemented a system that is becoming more common all across the US. He follows four rules that were suggested by our Natural Resource Conservation Service. The Four Keys to Healthy Soil, are 1. Minimize disturbance 2. Maximize diversity 3. Maintain growing roots all year 4. Keep the soil covered.


Gail never plows, There is always a green crop growing, even in the winter. He uses a tough planter that can plant through live plants and crop residue on the soil. When his corn crop is harvested, there is a mix of plants growing under it that was seeded by airplane months before. The seeds germinate in the shady, moist environment under the corn. The combination of corn stalks and green forage make an excellent diet. His cattle are herded into tiny paddocks, grazing strips of grass in very close quarters. They stay about three days in each strip. They eat all the vegetation starting with their favorites first and are moved before they start to eat the crown of the grasses. Their hooves scarify the soil and their dung and urine fertilize the strip. Then they move on to the next tiny strip. The idea is to mimic that action of the great herds on the land.


Right behind the cows come an army of chickens which scratch through the cow dung eating the larvae of the flies that would have hatched. These larvae are sweet and succulent and the chickens feed aggressively. The chickens lay rich orange-yolk eggs and add their own manure to the soil. After the chickens move on the land is seeded with the next crop.


Gail’s system builds organic matter rapidly and now he’s got one of his fields at 6.4% in only five years.  He not an organic farmer and will occasionally use Roundup to kill a persistent cover crop but he says he no longer needs any fertilizer or herbicide to stop weeds. He gets a premium for his crops due to their higher nutrient density which he documents. His costs of production are much less than his conventional neighbors.

He often does get a slightly smaller yield than his neighbors, but his costs are so much lower that he nets more money. Researchers monitored his fields for run-off for three years then gave up making visits to his farm, because there was no run-off even after one rapid 6 inch rain event.


Our ninth alchemical miracle is the Biochar Bonanza. In the 1530’s, Spanish explorers scoured Peru looking for gold. One of the groups of men got lost and descended into the Amazon basin. They almost starved, literally ate their shoes and eventually encountered a village where they fired their guns and stole all the food. Further on they encountered a large river. They stopped, made charcoal, mined iron ore, smelted nails and in one month had two boats for 20 men each.


As they continued downriver they encountered a dense population of Indians. They found glistening white plastered cities with ornate decoration. They saw great pastures, fields of crops and roads wide enough for four horses to gallop abreast. They went 240 miles at one stretch continually in sight of docks and boats along the river. They were under continual attack including by the Amazon women warriors.


The party eventually made it back to Spain and the priest turned in his wild story. Fifty years later another explorer came up the Amazon, only find no people and no civilization. All the Indians had died from the Spanish diseases.


Today, Brazilian settlers occasionally find their plot contains Terra Preta, Portugese for black earth. Instead of orange rain forest clay, their topsoil is 9 feet deep. These large blocks of black earth are strategically located at the junctions of major rivers. This black soil was man-made by the Indians by burning trees and burying the charcoal in the soil. Bio-Char in the term for this agricultural charcoal.


The effect is to build a biological reef in the soil to house myriad creatures and provide a habitat for soil life. The tiny pores in charcoal that once held plant cells, now, in the soil, harbor individual bacteria, water and fungi. A modern-day settler with Terra Preta already in his soil is 9 times more productive than one without.


There is now a black gold rush on American farms. The verdict is in, Bio-Char works well and improves every situation where it’s been tried. Modern farmers inoculate the char before putting it in the soil with microbes, minerals and micro-nutrients. This expensive process is worth it because the effect lasts for thousands of years. Bio-Char Expert, David Yarrow, told me that Bio-Char has a half-life in the soil of 1600 years.

Carbon in the soil makes for miracles, whether it is soft, labile, short-term carbon or the long lasting reef effect of bio-char.


Finally, as proof that there are more than 9 alchemical miracles that compost produces, I offer the story of Sir Albert and the bulls.


Sir Albert Howard, was the son of a cattle farmer in Shropshire as I mentioned.  When he went to India, he operated an agricultural research stations there from 1905 to 1931. To create his own herd of cattle, he bought the best animals he could find locally and started feeding them rich food from his organically-nourished healthy soil. He fermented some of his crops into silage so the cattle could have good green live food during the hot summers.


His cows became fat and sleek. The locals came to him asking if his cows could be borrowed to lead the religious parades because they looked the part of holy cows.


When his second generation – cows that had had great nutrition all their lives - was mature, he tried an experiment. He turned his prize cattle out into a field next to a pasture where his neighbor’s cattle were dying of hoof and mouth disease, a wildly contagious, mostly fatal epidemic.


His cows were rubbing noses with dying cattle! …..  Nothing happened!  His cows didn’t get Hoof and Mouth. Their immune systems were strong, based on the healthy food he grew for them on the soil he had built by adding organic matter- compost to the soil.


There are more of these miracles that we know of today. I’ve just included my favorites for this talk.

We should expect to discover more and more of these synergies as this revolution of discovery progresses. Sequencing the genes of a bacterium used to cost $50,000. Now it is being done on a laptop in minutes for $50 and soon will be $10.


I believe these complex interactions are built-in through the long time bacteria have been at the job and the close cooperation we see throughout the microscopic world.

Thousands of truly valuable PhD degrees are waiting for researchers in this field.


How exciting that we are shifting some of our focus away from deep space or sub-atomic particles and turning our vision to the mysteries of Middle Earth. In the soil below our feet and the chambers of our digestive system we may well find the answers to climate change, health, and models for community that can truly give us the tools we need to build a sustainable world.


I like to say Rich Soil, Rich Food, Rich People.  Thank you!