Matthew Evans, Tasmanian chef, farmer, food writer, and broadcaster is the author of over a dozen books on food. His latest is called SOIL, a hymn to the remarkable and underappreciated bit of Earth that gifts us life
Understanding Food From Soil To Stomach
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Regen Ray: Soil lovers. And welcome to another episode of Secrets of the Soil. I’m your host region, right? And I’m so excited about today’s guest, someone who I have been following personally along his journey when he transitioned from going to Sydney and starting a farm all the way in Tasmania, so much so that he brought his whole family there, started a restaurant. And if you haven’t worked it out by now, the special guest for today talking all about soil is Matthew Evans. Welcome to the show.
Matthew: Thanks so much for having me. It’s really nice to be here. I love talking about soils, so any time anyone wants to talk about soil, I’m up for it.
Regen Ray: Excellent. You even wrote a book about it, which is super exciting, titled Soil can’t get any more clear than that.
Matthew: Yeah, I know we were trying to come up with a name for it. I had a release from the ground up or, you know, what’s beneath our feet or whatever, and my publisher said, Why don’t we call it, this is the best soil? What do we call it? Soil? Like, Oh yeah, you know, why not? You know, it’s pretty obvious. Yeah, and there’s actually very few that actually just called soil really out there.
Regen Ray: Yeah, I think it’s the marketing brain of people that want to be very creative, and I fall into that trap as well, you know, always calling things, you know, the Regen road trip of regen Ray. All these are illustrations. And there’s some, you know, the rule of thought. Keep it simple label on the canned baked beans in the can book about soil. So well done on that. I’m really curious about, you know, following your journey as the gourmet farmer on SBS and going from the city food critic to on the land. Absolutely love that. That story. And if any of the soul lovers had been checked it out, you really missing out on that real, authentic view of going from a city lifestyle onto a farmer? And I can tell you from personal experience get your dream board ready because you’d just be cutting out lots of ideas that you throw up on the drawing board. But what then led you to start a restaurant and then write a book about soil like, share us with that journey?
Matthew: Yeah, so so I’m actually a chef by trade, so my first job out of school was cooking food and I’ve always been interested in, I guess I’ve been self-interested, really. I mean, a lot and I’ve been interested in eating well and so so I got interested in food and eating well, and that made me interested in cooking and then cooking got me interested in why things some things taste better than others, which got me interested in growing. And so I started growing food and we set up a little farm in southern Tassie, which is what we documented on Go My Farmer and the part me always felt like I should be cooking and and that I had left my my professional life as a chef a little bit early earlier than I had intended. And so I was drawn back to that idea. But it was was, I guess, that also that movement that paddock to plate. I like to call it soil to stomach now. But this idea of, you know, knowing where your food comes from and we thought, Well, what’s the logical extension of that? I was doing events all over Tassie, you know, Flinders Island and everything would try and get from Flinders Island or the North West Coast or the East Coast or whatever. And then I thought, What’s the logical extension? Well, I’m growing food. So the logical extension of the paddock to plate is my planet paddock to my plate and stood on site. So that’s what that’s what led to that gluttony originally. And then, you know, I, you know, being able to taste the difference in how food, you know, locally grown and fresh and seasonal can be and in wanting to share that joy with everybody else.
Regen Ray: Yeah, that’s just amazing. I love the fact and the fact that, you know, Paddock supplied. You did a great example of that, growing all the things on your farm and making mistakes and being so transparent about it. What worked? What didn’t, you know, really learning out loud, which I think is an amazing ability that we can do in 2021 and beyond, is because we’ve got the internet and we can share things and you’ve made a documentary about it, which is awesome. And just not to show all the glamour side of things where it’s always win, win, win. And some people can get a little bit disheartened by that. But you just kind of showed the highs and the lows, and that was really authentic. And when you launched your restaurant, you know, really closing that loop from the circular economy you have like grown right here in the paddock, take people on a tour and then go and eat it and really taste the difference in someone as a food critic. Like, Is your expectation? Like, do you feel that most people have lost that art of flavour and taste of we kind of just not know what real food tastes like anymore?
Matthew: Yeah, it’s a really good point. And I think that because anyone who’s been able to access really good food grown in healthy soil eaten in the season, you know, and generally freshly harvested, you know, knows what real flavour is. But I think a lot of people have, you know, they get excited by the idea of strawberries. But the actual flavour of strawberries for Gary is the Latin name of strawberries. They should be fragrant. If you can’t smell a strawberry before you buy it, then you shouldn’t be buying it. They’re supposed to be this luscious, fragrant, beautiful, majestic thing that people get excited by the idea of them. So they get used to the strawberries all year and the hard strawberries in the white, white scented strawberries. And I think after a while, if you’ve never had a true strawberry, you think that’s proper strawberry flavours. You know, the same could be true of bananas, of mangoes, of, you know, tomatoes. But this that could be true of meat. We’ve we’ve kind of bred everything to be bland. The point of not a. Ending anyone. Don’t, you know, don’t dry age at don’t don’t have a chicken with flavor because people might get offended instead of saying, well, you know, the more flavor it has, the less we can eat of at them. All enjoy it. It’s going to give us, the easier it is to cook all these things that go along with inherent flavor in food.
Regen Ray: Yeah. Growing up as an Italian with my grandparents backyard, it was always about flavor, fresh produce, and I definitely agree that as I’ve grown up, I’ve lost connectivity with that. And I feel like someone that didn’t have my upbringing and connectivity would even be more disconnected from from that. And I think you make a great point in regards to the fact that there are smells and flavors and textures and so much more than food than just fuel and the nutritional value of that. How how how has your journey of like the nutritional conversation going? Do you feel that more people are waking up to the fact that food needs to be more nutrient dense rather than just farmers focusing on yield like how many we can grow in a season?
Matthew: Yeah, look, it seems a very big divide. There’s a whole bunch of people in the community who are looking for nutrient dense food, and they and I guess what they’re what they want is the best for their bodies, for their best, for their their children, the best for their family. And but but growers are it is never a motivation to sell nutrient dense food, you know, really? So, so growers always paid and on you. You depend on white, you know, they’re paid on how it looks, you know, potentially you know how bright the color is or how long lasting cold storage, but they never paid on nutrient density. And so you got this great divide. And what was really interesting when I was doing the soil book is suddenly realizing that there is it’s very hard to measure nutrient density that can be, you know, 70000 different by chemicals in the food we eat. And it’s very hard to measure that. And typically when we measure nutrients, we go, Oh, is it got vitamins or minerals? You know, this is that’s really 1950s science. You know, this is so old, but all the micronutrients in the biochemicals, that’s what’s actually, you know, what’s really important in nutrient dense food? And the beautiful thing that I guess I discovered when I was researching soil was this connection between healthy soil, nutrient dense food and our ability to tell the nutrient density of food using the gift we all have on the front of our face and nose. We are able to tell if something is more nutrient dense generally by the fact that it has more going on in it more complexity, more nuance, more more stuff happening in it. And so if you have the carrot is inherently more delicious and more complex tasting, it’s probably more nutrient dense than one that’s, you know, woody or bland or watery. And, you know. Who would have thought that we’re gifted with this innate ability to tell food is good for us, so it doesn’t. I just want to say this right? It doesn’t work at doughnuts. Oh, that’s that’s modern science tricking it. You know, that’s that’s our brain getting trait. But with fresh fruit, vegetables and with, you know, the meat that isn’t been marinated in something, you know, if it’s inherently more delicious, it’s probably more nutrient dense, which is a beautiful synergy with yeah, for the grower to know that you’re providing more joy, more pleasure by simply having something that’s taste when something tastes better.
Regen Ray: I did see it quite recently to say it’s no accident that our noses just before our mouth. It’s a line of defense to be able to know if food is healthy or right. And you know, everything is designed to work in, in, in, in harmony together. And I think you know that that distinction of like, not only is its food’s good for us, like if it’s gone off or something and you know, maybe you pull away because it’s like, Oh, that’s not good. It’s gone past its use by date. But the other side of that is like the aroma that actually draws us to it, that starts out mouthwatering and gets us excited about that, that meal. And I think the fast food economy and like being able to microwave a meal in a very quick, quick and easy, we’ve lost that spiritually connected ness to growing, cooking, even cutting a carrot and then cooking and then eating it and knowing how you marinate it. It is a complete art to that, and I think we’ve all kind of lost that to some degree. Do you feel that this needs to be, you know, something that we work with the younger generations and get them excited about food and ag? Like, what do you feel is, you know, going to get people more excited about growing carrots and then cooking them and not going, this is too hard. AG $4 is better.
Matthew: Yeah. Well, I think the whole thing is giving people the experience, you know, the, you know, one of the beautiful thing that’s happened in in Tasmania, we had a thing called the 24 Carrot Garden and in the rest of Australia is the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Gardens, where where you have children who are growing food one week in the next week, taking into the kitchen and cooking it and being able to taste the flavour in the stuff that they have grown and having that connection. And I think for a lot of people, you know, growing food, you know, growing the carrots might be too hard or they don’t have the space, the time the the opportunity, you know, the geography, whatever it is. But once you have tried a good carrot, you know, most of us didn’t know that that anything else is a poor substitute. And so you might go I could buy the dollar, you know, a bag carats knowing that I put them in my child’s lunchbox and they’re not going to eat them, or I could spend a little bit more on the carrots. And they’re going to be totally delicious. My kids are going to eat them. I’m going to love them. They’re going to make my cooking better. Everyone’s going to wipe their plate clean at the end of dinner. And and but what you need to know what a carrot tastes like. You need to know what a tomato tastes like. And if if you’ve never had that experience, it can be tricky. I think you have to start with the younger.
Regen Ray: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess with your experience of opening up your farm, the restaurant, you do a lot of community events. You I’ve seen you fly around all the tasi and I’ve seen you at the Dark Mofo festival selling your produce. And really, you know, connecting consumers to that that journey. Are you finding more and more people are becoming interested and they’re bringing their kids along to these restaurant experiences and on the farm tours? Are you seeing that grow? I know it’s probably slowed that down a little bit, but how are you finding people’s interest to know where their food is actually grown and coming from?
Matthew: Yeah. Look, I think it’s a huge growth area. When I started, I left Sydney. I was a restaurant critic in Sydney in the early 2000s, so it’s about 15 years since, you know, I finished that role. And at that time there was this idea of, you know, provenance, where does something come from and is it in season? But it was kind of loose. And now you’ve got people all over Australia who are who are interested in where the stuff comes from that they cook and this is professionals. And and what’s really interesting is to watch that has has risen in tandem with the general public and in tandem with farmers markets. So farmers markets were sort of almost unheard of 25 years ago now. You know, they’re all over the place in some ways. You know, it’s a little bit of a tragedy in some respects that the people in cities have way more options for, you know, getting stuff fresh from a farm than than a lot of people in our regional areas where, you know, they’re supposedly growing the food because all those growers go to the city to be able to sell their produce. But but it means that people in an urban environment can get access to it and they can try stuff that has has had, you know, someone who has cared for the soil who’s picked it as fresh as possible and sold it to them, and they get to know and understand what that thing is about. But at the same time, right, we’ve got this polarization because there’s a whole bunch of people who you know, who don’t care who, who, who really aren’t interested in. Yeah, they think farming is, you know, a a grunt, a sort of profession that is beneath them, then that they should be separated from soil and they should live in, you know? Yeah, that that all of that kind of noble the honorable, noble things that people have done for, you know, ten thousand years is go food and cook it. And you know, these beautiful things. Some people are separated from that and they don’t care about animal welfare and they don’t care about where stuff is grown. And so you do see this. I guess this divide and what worries me is that we leave too many people behind. It’s great that there’s a whole bunch of people who are frequenting farmer’s markets or caring about what they they eaten and thinking about it, the land that grew the food for them. But I’m worried that we might leave too many people behind. And and oftentimes, you know, people who may not be able to really afford to eat, you have beautiful fresh produce. They’re actually as much as anybody in need of eating good, wholesome fresh produce. And we want to leave them behind because it matters to them. Yeah, probably more than it does to the rest of us.
Regen Ray: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s a really good point in regards to as you explaining that my mind was going to the food labelling systems. And do you have an opinion on how the food should be labeled? There’s a lot of confusion about what certified means in organics and where it’s grown. And now we have this new buzzword called Regenerative Lee Garden, and people are trying to really understand what we’re genetically grown means and, you know, the worry of greenwashing and falsifying things. How do you see the food labelling system needing to tweak in order to help educate people and bridge that gap?
Matthew: Yeah, of course. That’s that’s a million dollar question, right? Food labeling. I have all sorts of issues with food labeling because I think, you know, we have as a nation, we have made consistently worse choices the more food labeling we have. So you know, the more they make big companies put their health stores on things or their ingredient panels and all that kind of stuff. It hasn’t changed our buying behavior in terms of when things are labeled free-range or organic. It does worry me when those labels are, you know, can be, I guess, taken by people who whose whose intentions aren’t as honorable in a may be like you say, greenwashing or is skirting around the edges of the regulations, but we don’t really have another system. From my perspective, it really helps if you know where your food is grown, you know. And so so I’ve always tried to emphasize that people should be as close to the source as possible, and it doesn’t necessarily mean geographically, but it means at least emotionally. So if you didn’t grow it yourself, then maybe no, the grower. And if you can’t know the grower, then then find someone who. Ozmo, the growers, if you will, greengrocer, you know, I was just at my little local IGA, they know where the Cherries come from and they go, Oh, they just came from Mary’s house up the road, you know, they know where the green gauge plums come from. This is just a little supermarket. You know, it’s got all sorts of packet stuff, but they know the grower and and so I can walk. I can drive past Mary’s house and see how she’s looking after after the place. You know how the land looks? Is it a dust bowl? You know, what are they doing with their land? And the more you can know and trust, the better. But the further you get than the Geneva line label. So, you know, organic, you know, it has its problems with certification. But in terms of, you know, people, I guess, skirting the rules or or taking advantage of the rules. But but it is. It’s not a bad third party certification. And I think, you know, region is probably going to be the next one. Possibly, you know, there’ll be some sort of biodiversity labeling, which will be about funds because a lot of people want to eat good food, but they want to know that not by going up the land where they do it and farmers want to look after the land that provides the food. And what’s a good measure of that is that soil carbon is it, you know, something called region is that biodiversity and and is it organic? And so there are different ways to measure it. All of them have their filings, but all of them are useful. And I think and it’s better than nothing, you know, I guess.
Regen Ray: Yeah, and I think the responsibility to self educate and just really know where your food’s coming from, how it’s grown, what does that even mean? You know, a big push to go to like commercial farming in like hydroponic set ups with no real sun and not connected to the soil. While it might seem innovative and kind of a solution, is it really solving the long term problems? And so just really being educated and knowing which system you as a consumer, as a buyer is a eater foodie whatever you want to call yourself, wants to to to partake in support. And I think that’s the one thing that we have every day is voting with our wallets and making those conscious. I’m going to post the other day where the lady referred to herself as being a joyful contributor or joyful producer. You know, she wants to wake up and be a joyful producer and stop being a consumer. And I think that’s where we’re going to get a lot of aha moments where people are going to say that they got the power to to make that change. And I agree that the labeling is quite consumer confusing. And it also outsources the problem and cycle. Someone else has sorted this for me. I don’t need to learn the real nutritional value. The Tick tells me that, but no one knows how that tick is scientifically put there and whether maybe some industries are skewing data sets to make it more widespread available for farmers, you know?
Matthew: Yeah, look, and you’ve got to realize that Assad is probably the rattle in the background. This white chimney rustling in the air force winds. We get whistling across Tasmania from time to time. But I think a lot of people, their lives are busy, you know, when they they they’ve got two kids hanging off. When they’re looking around the shops on a Tuesday, they want to get home. They want dinner on the table in 15 minutes before someone has a low blood sugar moment. You know, we all you know, there’s only so much you can do. And so you kind of do need someone else to do the research sometimes. And it is, you know, I’m no great fan of the supermarkets, but when a supermarket comes up with a strategy for, you know that their meat is, you know, they poke it head doesn’t come from Sasol’s or that, you know, they don’t use hormones in the beef or whatever, then the consumer can at least rely on that. You know, someone has has looked after sort of a baseline level, and I think everybody should never feel guilty about what they don’t know. But if you can understand where your foods come from, if you can understand a little bit about the process and you can and then you have the capacity to make a decision at the checkout, then brilliant exercise that you know, that’s that’s your moment of power. That’s the moment when you change the world. But there’s lots of times where we don’t have that capacity and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for not having it, not having the knowledge or the finances or the geography or whatever. Sometimes you just got to get dinner on the table. But there are lots of opportunities to in all of us can can make little decisions that will add up to a big decision on the land, the crowds, the food for us.
Regen Ray: Yeah. And I want to thank you for saying that as well, because I think that’s what happens sometimes is we feel like we make one or decision and it’s like a slap on the wrist. It’s like bad, you how dare you ruin our planet and we’re too hard on ourselves, you know, and we need that permission to say, Tonight I’m busy, I’ve got to keep taking it off me. I need to get a fast meal on the table. It’s OK, you know, but you know your North Star, you know, you’ve got to use, you know, where you’re heading and where you want to bring the family unit. And I think I think that’s a really important thing is because we live in a society where everything’s cancel culture. It’s like you didn’t bring you keep cup, you know, you’re a bad citizen of the planet, you know?
Matthew: Yeah, my my son has a challenge fit for us today. His mother’s away. And so we’re he’s he’s got a challenge and is the challenge today is you have to eat food. That’s all one color right now for oh god, that sounds hard. So he chose red and I can’t choose because he’s got red. So I’ve chosen green in nature there to at least common. And so we were at the supermarket and he goes, Oh, maybe I could buy those bright red sausages? And and I said, Ah, but they’re not. They won’t. Free range pork and we you know, we have pigs on the farm, so we’re very conscious of, I guess, the ethical issues around the rearing of pigs for the meat. And he just looks me as a dad. It’s hard enough today, you know, and it was like this at least nice little thing of, yeah, well, the fun, little challenge he’s come up with today is that he can eat everything red. So he’s he’s got apples and some sort of fast food with, you know, red food coloring on it. And you know, he’ll be down in the in the raspberry patch in a minute and we’ll have a tomato based pizza for him and I’m going to eat green, but he buys something that’s a bit different. Like you kids, like all the bad decisions are already made in the world. So. So I think, you know, every time we make a good decision, we’re we are changing the conversation and making the world better. Don’t worry about the bad decisions they’ve already been made.
Regen Ray: Yeah, I love that soil lovers. What a fun activity to do with the kids or anyone. I think even as an adult, I want to. I want to join in on that challenge. You might start, you know, might have started a new trend eating certain colors. And I think that just makes people really consciously aware it’s about that decision making process of. I can only eat red today and what is red and you know, and exploring new foods, because then you start getting adventurous. And I really want something that’s red that isn’t normal. And you go hunting like water, red fruits and you discover something new that you may not have known was red or green and red color.
Matthew: Know beetroot beetroot pickle juice is is going to make an appearance today in his diet, which is, you know, a very rare thing.
Regen Ray: Yeah, and that’s a great for the biodiversity and you’ve mentioned about soils to stomach and when you’ve discovered about the soil in this whole experience of eating. How important is nurturing the gut biome and the bacteria that’s in our bodies? And have you had any like, well, moments with that kind of link between soil health and and gut health?
Matthew: Yeah, there’s been quite a few moments and just but just briefly on the soil to stomach. So a friend of mine, she was on ABC radio and she’s talking about, Oh, you know, Matthew owns it and do soil to stomach. And someone rang up the ABC and said, Oh, how do you put soil and stomach in one sentence? Where do they think food comes from? Like where? Where on earth do they think everything they eat has come from? If it hasn’t come from soil like this, this this moment of like, Holy Moly, we are so separated from soil that we can’t even use the two words in the one sentence anyway. So. So I guess my my my interest. I’ve been doing a little bit of work with a charity called Mothers Babies, and they’re interested in how to give newborn babies that the best chance that a robust immune system and there’s lots of things to do with that it can be the dead start preconception, then definitely the mums diet and a natural birth and breastfeeding and all these things. But one of the things we know is that access to soil in the first three months of life can can completely alter the microbiome of that child and give them essentially inoculate the immune system of that child. So this beautiful thing, we are designed to be around healthy soil. We’re designed to put it in our mouths were designed to get it on us. And you know, it’s not it’s not like we’re eating the bad bacteria. You know, there’s this could be whatever ten thousand species of bacteria in a handful of soil, healthy soil, and most of those are benign or beneficial, and they actually inoculate our immune system, our gut microbiome. And so, you know, fifty seven per cent of the average human being of the cell was an average human being and asked that their their microbes so their bacteria and there’s some viruses and fungi and a few other bits and pieces, archaea and those things make us they’re really important for our digestion. But but they’re really important for our mental health as they this thing called the gut brain axis axis. So what happens in our gut has as a direct impact on our brain. And so we now know through not only the the the microbes that live in soil that inoculates our immune system, but the things that we eat. So the more nutrient dense things that we eat and the more variety of things we eat, the more that feeds this incredibly diverse ecosystem in our gut and makes it more diverse or more beneficial. And and that has has a direct implication on on on brain health. And this, you know, this sounds Barnstable. This sounds like you made it up. Evans has been, you know, he’s been on the magic mushrooms and made something up, right? It’s this is the West saw and sees, you know, this is a thing called Katherine, right? It’s made by soil, fungi or bacteria. It’s only made in soil. And it’s it’s one of the the countless chemicals that can, you know, 100000 or whatever chemicals that can that are exchanged between plants and soil. This is made in soil pasta plants we eat. The plant could be something like rodents, whatever that tiny megafauna exists in the outside and it goes into our gut, it passes from our you have a lot of things that change through digestion, but Ferguson isn’t. It goes into our bloodstream unchanged and it can pass this thing called the blood brain barrier, where it goes straight into our brain. So this chemical that’s only made in soil gets out of the soil, into the plant, into our gut, into our bloodstream, into our brain where it exerts A. Dementia effects. This is one of the chemicals we don’t even know. Most, but most of the chemicals are little and what they do. So we know this about one chemical, but we also know that if you fail the field where the doubts are growing, that you cut the fungal threads, the high fade, the fine threads of fungi that exist in the soil and you you get less sugar thinning in the oats where the soil was plowed. And you know, all of this stuff, you know, you kind of go, Oh God, that sounds weird, really weird and amazing. But that’s how our bodies were designed. We were designed around, you know, we were we evolved around healthy soil. We evolved around trillions of microbes. We were evolved to have soil in and on us to be close to the Earth. We evolved to a diverse array of of ingredients from over the seasons and over the years, and they can have an effect on our, you know, us and the things that live in in in on us and on our mental and physical health. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is the way it was designed. If I did design it, I’d come up with that system. You know, that just makes sense to come up with that system and on your brain that you knows no accident that was on the front of your face. You know that you can tell the difference between things that are more nutrient dense and not because that’s feeding your gut microbiome.
Regen Ray: So amazing. I just, you know, the way that you articulated that and connecting those dots for many of the soul others that are out there, this is also the reason why I get so excited about digging deeper into the wonderful world of soil. Because, you know, we know more about the stars out in the in the in the in the in the skies than we do with things that are below our feet. And I’m starting to see more and more research around the fungi, the rise of rise, all their talking about trees, being able to communicate to each other through the mycorrhizal fungi and just even the quality of the food in this one particular. You know, I can’t repeat what it is the name of it.
Matthew: A sign. And yet I’ll
Regen Ray: leave the pronounciation to you. But this is what I always say to people like don’t let the pronounciation of this world scare. You will stop you. You know, you just understand how it works. We don’t know how our cars work. We just jump into anarchy and drive. We don’t know that there’s pistons and firing and all these other weed engineering, but we use the device and I think it’s the same with soil. These really understand how it works and the power of it, and then make know decisions around understanding how the soil is. And I’m enjoying geeking out about so but we’re going to take a quick break. And then when we get back, we’re going to hear a little snippet from Matthew Evan’s book called Soil, and we’re going to dig deeper into some of the the chapters. So stick with us. Welcome back, soil lovers. You’re hanging out with Matthew Evans and region, right? We’re geeking out about soil as always. On the Secrets of Soil podcast. We’re talking about Matt Evans book. I’m going to play a little snippet, a little sample of this chapter that I kind of listen to and just went, Wow, I’m really excited, so I’m going to play that for you now.
Matthew: It’s like, why more carbon than in the air above my head? The weight of all the bacteria on Earth, most of which live in soil, is thirty five times greater than all the animals on the Earth and in the seas. There’s a lot more biodiversity in the Earth than above it. This forest, this landscape is made by this soil. It’s a far cry from the cracked and often bare earth. I walked in my youth around the nation’s capital, Canberra. The Tarkine gets more rain up to three metres a year, and everything above the ground is a reminder of the magic that happens under our feet. This forest has more things I can see, but way more things I can’t see than the land where I first laid my feet. Now, when I walk in the Tarkine, the visible part reminds me of the living nature of the soil underneath to get to this point, to see soil as more than just dirt. Took me a while. It took some relearning of simple science and a reframing of biology, some deep research and a leap of faith. And it just kept getting more fascinating. The more I dug into it, I’d like everybody to get as excited about soil as I am. I want everyone to shed the world above ground for a while, to see the world from the ground up and to feel the astonishment of witnessing where the overwhelming majority of life on Earth starts and ends, appreciating something so commonplace and yet miraculous that has been right under our noses. The whole time is a great revelation for the next few pages.
Regen Ray: So as you can hear, that is why Matt Evans gets super excited about soil, and it’s why I get super excited about So Matt, what do you remember that aha moment when you were farming and you changing the city to farm life and you kind of just went this aha moment about soil? When did soil become so important in your world?
Matthew: I don’t know if there was an aha moment, but it was a series of moments. So I guess the first thing that happened was I started growing food. And when you go grow food, you start to question why certain things that are happening. So in one part of our vegetable garden we had, we had a lot of broad beans. Years ago kind of broad beans in a, you know, in a brand new garden bed 15 metres long and the broad beans did this. It’s like a sine wave. So that somewhat really tall then. A really short and then really tall again and really short, but it’s sort of followed a wave pattern up the bed. And I was thinking, Well, hang on this this soil, you know, the basis of this soil that, you know, soil is 95 percent crushed up rock. So it’s just and silt and clay, you know that the minerals didn’t mineral structure or so. And so all of that is pretty much the same in this this garden bed. It’s getting the same sunlight, the same rainfall, but that my boy bands are growing really healthy in one bit and then gradually getting shorter and growing less well and then growing well again. Why is that happening? Question why it must be something else going on. Then we had a lady came and looked at our soil under a microscope and didn’t look very alive, introduced me to the idea of living soil. I guess that it can be 10 billion living things in a teaspoon of healthy soil. So you no idea when your mind blows and you go, Oh oh my God, what more things in a teaspoon of healthy soil in humans on Earth. What? Whoa, whoa. You know what? You know, I thought it was just something to rinse off the spuds. So and then the third thing was pulling a carrot out of the ground. Having had our, you know, the gun beds established for five years or six years and every year, planting the same variety of carrots in the same soils are the same crushed up rock getting the same sunlight, whatever, and a little bit of seasonal difference. But but consistently every year, the carrots get better taste. What’s that about? Like, what is that about? I bought the seeds of the same company, you know, the same variety of seeds. You know, I’ve still got the same water source. I haven’t really changed anything with, you know what? What have we really done? And then the aha moment came after all those three things, and I was talking. I write a book called On Eating Meat, which was trying to, you know, delve into the ethics of eating meat. And you know, and you know, I don’t care if people eat it or not, but I want them to have at least be, you know, have good reasons to eat it or not eat it because it has an impact on farmland. And then I realized I was talking about meat. And when I was having these conversations with people about who actually have very fixed viewpoints, very hard to convince anyone to have an open mind about eating meat because they’ve already made up their mind, it’s almost like a religion. There are pro-wall against and there’s not much middle ground. I was having these conversations, and I realize what I’m talking about is soil like the soil does not care if you’re vegan, it does not care if you’re a vegetarian. What soil wants is not what we want. So, so if you want to look at farming, you need to look at what soil needs and and then go, Okay, so what is possible for us to grow? What is important for humans to eat? And and how will that how can we nourish soil so that soil can nourish us into the future? Because, right? You know, I’m sure you guys the soil. I know this and they talk about it probably all the time. But Australia has lost half its topsoil since white people arrived since European settlement. Okay, colonization, we’ve lost half the topsoil and the only reason you can wear clothes leaving doors, you know, essential breathe essentially feed yourself. The only reason humans exist is because of topsoil. And if we’ve lost half in 200 years, we’re about to lose the next half if 30 or 40 years. We are doing something wrong, so we have to work out how to feed ourselves. Give us the nutrients and the diversity that humans need. But we need to nourish soil. And I guess the AHA moment was going. I need to write a book that goes to the origins of everything and the origins of human life is soil
Regen Ray: love that so powerful. And I think, you know, the more people that have that, that aha moment with us right now and even in the future is to understand that soil makes up the foundation of everything above the ground, you know, and so much so that we were sitting here scratching our heads saying, Who do we want to serve as farming secrets in the Soil Learning Center? Who do we want to serve them in? Hang on. We don’t like what you just said. The soil doesn’t care about vegan non-vegan what you do above the ground. But if you nurture the soil below the ground, it’s a living organism. And that’s why we wake up every day is to make soil better today than what it was yesterday through education and podcasts and video, and we made our avatar soil. It’s a living thing. It’s a living organism, you know, and that’s how powerful we have those same distinctions of, you know, looking at the patterns and go, it is the true foundation of why everything exists and it doesn’t care what you’re doing. You either making it better or making it worse. And we want to live in a world where it’s getting better every day. And thank you for your book and I want to dig into some of the chapters of your book. One of the ones that caught my attention is when you referred to the soil as Earth’s miracle skin. Can you elaborate on that a little bit more? You know, I think there’s such powerful words.
Matthew: Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s interesting you picked up on that, Ray? Because, you know, I see a lot of effort into the chapter titles and no one ever sort of refers to them much. But I do. I think of it as this miracle skin because I was sort of shocked to learn that if you know, if I was to travel through to the center of the Earth, that that, you know, and it took a year to get to this universe and obviously can’t do that. So Malton, but you would spend only about three days in the solid rock to get to the center of the Earth. That. A whole year, but the topsoil you spend, I think point seven of a second in the topsoil and the top spot is the magic. It’s the only reason you can grow stuff is topsoil, so it’s 10 centimeters thick in some parts of the world, it’s one centimeter seeking parts of Australia. You know, it could be much deeper in other parts of the world, but it generally is, you know, 10 15 centimeters of of this fine layer on the outside of the Earth that does all the world’s growing 98 to 99 per cent of all the calories on Earth come from the fact that we have topsoil. And if you think of, you know, we can also get things from the ocean, but its protein, we get from the ocean. But most of the fisheries on Earth rely on the fact that we have topsoil. Most of them exist near me. They rely on nutrient runoff from land. So we use topsoil is is just so, so important. You know, it does so much for us. It provides antibiotics. It has, you know, bacteria in it that have an antidepressant effect on the brain. You know, it’s, you know, it doesn’t just feed us, you know, it just pretty much is everything in it. You know, I and I suddenly realized it was just it was this tiny, little fragile bit on the outside of the Earth. And I thought, Well, we need to treat it like it’s a miracle because without it, we wouldn’t be around. Now we also have to realize that it is only a fine layer, a thin bit of skin.
Regen Ray: I love that, and especially because people can understand that analogy of our skin being like one of the body’s biggest organs, and it’s absorbing and lady now and we’re sweating. I think soil Functions very much the same. You know, it is absorbing carbon through the use of plants and, you know, fabrics in auto synthesis of the plants and energy and all these amazing magical stuff. And I like when words like magical and miracle and that used in this space because sometimes it doesn’t need to make sense. It just needs to feel right, you know, and we’ve got to trust our instincts, and I really just love the idea idea of that. And then the other thing that you went into the book and talked about, which I really appreciated is understanding, you know, the title here for Chapter four is plants don’t eat dirt. And so I love the fact that you’re making that distinction, that it’s not dirt and it’s soil, but then the use of the underground economy. So can you talk a little bit about what your interpretation of this underground economy is and why you called it that?
Matthew: Yeah. Look, I guess one of the things that happened and you know, you asked about an aha moment which I didn’t really have one, but there were lots of little bits. And I think one of the bigger has for me was photosynthesis, you know? And can I just tell you, right? You know, we’re talking about things that are unpronounceable, regenerative agriculture and photosynthesis, which if you ever do an audio book, they’re two of the hardest things to say. And they’re not that complicated, really. But I know
Regen Ray: how to spell to always spell them wrong.
Matthew: Yes, exactly. But photosynthesis light like the way I was taught photosynthesis is that a plant can treat the sun’s energy. And and what it does is it brings in carbon dioxide, which is in the atmosphere and it brings out oxygen. And that’s a really beautiful thing because all the animals on Earth and humans included breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. And so to keep the atmosphere in balance, you have this lovely thing going on. And that was it for photosynthesis. That was that was the end of the conversation. But actually, what a plant does with photosynthesis is an utter miracle. And I’m sure this for the soil lovers. You know, this may be obvious, but for me, it wasn’t, you know, a plant is like the original solar panel. The leaves a light to capture photons of the sun’s energy. And what it does with that energy is the most utterly amazing thing that blew my mind. And and you know, I learnt about, you know, oxygen and carbon dioxide, but I didn’t learn this. So a plant has the photon of Sun’s energy hit its leaf. It uses that energy to bring in carbon dioxide and water and take water that it’s got through its leaves or through its roots. And then it splits those apart and recombine it as carbohydrate, essentially sugar. So a plant makes sugar out of thin air, they make food in digestible form. So, so once you get sugar, you get energy in digestible form. So you and I can lie in the sun for as long as we like, right? And all we do is get thirsty and have to stagger off somewhere to cool down and we’ll get some fruit. All right. It’s a plant lies in the sun and it makes sugar. Now, if we want energy, we need to eat that sugar. OK, so that’s the starting point of all digestible energy on land. It’s happening similarly in the ocean, so it’s not dissimilar, but that we’re talking about the soil and land. So that’s how sugar is made on land in digestible form. Now, 10 billion living things in a teaspoon of healthy soil right there, they’re sitting under the roots of the plant and they just like you and me, right? They can’t produce their own food out of thin air they need energy in digestible form. They need sugars, carbohydrates and. And so what happens is a plant creates these sugars and it uses the sugars to build its structure to fight disease, to ward off pests. But then. The plant does this other amazing thing it takes at least 20 per cent. Some plants up to 60 per cent of the sugars that it creates out of thin air and it dribbles them out through, it’s the end of its roots. They call expedites. They dribble essentially feeds these these sugars out through the end of their roots. Why would a plant do that? What? What is the benefit to the plant where, you know, to create sugar from thin air and then just just feed this underground ecosystem, the 10 billion living things in a teaspoon of soil? So when we talk living things, we’re talking protozoa and nematodes and bacteria in our care and algae and in all sorts of stuff that live in soil loss along with we saw mites, bigger things. I saw lots of worms. So those things need energy and guess before they get it from the plant, the fungi, which I forgot to include, they get the energy in digestible form from the plant. So what does a plant do that? Because there’s a trade, there’s an underground economy that actually the plant needs things from the soil, so plants roots go out into the ground and but they don’t sit there, you know, eating dirt plant roots. I think some of our plants, I do know what I thought, really. But generally the most of the bulk of the structure comes from the gases in the air. So the carbon, the oxygen, the nitrogen, the hydrogen. And but the but it needs things that are locked up in rock minerals. So in sand, silt and clay, so sensitive and clay are just different ways of measuring that degrade. I guess how fine crushed up Rockies rock minerals have things in just simple stuff. Imagine copper, iron, you know, things like that that you haven’t heard of. They they exist in the crushed up rock. So how does the plant access those through the underground economy? So a plant and this again is going to seem fanciful. It’s going to seem like I made it up. Know your listeners, all of us go out and check this stuff out online. You’ll be able to find lots of references where a plant can actually talk to the underground ecosystem. It can send messages through its roots and say, You know what? I need some phosphorus and the fungi. Fungi, usually at the end of the root tips, has an association with other things it can go find some phosphorus. The play might say I need some nitrogen. The fungi can. Actually, the fungi are fungi. Amazing. They can actually create little nicks or news together. They can actually create like essentially a noose LSU. They can they can strangle these microscopic worms called nematodes, and they just thicken the fate of the fungal hi fi strangler. Nematodes suck the nitrogen out of it and feed that nitrogen back to the plant because the plant needs that, you know. And so that’s happening. This is constantly happening. This this this amazing little conversation that’s going backwards and forwards and you’ve got this is this really complex superorganism that’s working often in competition, but often, yeah, as well in tandem, you know, in the in a symbiotic relationship to nourish the plant. So the plant seeds sugars to the underground ecosystem, the underground ecosystems finds lots and lots of things for the plant to eat. And just one thing on that right? One thing that blew my again blew the top out of my head, and I had a few moments like that. Writing this book was so a plant’s roots, you know, all the root hairs are really fine. And so if you had an acre of healthy weight, you know the plant roots, if you if you took them all and made a little conga line of plant roots, it could go all the way around the world. I just, you know, that’s a lot of plant roots is going through a lot of soil. But if you add in the fungi and all the other the interactions, fungi, you know, the high fat, the little threads of fungi, they one 160th the width of a root hair and they go through the soil in a three dimensional capacity, but they can go two thousand times as far two thousand times further. So it’s not like, you know, the root that the fungi is going, you know, 100 kilometers away through the soil. It’s cross crisscrossing the soil in three dimensions, and it’s finding all those beautiful little rock minerals things that the plant needs in microscopic but not unimportant amounts, and feeding those back to the plant and in exchange, it’s getting sugars. They also get amino acids. You had the building blocks of protein and other things that can be 100000 different chemicals that are passed to and fro. But but essentially, you think of it as sugars, you know, created by plants fed to the underground ecosystem. That’s the economy. That’s the economy we want to nourish where we nourish soil, we want to feed, we want that economy to keep, you know, that exchange to be really robust.
Regen Ray: Amazing. You know, you almost wonder whether they’ve got it more sorted out under the ground than what we have above the ground. You know that symbiosis of trading an economy and saying, I need something over here and I always pictured in my mind is like a bit of an auction house where it’s like this planet is auctioning off. I’m sorry, I’m going to give you this amount of carbohydrates and that phosphates, you know? Yes, that would be a very cool little animation. And if someone’s clever enough in the community wants to make that, you know, because that’s how I understand it, as well as it’s like a barter economy, you know, different plants offering up different values of stuff in exchange for, say, I really need this mineral right now, I’m going to give this amount of carbohydrates. And, you know, the fact that roots people think just take from the soil. But it’s this give and take energy that’s going back and forth, I just again, I had one of those mind blowing experiences as well as yourself when I heard that I was like, You know, we grow up in school thinking the roots just take basically water. You know, that’s as far as my knowledge was, as they just suck up water, you know? And then, you know, the way that you articulated that trade economy, I start to sit here and wondering, Well, what’s the point of putting all these inputs into our farm system? You know, if the system can heal itself and trade it, then maybe our human intervention is actually what’s getting in the way. And as you explain that as well, it led me to think about weeds, you know, quote unquote air quotes because I don’t really call them weeds anymore. I see them as repair plants or signal plants. You know, they’re trying to tell us something. And so when you have that mental shift, you start seeing a particular plant in the paddock, not as a pest, but as a signal to say what’s missing. And one of your chapters goes into weeds as well. Have you reframed what the word weeds means to yourself and on your farm? Or some of them still pesky enough that you want to just call them weeds?
Matthew: Well, I think I think the blackberries classify as a weed for us here that something I struggle to keep on top of. But look, yeah, I do, because I had someone we had a little workshop on farm not too long ago and somebody said, So what? You know, how do you manage weeds? And I said, Well, what weeds you talking about? They said, Well, Doc, while it’s not a weed like, it’s got a really deep Taproot, and it’s generally a sign that the soil is compacted or waterlogged, you know, it’s bringing minerals up from really deep down. If you know my cows love grazing at certain times of year where they really can’t get enough, you know, they love aiding the doc, so they want to be getting something from it that they can’t get from other plants, thistles, you know, do I think of them as weed? No, I see. I see. I’ve got damaged dirt and overgrazed if I’ve got these walls. So I definitely reframed that. And and this question, well, what do you do about your weeds? I was looking at weeds. what you talking about . Yeah, but they they’re going on dandelions. So it’s not. It’s just a thing, you know, you know, plantations, they just that they are telling a story about my soil and they’re actually giving soil what soil needs there. Although they have grown and not something else is because the soil needs that and they need, you know, they are going to you. You know, I’ve seen this and I’m sure a lot of your listeners have where you change your management and you will see the soil will go through a progression through the cycle weeds where they do those things do themselves out of a job because they’ve stored enough. Not you don’t know, they’ve you know, they’ve put down enough data. It’s they’ve changed the structure of the soil and then something else comes in afterwards, which you might not consider a weed, but is is is better. And it is this lovely, self-healing soil, soil, soil can be self-healing if we allow it to.
Regen Ray: Yeah, I love that. It’s almost like we’ve got this free labor seed in our own paddocks. This micro, you know, biology in the soil, these weeds, they’re just doing a job that you don’t have to pay them for. You just let them show up and clock on and clock off when they’re done, you know?
Matthew: Yeah, a lot of people, you know, have this idea that the plants essentially farm microbes, you know, they they the farmers and and yeah, you know, I think a lot of people now have a lot of growers now see themselves as livestock farmers, regardless of whether they got animals, because the animals, you know, they’re living things you’re looking after within the soil. And what you do is put conditions it like a farmer. You don’t, you know, you don’t give birth to the piglets, you don’t you know, you want to, you know, germinate the seed yourself like it does it. Nature does it, but you put conditions in place where nature can do its job. So going back to one of your earlier comments about how, you know, don’t be frightened of complex words, it’s it’s inordinately complex. What is so, so, so complex, the things that are happening in soil, 98 percent of what lives. And so we don’t even know what it is, right? We just we only know a handful really compared to what lives in there. But it doesn’t have to be complicated because we know how natural systems work. And if we if we, you know, we don’t have to farm the microbes around the plant roots, we let the plants do that. But you have to let the plant do that. And if you if you’re adding synthetic nitrogen, you know, the plant can’t farm the microbes like they would like. The plant needs to sow. So you’re interrupting a normal biological system, a self-healing system by your actions. And so as farmers, we need to, I guess, work out how best to manage the system to get it. Soil Health, you know, and we can, with the beautiful thing raised that we can actually build soil better than, you know, quicker than nature can if we insert ourselves at the right in the right way, at the right time, using the right soil feeding mechanisms which essentially you want to feed soil, you need plants with green living plants and and so we can we can become involved in that process and actually grow soil far quicker than you can, which is such a common, you know, wow. And we can grow soil.
Regen Ray: Who wouldn’t want to do that? I get it and I drive through the country. Sometimes I see tilled soil, you know, acres and acres of brown dust baking in the sun. And like what you just said, then we need that green foliage capturing the sunlight and. Doing its thing, you know, and I I hope that conversations like this is just getting farmers to be a little bit more inspired, to ask different questions and explore different ways of farming. And you know, you know, and I really do believe that most people have done the best they possibly can. They’ve gone to the egg store, they’ve gone to information and they’ve learned the best that they can. But now we’re going through this paradigm shift where we questioned that and go, Do we really need to put all this stuff on? And we’re at a time in the world where Yuri is running out and fertilizer are shortage and like people going to be almost forced into thinking a little bit differently, which maybe is a blessing in disguise. But I do think as humans, we could have prevented a lot of that just taking a bit more of a preventive approach, you know?
Matthew: Yeah. And I just think that’s the thing I find, you know, often sometimes polarized conversations or, you know, you can demonize farmers. And you know, I’ve given our talks on soil and someone said to me, Oh, you’re keeping, you know, bashing up farmers or, you know, pushing up. Farmers like farmers have made a lot of mistakes, but they’ve been doing it because they didn’t know better or because they wanted to feed the world or they running a business. And they have to stay afloat this year. So they might have to take a backward step with soil this year to go forwards for the next five years. There’s lots of things going on. I don’t think farmers, you know, are out there to virtually. Nobody’s going out there to ruin the world. You know, maybe a handful of people have sort of mined the soil and walked on. But most farmers, yeah, they see it as a multi-generational thing. They say this is really important. They they they have done what they believe to be right. And yes, we’ve made some mistakes. So now we know the plow generally pretty bad. You know, now we know if you don’t have green living plants. So if you spray an entire paddock with a herbicide, you have cut off the food source at, at, at, at the first step. You know, the only thing that feeds the underground ecosystem is a green living plant. So you kill a green living plant, you have you are starving your underground ecosystem. Now it might work in your farming system might be something you have to do. We run a market garden, got the compromises we have to make to grow vegetables. You know, the things we have to do to store to grow vegetables. But but in the long term, we got what can we do that and nourish soil? And that involves more input to the market garden. And what does soil need? So, you know, if if I have impoverished it a little bit now, can I feed it more later? Or if I’ve had if I grew potatoes, so heights to be done? So since you dig that, you know you ruin the home with that underground ecosystem and so you you dig it. You grow potatoes. Do you try and get them out without digging? I mean, you have to dig it. So, so that’s fine. That’s what you wanted was potatoes in that soil. But you know, for the next few years, maybe try not to do it, you know? And I think that’s the that’s the the realization, you know, and and one of the things that I find, I guess frustrating is it’s really hard for a farmer to rotate crops is to have a divert because because every plant take something from soil, every plant gives something to soil. So if a farmer wants to grow a diversity of different plants over a period of time, you know, so you know you’re not going to have 16 different plants in your, you know, grains all growing at once, you will grow them in succession. But if everybody wants wheat every single meal of every single day, then a farmer just has to grow wheat. And so that’s when you get stuck in that. Oh, well, hang on. I just, you know, now I’m only growing wheat that’s taking something from soil. I need to keep feeding it with nitrogen. Know I’m impoverishing soil. But if people are eating millet and barley and you know, to to play and, you know, sorghum or whatever, and then the farmer can feed this oil and grow a variety of grains and still be able to sell it for human consumption. At the moment, most of those things, if you do want to rotate your crops, end up getting fed to livestock. And so the farmers in this bind of trying to nourish soil. But having commodities they can’t sell. And so some of the best farmers are growing stuff with the lost. Some years to make a profit in the other years when really be great if you could sell your stuff every time to the humans, to it. Mm-Hmm.
Regen Ray: I love that. I think beautiful world to live in an aspire to another. And I think with education and people realizing that maybe we can’t have food around all year, every year, you know, there are seasons and we need to let the land heal. And we can’t just put pressure on the system to say we need X amount of, you know, meat available all year round x amount of strawberries on shelves all the time, you know, understanding that things go through seasons. And you know, one of the big aha moments I’ve had is how much land needs to rest in order not to be overgrazing and then humans as well. You know, we need to rejuvenate and we need to rest and slow down and and so forth. And so the soils and grasses and so forth. And we just don’t allow that when we keep putting pressure on, we need more out of the, you know, logistics systems.
Matthew: Yeah. And that that idea of rotation and rest has been around for centuries. Lots of different cultures came up with that, and so is the single best way to to restore grain growing land use the land that grows your weight and all those, you know, annual crops is to let it go to grasp that animals graze it for a year or two. Yeah, we know that from every continent on Earth, not any Typekit, but you know, all the all the continents on Earth have topsoil. We know that’s the best way to nourish that land. But there is. The commercial imperative to not do that, to try to plant that out every year, year after year after year, and you can do that for a while because because there’s things you saw things like gallium , which is a long-lasting glycoprotein that can live in soil for up to 50 years. But eventually that that’s, you know, gallium source structure is the magic. It’s like sort of superglue, but you cut it open or you don’t feed it enough. Eventually, you know, 50 years later, you kind of go, Oh, hang on, what happened? We we used to be to grow something here. And that’s why, you know, we’ve lost, you know, something like, you know, 40 percent of the agricultural land around the world in the last 50 years that he is, you know, we’ve done so many bad things to soil. But we now know how not to do those bad things. But it does take up, you know, a reframing. It takes, you know, it takes every farmer to to to put soil first, not go, well, you know, I want to get this, this this out of it and then go, Oh crap, my soils, ruined, what do I do now? You know, desertification. You know, we saw it as a tipping point where you can’t bring it back. And and so we need to, I guess, arrest the decline. We’re losing a soccer pitch with the arable land, you know, every five seconds due to topsoil loss like crazy, crazy numbers. And and it’s a finite resource. So we need to stop that and then work out how to regenerate the ones that we that we have impoverished before they reach that, that dangerous tipping point where it’s very hard to bring back
Regen Ray: love that, you know, I think that’s such an important thing to to note and, you know, soil lost , how’s it happening? Wind blowing in floods and range is washing it away, and you see it just kind of going down the waterways and even, you know, the satellite images of like brown as water out of all the the the where the rivers meet the ocean. And that’s all quality nutrient fertile topsoil just kind of go on to to the ocean, you know, and you made mention of that as well as like, that’s where a lot of the fisheries and all that are because of the the nutrients that are there, but it’s too much in the wrong place, you know? Yeah.
Matthew: Yeah, there’s always been nutrients washed out to see it , but you know the really easy numbers to latch on to. And I think, you know, soil lovers, you know, probably you and I would know what is in the soil have to be the same. When you mentioned soil to people who aren’t into it, they just glaze over and they go, Oh God, boring, but really easy numbers to latch on to. We are losing topsoil 30 to 40 times faster than nature can make it. If you plow your land, you lose topsoil a hundred times faster than nature can make it. So nature is always making topsoil. And we are always losing a bit of topsoil. And that was in harmony for, you know, hundreds of thousands of years, millions of years. What we’re doing now is losing topsoil 30 to four times faster than nature can make it. So I’m no math genius, right? Oh yeah. But yeah, I can just tell you that you can’t do that for very long, but you just can’t like, obviously you can’t. And so so that’s why you know, the there is this talk of, you know, how many harvests we have left and how long certain patches of we know that certain patches of land around you can last 10, 15, 20 years. I’m going to last 100 years, somewhat last year to three thousand years, we think, from current management, but that’s not looking very far into the future. Aboriginal people have been here for 60000 years, you know, more probably a hundred thousand years, and they managed to feed themselves for that long to be really nice to think we could feed ourselves for 100000 years on this continent. And and and not, you know, not have to move somewhere else. Because, look, this vice, there’s no soil on Mars. Soil only exists on Earth. I can talk about solar, but there aren’t any on Mars and iron arriving any soon. You know, soil evolved. We evolved here. This is this is the bit we have to manage and look after, and we need to do it with some, some urgency, you know, with some, you know, but the movement around the world is amazing to see how many people are actually taking this topic seriously now.
Regen Ray: Yeah, absolutely. With so much inspiration oozing out of your mouth right now. Matthew Evans, I think glass, all lovers. And if you haven’t become a soul lover yet, I think this conversation is really going to be the tipping point because so many, you know, things that you’ve explained during this discussion is those penny moment. Penny dropped moments that people kind of need and go, Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s how it worked. And like you said, go research it, go. Look at it. There’s so many videos on YouTube, lots of videos in our Soil learning centre where you can just get really, you know, inspired and dig deeper into this wonderful world of soil. Matthew Evans, I want to ask our signature questions Are you ready to become the soil?
Matthew: Well, sure,
Regen Ray: it sounds like you’re already the soil from the way that you’ve been speaking. But if you could, you know, become the voice of the soil, what would you tell us here on Earth?
Matthew: Yeah, I’ve got a chapter in the book called We Are All Temporarily Not Soil, which looks at certain aspects of soil coming from soil and becoming soil again. Look what I would say if I was to soil. What I would say is, I might, you know, you can. You can measure me as multiple organisms, but. Initially, I am a I am a single superorganism and as a super treat me like I am a single organism. So treat me like you. Would your care? Don’t. Would you cut your cow open for no reason? No. Why? Because you damage the cow. You cut your soil open for another reason you damage the soil. Okay. Would you shave all the hairs off your cow for no reason? No, you wouldn’t. Because they’re there to do a purpose, would you? So why would you get rid of all the plants off the top of off the top of me? They are my original food source. They are what keep me happy and healthy. They are, they are. I have this very intimate and important relationship with them. I, you know, I control small water cycles. I control atmosphere. You know, I’m a living the top 20 centimetre, 20 centimeters of me exchanges. It’s all it’s gases every hour. So so I do breathe. I am a very important organism. And so if you think of me, not as you know, bacteria and protozoa and worms, think of me as a single super super organism, self-organizing super organism, then you. It may help you give me the respect that I crave and I think I
Regen Ray: deserve here, here very well said. Thank you so much for being the voice of our souls. And there you have it. soil lovers another voice of our souls that you can take on and put in your back pocket, put in your mind and start making different decisions as you carry on with your world and everyday business. Matt Evans How can our soul lovers hang out with you more? Where are you hanging out? Some links. And more importantly, where can I get your book?
Matthew: You can’t get my book in the UK at the moment. It’s sold out. That’s a good point. Yeah, that was a bit of a surprise. Got a five star review in in in a daily newspaper. Everything looks to be in in bookshops. It’s actually an audible one. There’s an audio book, and I know quite a few people have been listening to it. If I made it, mine sent me a picture of him listening to it while he plowed his fields, which was an interesting way to show that he was listening, but perhaps not listening as much as I would like. Yeah, and I got a note on Twitter, which I don’t know how to. I don’t know my hand or things are too old for that, right?
Regen Ray: Oh good, they’ll be all around. The video and the podcast has lots of links. Fat, pig fat pig farm is definitely a joyful page to follow, and I really enjoy seeing all the inspirational videos and you know the way that you and your team share the lifestyle. And I think it’s a big inspiration for a lot of people, especially post-COVID people wanting to move away from the city be more connected with the land. And even if it is a small parcel of land, that is the start of something that could turn into something big. Did you ever think that you would have all this set up when you left Sydney and as a food critic?
Matthew: No. I wanted three chooks and I wanted a veggie gun and then overshot the mark a little bit. I end up with 10 chooks, a decent sized veggie garden, 12 apple trees, two pigs which became 10 pigs, a milking cow, three sheep which became six sheep. Yeah, so, so you know, like I, I have to say right, one of the things I did and I’m not proud of it, but we’ve moved to the land and we got lots of things, did lots of things, have a great time and managed to bugger up a piece of land fairly royally and fairly quickly. And and we did what so many people do have done in the past. We sold it and moved on, and I’m not proud of that. But what I do think now is that knowing how we can regenerate soil and look after soil, that what I wish I’d done is, you know, I guess, repaired that before I’d left it because we saw not not because it was ruined, but because we had outgrown it, but by overgrazing and over producing food that we had left in a worse condition than we found it in. My aim is to never do that again, and so everybody saw matters. So so whether you got a pot plant or a yeah, I mean, like a cattle station every bit. So it matters then to try and look after the bit you’ve got. But if you make a mistake, you can. Maybe not with being in a cattle station, I don’t know, but you can generally repair it. And if it’s me, I might take longer to repair the pot plant, right? But you can repair it and we can do better. And so that’s that beautiful thing that humans not only evolved to be around it, but we actually have the intelligence, the capacity and the knowledge to actually build topsoil at rates that nature is could never conceive of. Mm-Hmm.
Regen Ray: So it’s so amazing. I think, you know, quite a distinction there to realise that maybe you did let go of a bit of land that could have been repaired, but you know, you’re definitely giving more than that by publishing the book and talking about what you’re doing. I think we’re going to have a lot more people wake up to this soil movement and really understand, you know, how powerful it is. And I don’t think there’s any, you know, like you said, also matters and that that I think is a is a great moment to end on soil lovers. Thank you so much for sticking with us, this podcast going a little bit longer than usual, but that’s for the people who. A real soul love, as you’ve made it to the end, and I really want to thank you for hanging out with us and talking about soil, Matthew Evans, you’re someone who’s definitely been a big inspiration in my life and I’m really honoured to have this moment and talk about so whoever thought that our paths will cross with the topic of soil. Because I didn’t know that 10 years ago when I was watching you on SBS and going, I want to be the and I thought
Matthew: you and I had no clue that I’d be banging on about it. So in the way I do, but you know, I feel a bit like a, you know, like a converted smoker or something, you know, and it’s like, I want to just get out there and tell everybody, this you. This is so great. This is so amazing. You are so powerful, each of you in your own individual way. And this is something that we need. We all need to consider in our purchasing, in our in our growing, in our farming, in our personal lives because it matters more than pretty much anything else. It’s the it’s the basis of all life on Earth.
Regen Ray: Absolutely, wolf. Thank you so much so lovers for listening. Thank you so much, Matthew Evan’s for coming along. And for those who want to see me take a selfie on a zoom with Matt Evans, you going to have to come to Soil Learning Center where we released the bonus parts of the videos and the conversations that happen after we stop the mic officially for the podcast until next time. Get outside, get your hands dirty and keep digging deeper into the wonderful world of soil. Matthew Evans. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Matthew: Thank you so much for having me, Ray? Thanks soil lovers .
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