Regen Ray: Hello. Soil, lovers, and welcome to another episode of Secrets of the Soil, I’m really excited today because our guest has been someone who has been in the soil space for a very long time and hung out with Helen and Hugo from farming secrets. And so welcome to our podcast, Mary Cole.
Mary Cole: Thank you. Good morning. Well, it’s good morning here anyway. It is.
Regen Ray: It is.
Mary Cole: Yes. Yes, I’m Mary Cole. But what I’d like to do if I may is just let you know that I’m speaking from the land of the Boon Wurrung and the Wurundjeri a traditional owners, and I pay my respect to their elders past, present and emerging. And I extend the respect to all of the First Nation people who might be listening to this podcast, and I hope they’re are there. I also acknowledge their continuing connection to the land and the water and thank them for protecting this region and its ecosystems since time immemorial. Finally, I acknowledge that the First Nations sovereignty over this land has never been ceded. And with that, I hopefully in my lifetime have continued to respect the land as our First Nation people did, and all of my work has been in that direction.
Regen Ray: Beautiful. I love that. And our podcast has acknowledged the first land owners in our intro, and I thank you for also that extended version because I think it is definitely something that is more top of mind and very topical. And, you know, they are very connected. A shout out to my great friend from friends from YARN Australia because I did a program to try and bridge that gap between what I failed to learn in school and what organizations are putting together. So yes, it is definitely about going out there and learning and being a lot more connected. And the way that they observe the land and heathen noises and be very respectful is absolutely an art. And, you know, and it’s just beautiful to to to to get more aligned, to say thank you for that. For those who aren’t aware of yourself, I know I’ve watched many videos from the past and workshops that we’ve recorded and your faces come up and you’ve helped people with microscopes and all things to all the soil lovers who are listening just a little bit about you and your experience and your love for soil.
Mary Cole: Well, I guess it’s interesting. You’re talking about Colin Sykes and his grandmother. I guess my my, my family, my origin is German and Danish, and my grandmother had eight cows in far north Queensland, and she owned delivering from that. My dad then was was on the land and then when he grew up, got married, et cetera. Always, he had a vegetable garden that was about half an acre of vegies. And so we grew up as children with the vegetables growing. And do you remember some of you will remember in the old days our grandparents had their little barrel with cal pups in it and that fill it up with water and they had a can and that the cow manure would then become very stinky. And but it would be put into a watering bucket and it watered the plants. And that was that was the way we grew up. That was it. That was the fertilisation that my dad used. I never, ever remembered any synthetic material going on to his vegie garden. And so we grew up as children and just pulling the vegies out of the ground, wiping them on our nice clean clothes, much to our mothers disgust and then eating them. And so I was raised in a situation where vegetables were so important and the way they were grown was so important. And my dad had his very best friend was an old elder and the old man would come up to my dad and they’d work in the vegetable garden. And that’s that association of being able to bring out First Nations through my father’s friendship. And then my introduction through the two of them to the land. I always wanted to protect the land because I saw how it was being protected by the First Nation people. Then I came to Melbourne, mainly for health reasons. I was an asthmatic up in far north Queensland, so I came south and my whole career and through my university at Monash, my Ph.D. at Monash was looking at soil, how how to manage diseases in a non chemical way. And so my academic life and then my my I started Agpath in 1980. And again, we have our whole. If you have a look at our website, you’ll see our mission is to introduce. Farmers to a way of basically farming the soil. You don’t have to worry about what you grow if you farm the soil, and if you respect the soil and you farm the microbes that nature’s had there for billions of years, then whatever you grow above the ground is going to grow very well. And that’s that’s the attitude that we have. And so what we do is we run workshops and we show people how to make compost. But we also have a full day of using a microscope, as you mentioned. And so we show people how to use the microscope. And then we show them the various microbes that they’re likely to see in soil or compost or compost tea. And it is. It’s just it’s awe inspiring because here here is a population that we require to live on the planet that people don’t realize are there. And so when, when, when the people who come through the courses, when they actually see these things and then they can recognize them, they just get so excited. And then and then the whole thing of what they’re trying to do. OK, I want to farm organically. I want to farm biologically. But when they actually see the microbes, it comes inside. It becomes a heartfelt thing. And that’s so exciting and that’s what I try to do.
Regen Ray: Yeah, absolutely. I can definitely relate to that. And I haven’t got a microscope myself yet, but it is on the list and I’ve I’ve sat down with some people who shown me even over Zoom calls now, you know, microscopes plug into the cameras and you can see that’s real life and it is very it’s so different and it is. And that was one of the reasons of starting this podcast was to give our voice the sort of voice you know and share those secrets that out of sight, out of mind for way too long. And I, when enough is enough, we need to stop making soil and the life that’s in it, mainstream and the common knowledge that everyone looks at soil as a living organism, not just
Mary Cole: absolutely, you know, well, we’re here with everything that is above the ground is only here because of the microbes that the populations that are in the soil and people have to realize that we can’t keep destroying the soil because there’s no there’s there will be no life on Earth.
Regen Ray: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, and it’s working together. It’s not one or the other. It’s like, we, we are so connected. We just don’t see those lines. And shedding light on that is awesome. You’ve been in this space for for a while and you’ve obviously seen it change. How how different is it now in 2021, as opposed to it was when you were doing your studies and moving to Melbourne. Have you seen us advance or are we still stuck on?
Mary Cole: sYes. No, there is. When I started about 40 years ago, I was told by farmers that the only good place for me was a hole in the ground and that what I was trying to tell them was rubbish. It was snake oil. And how dare I? Well, the only real biological at that time was Die Pelle, the Bacillus thuringiensis that was used to kill the Heliotis . Mainly, it was. It was produced or used mainly in Australia to kill the heliotis that got into the plantation trees along the highways. But that was basically all there was. But what I did have through my PhD time and I’m talking, you know, probably before you were on the planet, but I had to mentor three mentors. One was a lady and two were two gentlemen, scientists from Melbourne University. And they were the most wonderful people. And they said, Mary, just keep going. What are you wanting to do? Is correct. The world needs people like you keep going at what you’re doing. And so over time, there has been a recognition. There’s been a recognition in the farms and what’s really interesting. I’ve had farmers in their 60s and 70s come to me and say, Mary please, will you testify? So will you tell me how to reduce the chemical input? And I said, Yeah, absolutely. But I said, Why have you come to me now? Mm-Hmm. And you know what they said? I said, we’ve got grandchildren. Mm-Hmm. And they’ve got allergies and they’ve got they’ve got they’ve got eating problems. And I wonder if it’s because of the chemicals I’m using and I say it may not be a low nut, but yes. And so I said, please help me because we need I need on my farm now. I need to change my attitude because I want my grandchildren to be healthy. And the number of times that that has happened is, you know, it’s just it’s it’s amazing. And so now there’s a lot more recognition by younger people on what I do find. It’s not well taught. In the universities, because I have students from Melbourne University, La Trobe, coming out here and doing some scholarships with me on internships because then they say in 14 weeks, I learn more about soil and soil health and I’ve learnt in a four year degree. Wow. So Agpath has a very big role there and I’m very proud of it. But what what I do find a little bit irritating and I’ve spoken to Elaine Ingham about this is these young people come out of the university and they think they’ve discovered soil microbiology. Yeah, they said, Get this. People like us who’ve been working in this field for 40 years and that their little bit of of knowledge is not new. What they’ve done is they’ve researched it and there’s they’ve put a framework around it. That’s fantastic. But please don’t be so arrogant just to feel that there are not people who are, you know, probably your grandparents age who spent their lifetime in this field trying to to to introduce the concept that healthy soil, healthy people, healthy gut, healthy animals. It all goes together. It’s it’s a cycle, but it’s not new.
Regen Ray: Yes, absolutely. And kudos to you and your resilience to push through this because I know back then it was definitely tough. You know, Helen and Hugo share stories all the time. Have you been too? We were, too. You know, you go put you in 1940, hat on and go sit in the corner. You know, and no one was ready. And now it’s like breakthroughs in this. And once I told you 10, 15 years ago and I can understand the frustration of like, why is it taking so long? And I I watch content that was recorded five even five years or 15 years ago, and it’s the same. The conversation is the same, but all of a sudden they receive, you know, people more open to receive it. And I think, thank goodness finally, you know, because I’d hate to have seen what happens if we we just kept, you know, on that same narrative. So kudos for your resilience.
Mary Cole: Yes. And I think I think the young people, if there’s any young people listening to this, I think I think they have to realise that what did what they’re researching is not new. What they’re researching is what we’ve been talking about for many, many years. And when I when I talk to my, my growers and my and anyone who comes to listen, I say what I’m trying to do and what I’m trying to have you do is what a great great great grandparents did. All we’re doing today is putting a little bit of science around it and putting it into context. It’s not new, so please don’t think anything that we’re discovering today is new. Yeah, it’s it’s it’s we’re putting a science around around what Mother Earth’s been doing for several billion years.
Regen Ray: Yeah, and I grew up in an Italian vegie patch environment so that whole manure experience, you know, it wasn’t cow pats. It was probably more chicken manure. Yes. Sniffing, the bucket smelling. Yes, spin it around. You throw it around. That’s right. And life comes from it. And I just didn’t know any other way. You know, that whole, you know, we we coined that now like retro suburbia growing up in suburbs, but with a veggie patch. And I made a video recently where I was like, no lawns, just a veggie patch. And that’s the childhood that I had. There was no grass. Yes. Yes, yes. Chickens are involved. Yeah, yes, yes. Yes, I love that. So we I guess at the moment, we we we we’ve had this soil science catch up and people. Some people are still waiting for the science to prove whether this works. But everyone who goes on the paddock can see smell, taste, touch that this is actually working and we’ve seen this new buzzword regenerative kind of emerge. What’s your meaning on regenerative? I know this space doesn’t really want to define, and I think there’s some beautiful ness of that. We don’t need it to mine it. But what does it mean to you?
Mary Cole: Well, it’s it’s it’s it’s the current. It’s the current description of caring for soil, caring for country. I mean, let’s go back to our First Nation people. They had regenerative agriculture. If it’s cold, caring for country. And as far as I’m concerned, anything that one does on the land that doesn’t have an outcome that’s caring for country is not good. Mm-Hmm. And so call it regenerative. Call it organic, call it biological. But I don’t care what it’s called what it is, it’s caring for country. Yeah. And so my definition is that caring for country?
Regen Ray: Yep. Beautifully said. And I agree with you 100 percent . And I think what you mentioned there as well about the output being a positive output, it doesn’t have to, you know, we’re an instant gratification world these days where everything has to be done overnight. But Mother Nature doesn’t work like that. Some things take 10 years. Sometimes they take a whole lifetime and it is about passing it on to a next generation and caring for country, you know, and that responsibility being passed. I know some of the areas that you’ve lived in and helped farmers have been recently affected by bushfires and devastating climate change events. I know you’re, you know, a lot of our listeners out there have this thing in. their mind about weeds and weed management, and, you know, with my knowledge, over the years, I’ve really realized that plants that we call weeds play a big part. You know, we now call them repair plants or signal plants. They’re trying to tell us something about the soil. So can you speak a little bit more about the way that, you know, soil caring and biological soil assessments can help with weed management?
Mary Cole: wsppeYeah. Well, I have a problem with the word weed because it has a connotation of negativity. I agree. And in effect, it isn’t. It’s the it’s it’s a plant that’s doing a particular job. And I can remember, oh, in my early days of academia, I was down in South Australia with a wonderful man. He was a great grower and he he he grew organically so so his vineyard had had these weedy species everywhere. But what I noted at the time, and I was very young at this stage that nowhere could you see bare soil nowhere. And so his so his vineyard looked well as far as other people was very untidy, but wasn’t. And I’m saying you’ve got a lot of weedy species because I always did call them weedy species . And he said, Mary, there is no such thing as a weed. Every weed is mulch potential. And that was that was that was back in the early 90s. And I remember that mulch potential. And the way the weedy species are there, often because there’s been bare land and particularly after the fires, a lot of the first growth are those fast growing fast flowering, short lived species that are in the seed bank for, you know, Eat-Ons. And so they come through and then then we see departments of agriculture go in and herbicide them out crazy. So you’re back to bare land again, you’re back to their land. So then it rains. So where does the topsoil go down the river right? And where does where does it end up in the river? It ends up in western Port Bay, and so it’s destroying. Our seagrasses is so, so bare land. The weedy species come in and they put a very rapid cover into that high sort of nitrate type, low phosphorus type residue that’s left after the fact after the fires. But they make a cover. They protect the soil. The fact that they’re living well, it depends a little bit on how vicious the fire was as to how much damage and how deep the damage is in the soil. But but so that’s that’s very variable. So one can’t necessarily say for all of it, but let’s assume that there is there is still some good activity down 10 centimeters or so. These weedy species, their roots are fairly shallow, but they do populated that top 10 centimeters or so. And what are they doing? They’re helping their excudates , then provide food for bacteria. So the fungi, but more importantly, the mycorrhizal fungi, the mycorrhizal fungi are so important to get that biomass back in there again. And so and so if you want to manage weeds or these weedy species, don’t let them flower. Just stop them from flowering. Mulch them, but don’t but don’t kill their roots, leave the roots alive, and then gradually you bring your grasses back in again. They will come back in again and they’ll crowd out the weedy species. One of the one of the problems we have in this area because the soil so fertile is capeweed. I’ve got photographs on my website where we on our 60 acres we don’t have Capeweed . But when you have a look at the photographs all the way, all the way around the property, it’s yellow, it’s a carpet of yellow. And so the farmers come on here and they say, Well, how come you don’t have capeweed? Well, we use compost tea and we use fish and kelp. We don’t use, we don’t use herbicides. And so then I started with a with a vineyard just north of the highway here. And he was looking for compost, tea and and and fish and kelp and a good nutrient base to help in the vineyard. And he called me up and he said, Mary, come and have a look at this the capeweeds gone, where I put the compost tea and fish and kelp and water. But the capeweeds gone and so so I said to him, Well, let’s have a look. He would. He wouldn’t believe me. I said that you’ll find there’s been a change in the soil microbial activity and the people who are the people who don’t believe in compostea, you know, they’re saying, well, if you’re going to put a few microbes that don’t belong to your particular property on the property, what good are they going to do? Well, whether with it, whether they do any good or not. But the data shows of change in the in the composition of the soil, in the soil microbiology. Now, whether it’s a placebo effect, who cares? It works. We’ve got the data. So we actually took soil samples from, well, both from our place but also from the vineyard, and we took soil samples from the headlands where he had where he hadn’t done any put any compost tea. So it was yellow with with capeweed what was very clear when we had to look at those those soils. One was very dry, had no structure. The other in the in the in the vineyard had a nice structure. There was the roots, the roots of the grass because he had good grass cover, the roots to the grass with down a lot deeper. And oh, just to back up again. We had already done some baseline chemistry in the vineyard. So the baseline chemistry in the vineyard was the same as the headlands. We then over over two years put in compost tea fish, kelp, molasses and the structure changed. Now, in the in the soil with the capeweed , there was a very high active microbial population, low, low fungal active population. There was high siliets which means there was a certain amount of anaerobic compaction going on, which there was. And then then good protozoa and the natural ability to produce good plant available nitrogen was was very low in the cape weed soils. The other thing that was interesting was the mycorrhizal fungal infestation in the roots was quite low. It was about it was about five or six percent. What we did then over two years is we put out we need the compost here, we make the compost, tea goes up the road and we sprayed it on the vines to run off. So it went onto the soil. We did the same here with the pasture we do at five or six times a year. What we found then about two months later, we went back and we then took another set of soil samples and wasn’t shown in the in the soils where the compos tea and fish and kelp and molasses had been had been sprayed. The active bacterial pool went down. The active fungal pill came up the the. The silliots, which show anaerobic or a reduced oxygen was done. The the the other protozoa went up and the mycorrhizal fungi went from five percent to something like 22 percent. Wow. The other thing that happened there, you could see a difference in the color of the grass that was in the midrope. Same thing with our pastures. Our pastures of vibrant green was surrounded by yellow pale looking. The other the other thing was the the the actual winemaker or the viticulturist, he said. He said at the end of the season, he said Mary. I had three weeks more photosynthetic leaves on the vines than all of the vineyards in the area. Wow. Now what does what does that mean from a from a from a great growing point of view? What that means is you’ve got three more weeks once you take the fruit off. The carbohydrates sink is in the fruit. Once you take the fruit off the vine, starting to go into senescence. So the carbohydrates sink becomes the roots. Imagine here, this particular vineyard now has three weeks more nutrients, carbohydrates stored in the roots across the winter ready for the next season. Now, the next season, that particular vineyard was able to increase the Buffel price by one bracket. Wow. Because the quality had improved. Now, why does that happen? OK? Was it the compost tea? Who knows? Was it the fish and kelp? And we just fed the soil and said the microbes in the soil? Does it matter? Does it really matter what it means as that we did something that was very positive in that vineyard. And it’s great making compost and compost tea anyway. So who’s going to do it? But but what we did is we showed with just using fish, kelp and molasses that we had a change in the soil structure. We had a change in the activity of the microbes that there were in the soil. We actually had an impact, a huge impact on the vines so that those vines are more resilient. They’re producing better, better, better wines. Does it matter how it happened? It what matters about it is that we used a natural system to improve a natural system. With everything that was that was great about it, now that vineyard doesn’t use any synthetics anymore, then I’ll make the came to a workshop. They now make their own compost, they make their own compost tea and and they’re getting the great finds and beautiful condition. So. So then if somebody comes along and says, Well, you know, why would why would you bother doing this? Well, why would you bother not doing it? You know, it’s worked. If we’re going to drill down and find out exactly why it worked well, then we could. We could maybe do the research. But that all costs money and the farmers are not necessarily interested in that. They want results. Once they see results, they don’t necessarily want to know exactly why the result is occurring. But then if we come back to our farm here, we do the same thing. We’re growing, we’re growing. We’re growing mixed species, pasture, and that’s important. You must have mixed species because cattle don’t eat grass alone. They must have their medicinal plants. And a lot of the a lot of these weedy species that traditional farmers try to get rid of, like plantain and and and Dock and and some of the little dandelions and things they’re fantastic to eat in your salads they’re not weeds. They’re actually food. And so you can go out into the garden and pick your various leaves for your salad and then go out into the paddocks and pick up plantain leaf or pick a dandelion leaf or something. And, you know, because it’s had no toxicity, toxic chemicals on it, it’s perfectly good to eat. So, so this this whole attitude of these things are weeds. They shouldn’t be there, you know, it just doesn’t hold it. It’s it’s it’s it just doesn’t hold. I have I have real problems trying to understand the attitude.
Regen Ray: Mm-Hmm. I’m with you, Mary. I completely agree. I use an analogy once and maybe the soil listeners can hear this. And you know, it’s kind of like when you scratch yourself and a scab appears to scab is there to protect the soil and it’s a healing process. If we constantly take that scab off, we’re delaying the healing process. Weeds is like the scab, like you said with the fire, fire comes through, weeds come out. It’s it’s a it’s a defense mechanism. It’s like, Oh no, I need to help this soil survive. Here is the low hanging fruit succession plants that can come up and actually create a scab on the on the soil. And yet then we think we can go there and remove it using herbicides and that that to me feels crazy and I can relate to you and your passion is definitely coming through. I was I’m nodded vigorously for the people who are listening to everything you’re saying is is is in my world, in my brain, and I am so. You know, in comfort that you are sharing this in a big advocate. And I really I know the soil lovers who are listening to this are going to take something away from from that.
Mary Cole: Thank you.
Regen Ray: Paradigm shifts, you know, changing the conversation.
Mary Cole: It is a paradigm shift and and and it’s education. And I think, you know, people often are critical. Of farmers farmers do the best with the knowledge they have. Absolutely. And so that must never be criticized. I guess the only criticism is if they’re not prepared to listen to more information. So, so I always say farmers always do the best they can with what they have in the knowledge they have. So what we need to do is not criticize. We have to show by example and to educate and and education is everywhere. It’s it’s got to happen. And also, you always have someone who is not prepared to listen. But the best possible way of getting someone who’s not prepared to listen, to actually stop, to listen is to have his neighbors change what they’re doing and just hanging over a fence and watching, my gosh, why? Why am I here with this? And why is he there with that? It looks so much better than what I’ve got. Maybe I need to go and have a conversation. Sure, yes. That’s the very best way of picking up those intransigent people because again, sometimes it’s fear because it’s so different. You know, my property doesn’t look pristine. Well, what’s pristine. You know, nature nature says, well, everything has a place. Everything has a reason for being there. And Mother Nature never allows any cowboys along. Anybody who’s freeloading gets it’s got rid all very rapidly through through succession and through through evolution. So everything that’s there has a reason to be there. And so what we have to understand is, if you’re there, why are you there? Please explain to me why you there? And there is an explanation. You just got to listen. But it’s more than just hearing you’ve actually got to listen. And there’s a difference between hearing and listening. That’s good. You’ve got to take when you listen, you actually take it into your heart and you just think about it. Hmm. And that’s that’s what I try to do. I try to find every possible way I can to explain a concept to someone. And then when you see the light come on in their eyes, they’ve got it. They’re on, they’re on the journey. You don’t have to worry about them. They’re on the journey. Yes. And that’s that’s that’s that’s that’s awesome.
Regen Ray: Magical sounds, absolutely magical. And I really, you know, I hope that when COVID is over, we can spend more time physically on the farm and in the labs and and doing more projects and exercises. I love the fact that you’re bringing students in and there’s these comments that they’re learning more in 14 weeks than their whole degree. And it just another, you know, example to me, coming from the tech marketing business startup world, you know, I felt very left behind with the education. I was learning more things on YouTube than what I was in in the classroom. And, you know, I feel like now that our access to information and you’re quite right, there is so much information out there. You know, the basis of farming secrets was to educate and inspire people to just think differently, you know, and I just want I want to sit with what you said as well, where no one has done it wrong. Everyone is doing the best that they can with the information. And you know, sometimes the information that was getting passed around was current of the time, you know, but there is definitely a time where I know it’s become a little bit more normalized now. And we I was chatting to Martin Williams a couple of weeks ago, and he was saying that all his friends who don’t know what you’re doing over there are kind of gone. Hang on a minute , you know that thing that you said about four years ago, can we learn a little bit more, you know? And you know, and he’s a big advocate of cover cropping, but more so cash cover cropping and making a seed revenue business on top of your mixed species. So is that
Mary Cole: is that Martin up in New South Wales? Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, he did. He did a week’s course with Elaine and I, at Dookie about 2011 2012. He’s an amazing guy. He’s doing great things that would have
Regen Ray: been with farming secrets as well. We’ve got him as a testimonial of that workshop, you know, and it’s so interesting to see that people who are resilient and stick to it now, you know, he’s going around and like a self-educating, you know, once a student, the best is what I love about this space is that a lot of the mentors and experts that are hanging out in this space now were students 15 20 years ago. Yes. And you get this bug that you just have to give back. You can’t just take this and keep it as your own knowledge. And I’m finding the same with myself. You know, it’s right
Mary Cole: and I’m I’m lucky in that old stream , and I working well we’ve been on this farm for forty seven years. So. So not only have I been an academic, I’m also a farmer and I know how farmers get screwed, you know, and I and I know that we have to we have to try and do the best we can on our property because once, once the product leaves the farm gate, we lose control of it, sadly. So I’ve tried always to be able to put all to say to my academic students or to my farming students. I’m a farmer too. I understand. I understand where you’re coming from so I can put the two together. And that’s given me an enormous advantage because, you know, we we we would put something through a market to always send something to market. And I actually at the supermarkets walking along in the days when one could hearing a hearing the person, oh, well, you know, down down and all of this sort of thing, you know, you can get just something around that’s at three dollars. And I actually walked up to this person and I said, How dare you? How dare you do that? I know what it costs that farmer to produce that product. And so these these these sales things really upset me. And so we tried to buy from farmer’s markets or we don’t buy very much, actually, we grow our own. But but this thing about about not respecting the value of good food. And then you hear someone say, Oh, well, you are privileged and rich. You’re not poor. No, I’m sorry. That’s not the argument. You buy less good food than you do bulk bad food. Yeah. And and so and so put it together like that. So. So I always say, well, OK, we can feed the world. There’s more than enough food being produced. It’s the way it’s distributed. It’s the way it’s it’s damaged. And we don’t need a carrot that doesn’t have a bend in it. Yup. Still taste the same. Why do we have to have a carrot that doesn’t have a bend in it? All that waste? It’s not necessary. And so go back to growing your own, if possible, buying your your, your your product as close to where it’s produced as possible. And look at where look at how that farmer has has grown. That has he found his soil? You go and you say to a farmer, Are you farming your soil? Well, first of all, he won’t know what you mean. But if you explain and they are in this, in this paradigm, they say, Yeah, I am farming my soil. I have I have people coming, clients coming along, and I’ll phone up unless we’ve got some disease in our plants. We’ve got a problem with our plants. I said, No, you have got a problem with your plants. You’ve got a problem with your soil. That’s why you’ve got disease. Let’s have a look at what the disease is that you’re talking about, and we can fix it by fixing your soil, not putting chemicals on. We’ll fix your soil and then your plant won’t get that disease. So it all comes back. All comes back from the soil. You won’t get the disease, stop using chemicals, you’ll get less disease
Regen Ray: resilience and the plants will just thrive. I want to touch on something that you mentioned before with the value of food, and I feel like COVID helped push this narrative. As much as COVID was hard when COVID first hit, everyone went out and bought seeds, toilet paper and seeds ran out. And then what happened is I got a lot of people in my inner circle going to know how hard it is to grow four carrots. I cannot care for carrots to grow. Why are they only $1 for a bag of, you know, a kilo? And so I think people failing . I think people failing at growing their own food in their own backyard has helped identify how damn hard disease and pain cents to a dollar. To get these produce packed and distributed across the country is absolutely crazy. You know, I just wanted to share that story because it’s it’s
Mary Cole: it’s it’s important, it’s important. And what we need to do is is what I’m hoping and what I would. Please, please, people keep growing. Yes. Keep growing your own food when COVID comes off. Don’t worry about it. Please keep growing your own food. It’s much better for you and nutrition.
Regen Ray: Yeah. Nutrition per dollar value is, I think, what we need to start calling it, you know, food. I think in the future will be measured by its nutrition density and not kilos. You know, it has to be.
Mary Cole: It has to be. And also the time between picking and getting to the market. Because because when you look at some of the nutritional figures, you know, sometimes within 24 hours, nutrition has gone down 50 percent, certainly within three or four days, it’s down to next to nothing. It looks pretty, but it doesn’t do you any good.
Regen Ray: Yeah. And that’s why we have to keep buying more and eating more and never feel full. You know, the research of people not feeling full and content is because we’re lacking nutrients. The body’s saying, Give me more because you need nourishing me.
Mary Cole: You’re just putting stuff in me you, just giving me fiber and water.
Regen Ray: Yeah, absolutely. I think we could talk about this for days and days and hours and hours. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared, and the conversation has gone down different pathways and that’s just at a what’s the word I’m going for? That’s like just how interesting soil is. It is about the human health, it’s about the plant health, it’s about nutrition, it’s about communities and bringing that back and making farms more profitable per acre rather than just what’s the yield, you know, the weight. It’s just not sustainable. And big point, no one’s doing it wrong. Everyone’s just doing it the best. And this is the whole point of educating. I say coins have three sides their heads, the tail and the edge. And you just need to explore all of them. You know, you’ve got to look at things from multi dimensional and then make your own assumptions. Yep. I want to focus more on this element, so I really appreciate it. I see a lot of books, and for those listeners who can’t see the visual aid, the visual videos are always available on our social learning center. But what’s your favorite book behind you? Is there a book that you always go to and lean on?
Mary Cole: And in that in this in the in the center, there are all of my plant health plants, pathology, mushroom identification books, and that’s where I spend most of. My time, I turn around and pull it out. Yes, yes, because I’m not, I’m not a full time academic anymore. I have all my academic library at home. So yes, and and it’s used as a resource by students as well.
Regen Ray: Love that. Yeah, I was always interested in books. You know, lean toos and identifying of fungi is a big topic, and we probably could do another podcast on the on that because fungi. And you mentioned, you know, the mycorrhizal fungi. If there’s one thing that people can do as a takeaway from this conversation is go and look at the mycorrhizal fungi and start understanding that mycelium network that is being created. A beautiful documentary on Netflix. Maybe I don’t know if you’ve seen this called fantastic fungi. Yes. Yes, it’s so good. I got goosebumps into thinking It’s awesome.
Mary Cole: It’s awesome. Yes, yes.
Regen Ray: Wonderful World. It’s just completely, you know, thrown in the dark and not spoken about, you know? That’s right.
Mary Cole: And yet it is so important because the micro and this is this is what conventional agriculture does. It destroys what it destroys everything, particularly destroys the mycorrhizal fungal biomass, which is so important to carbon sequestration and water holding capacity, etc. Yeah. love that, but that’s a whole other topic.
Regen Ray: I agree. Well, let’s let let’s become the voice of the soil. If you were the voice of our soils, what would you say to everyone on the planet?
Mary Cole: Please stop poisoning me. I know what to do. I’ve been here, I’ve been here for billions of years. I can support you if you just stop poisoning me.
Regen Ray: Beautiful. Get out of the way. Let me. Heal stop thinking, you’re smarter than me. I love that.
Mary Cole: Exactly, exactly.
Regen Ray: Well, Mary, it’s been absolutely delightful hanging out with you today. If anyone is interested, I know your website is Ag path dot com that are you. But how can people hang out with you a little bit more like where you hanging out these days?
Mary Cole: Well, it’s very close to home because I’m in lockdown as well. We are now on our website. We have workshops, weekend workshops. I’m always, always happy to talk on Zoom. I mean, yesterday I have a new client in Zambia. Wow. And he’s wanting to grow this macadamias organically. So we had a big Zoom meeting. I’m always happy to talk. Send an email. If you want to talk to me, we’ll make a time. Or if you’ve got questions, send an email. I get loads and loads of mushroom identifications and things just by emails. I’m always . I’m in the last hopefully quarter, not less of my life. I can’t give anyone my experience, but I can stop them on the journey. Yep, and I really would love to do that for anyone who wants to ask.
Regen Ray: Love that, Mary. I definitely know that we’re going to be hanging out a lot more. We can definitely help bridge that virtual classrooms, webinars. There are no boundaries in this world of Zoom, and everyone now knows how to jump on and hang out in classrooms and share. Like I said the other day, I hung out with someone sharing their microscope through a Zoom link. You know, it’s just magical what people are able to do, and it bridges the research from what’s happening on the other side of the planet to here. There are there are no boundaries. There are no borders. Exactly. Mother Nature doesn’t know that we built the fence. We built the absolute. Absolutely.
Mary Cole: She has no boundaries.
Regen Ray: Love that. On that note, thank you so much for hanging out with us today, so soil lovers they’re you have it. Mary Cole from Agpath . You know, definitely hang out, go have a look at the the content that’s there. As as Mary just said, you’re open to sharing that information, doing identification. You really have no excuse not to get curious about soil. So on that note, soil lovers keep digging deeper into our soils, get outside, look into microscopes, go borrow one, get on a YouTube video and just have a look at the life under under a microscope and you will be blown away. Nothing short of it.
Mary Cole: Okay, thank you so much. Thank you Ray for having me. Bye bye, everyone.
Regen Ray: Take care.