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10th Annual Earth Conference - Soil: Holy Ground, Wholly Alive

Soil is Earth’s gift to all plants, animals, and humans living upon this planet; it is a Common Good. Soil sustains and supports all life. If the soil is healthy, then we are all healthy.

It was this conviction that inspired the United Nations to declare 2015 The International Year of Soils. They have stated that one-third of all soil on Earth has already been degraded due to unsustainable land management practices.

In this conference we explored the different ways we care for soil, how we come together to nurture soil, and how sustainable, community-focused choices deepen and strengthen our relationship with soil.

We uncovered the sacred beauty of the soil, listened to the message it is sending us, and discovered practical ways to help the soil continue nurturing us all.

Keynote Speaker - Audrey Arner

It's All Holy Ground

It is time that we turn our attention to the soils. When we take stock and revere the skin of the earth and the interrelationships of the microorganisms that dwell there, we humans are recognizing the precarious state of our soils and are taking measures to restore its health. We owe our existence to the love of thousands of ancestors who came before us and to the thin planetary layer of clay, sand and organic matter left from uncountable life forms.

Drawing from science, poetry and life experience, we explored together the innate relationships and interdependencies that support soil health and our own well-being. The life-giving and life-absorbing earth beneath our feet begs us to recognize that in the woodlands and prairies, sustaining our farms and gardens, under buildings and pavement, it is all holy ground.

Audrey bio: River-friendly farmer and community organizer Audrey Arner is immersed in issues related to food, sustainable agriculture, art, and the environment. From her home, Moonstone Farm, near Montevideo, MN she is involved in farmland transition to a new generation of stewardship farmers, community-based local food systems, permaculture design, and holistic management.

Outdoor Silent Reflective Walk

After the keynote address, conference participants were invited to spend 20 minutes walking around the grounds on Good Counsel Hill and through the Community Gardens in quiet reflection.

Panel One: "Soil, Rooted in the Common Good"

In this first panel we explored the reality that healthy Soil is essential for the Common Good, not just for humans, but all creation. The actions that we take to care for our soil affect not only ourselves but everyone, everything, around us. From backyard composting to advocating for more sustainable environmental policy,  we learned how every action we take positively impacts all.

Panel Speakers:
Barb Lamson, Master Gardener and compost enthusiast
Erica Idso-Weiz, co-founder of Heart and Soil Community Gardens Initiative
Tom Nussmeier, farmer, sustainable agricultural policy organizer

Panel Two: "Healthy Soil, Healthy Lives"

Healthy Soil is the foundation for healthy people, communities, and planet.  In this panel we looked at ways in which our choices affected the health of the soil as well as our own.  We learned we can promote soil health by making sustainable choices when caring for our lawns and gardens and supporting initiatives that build healthy soil.

Panel Speakers:
Mara Natrakul, green lawn care specialist
Marcus Larson, Master Gardener
Doug Nopar, Soil Health Initiative


Conference participants each received a print out of soil-related quotes.

Community Movie Night

"DIRT! The Movie" –narrated by Jamie Lee Curtis– brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has. It shares the stories of experts from all over the world who study and are able to harness the beauty and power of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with soil.

But more than the film and the lessons that it teaches, DIRT! The Movie is a call to action. “When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked.”

How can you affect that relationship for the better?

Conference Table Decorations