Soil has formed our history since the beginning of time, connecting us to the natural world and bringing us home to the land beneath our feet. Einkorn, the oldest grain in history, brought humans into a lifestyle of settling and gathering in community over 12,000 years ago. Seeds were sown, stories were shared, wolves became dogs, and soil became even more deeply interconnected to human life. Year after year, the natural world continues to evolve and renew in endless ways and carries us forward with it. This regeneration is what forms our future; this regeneration begins in the soil. This is understood, honored, and revered at Kandarian Organic Farms, which flourishes on the Central Coast of California with the mission of connecting people to the land through real food. Kandarian Organic Farms is led by Larry Kandarian, a passionate steward of the land, who is rooted in nourishing the plants, people, and planet with a full circle, regenerative approach - beginning in the soil.
Seen above: Larry Kandarian
Why is Soil Important?Soil is a building block for climate regulation, biodiversity, food production, water purification, and beyond, as it creates an ecosystem for nutrient-dense plants to grow. Soil is vital for the wellbeing of all living things, as when it's healthy, it provides us with microbes that nourish our individual microbiomes, antibiotics that support, nutrients that feed our food sources, and purified water, another necessity for life. To put its importance into even greater perspective, 95% of our global food production relies on it and our climate's future depends on it, as it stores more carbon than all of the world's forests combined.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations explains that over a third of the world's topsoil has already been degraded over the past 150 years. The Earth beneath our feet is eroding and degrading because of excessive tilling, synthetic chemicals, and other intensive farming practices. Major changes are needed in order to restore the health of the soil and the symbiotic relationships it hosts. Regenerative farming practices, like those used at Kandarian Organic Farms, are paving the potential for a fertile and flourishing future.
Seen above: A hoop house at Kandarian Farms growing ginger and turmeric
Practices to Restore The SoilKandarian Organic Farms grows over 1,000 species, some that they're the only grower of in the United States. Fields bloom with fennel, ancient grains, and legumes; hoop courses are filled with turmeric, ginger, galangal, and various kinds of seaweed drying in the sunlight. Ancient Grains, also called Heirloom or Heritage Grains, are revered for their age, history, lack of genetic modification, and nutritional profile overflowing with B vitamins, Omega-3s, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, dietary fiber, antioxidants, high-quality plant protein, and trace minerals. To deeply nurture each of these species and the farm's ecosystem in a full circle approach, Kandarian Farms begins with the soil. By mimicking natural ecosystems through practices such as agroforestry, companion planting, cover crops, and livestock grazing, Kandarian Organic Farms replenishes the very foundation in which food is grown. From there, benefits flow into every element of the ecosystem.
Larry Kandarian's agricultural practices are rooted in returning to indigenous practices that have restored nature for thousands of years. By bridging ancient wisdom with modern science, he is regenerating his farm into a state of deep abundance. A unique technique he uses to nourish the soil and its seeds is a natural calcium phosphate made from oyster shells that has been practiced for centuries in the water-bordering communities of Hawaii and Korea. He sources the oyster shells from his daughter's local oyster farm in Morro Bay to form the base of the calcium phosphate by burning, breaking down, and mixing the shells with vinegar (for a neutral ph). Calcium is an important element of soil health and plant nutrition, as it supports soil fertility and the development of strong cell walls and membranes in plants. It is also a catalyst for all other nutrients, connecting it to the rest of the soil's ecosystem and elevating its nourishment. This practice, as well as the rest outlined below, are all beautiful reminders that everything is intimately connected and that the land surrounding us is bountiful in endless ways.
Seen above: Oyster shells ready to be broken down and made into calcium phosphate
The use of cover crops protects the soil from erosion and nourishes the soil by providing it and nutrients and water. Cover crops include ancient grains, radishes, mustard, and more, and Kandarian Organic Farms pairs them with their companions growing below based on unique symbiotic relationships they share. By honoring this symbiosis, the plants thrive by attracting the pollinators, insects, and sunlight that support them in doing so. The pairings are also centered around the carbon and nitrogen balance grasses, legumes, and whole grains share, nurturing the plants and the soil to ensure long-term vitality.
Livestock are a central part of mimicking nature's patterns and regenerating agricultural landscapes, ecosystem health, and community resilience. The livestock welcome a closed nutrient loop through grazing the land and providing nutrient-rich manure, urine, and saliva in return, minimizing needs for external inputs and building soil health. Kandarian Organic Farms has sheep from St. Croix, geese, and a donkey nurturing these interconnected relationships and welcoming health and resilience from within the ecosystem; a beautiful example of reciprocity.
Seen above: Larry Kandarian
Another regenerative practice that Kandarian Organic Farms does so beautifully is agroforestry. Agroforestry integrates trees into crop and animal farming systems to reduce erosion and elevate biodiversity. Kandarian plants a line of trees every seven rows to break the wind and symbiotically work with the crops in between. By bringing water to the soil through the tree's roots and reducing soil erosion by 50%, agroforestry is a supportive practice in protecting, nourishing, and diversifying the land.
Regenerative farming is a continual exploration: rooted in learning by doing, observing nature's rhythms, and honoring the needs of the ecosystem. Through leaving the weeds, using everything (from fennel pollen to radish flowers), and beginning with the soil, we can celebrate biodiversity and the ever-changing seasons that carry us forward. This is how we learn that everything is connected and allow nature to flourish as it always has.
Seen above: Larry Kandarian and Carter Norvell
Flowing Towards A Fertile FutureIt is our duty as humans to honor and nourish the Earth that nourishes us in return, and this, as many, begins in the soil. Recent data from around the world shows that if we make a widespread shift towards regenerative agriculture, we have the ability to sequester more than 100% of current annual carbon emissions. Regenerative practices including agroforestry, cover crops, and livestock grazing, are what bring the problem back into balance with the solution, all beginning underneath our feet. In the words of author and environmentalist Paul Hawken, one of the leading voices in sustainability, "The relationship between regenerative agriculture and the climate is an intimate one that has been forgotten. Really, it's a path to walking back the carbon we have placed in the air. We placed it by industrial agriculture, deforestation, and combustion of fossil fuels. Those three together have nearly [destroyed] the planet. What we're talking about is bringing carbon back home."
We encourage you to take time to reflect on this information and how it can guide you closer to the natural world and the abundant life, richness, and beauty it blooms with each day. It is through returning to and regenerating the land that we are able to bring the planet and ecosystems back into balance; it is through these practices that we can bloom growth and renewal from within the soil, bringing all of nature back home.
Sources & Suggested Reading
Rodale Institute: https://rodaleinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/rodale-white-paper.pdf
Kiss The Ground: https://kisstheground.com/support-the-film/
National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/partner-content-solution-to-climate-change-below-our-feet