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How do we bring together all the feels that the end of 2021 brings? A bag of mixed feelings as we reflect on a year that has seen so much hardship for all, learnings, opportunities and moments to reflect and grow.

We returned to Fiji for #soilschool

2021 will always be a year close to our hearts as it's the year we returned to Fiji to share our updated syllabus of #soilschool and continue the remembering of regenerative farming practices and soil health.

As I look out over our farm right now, it's as green as it’s ever been. We have cattle feed knee-deep and our fruit trees and food forests are abundant with produce (see photo). I’m reminded of our knowledge of how nature works so reassuring and find myself trusting in the cycles as they come and go.

It was just over two years ago that we were fighting fires here in our Valley, the land was so dry it cracked as you walked upon it and we came close to losing it all. We had to trust and pray we would be okay (along with a lot of preparedness, the NSWRFS and a great neighbouring community) and we came through it.

One of the things that 2021 has taught us is to find gratitude in every moment. We give thanks for our privilege to learn from our students and share knowledge with them. We give thanks to the contributors and mentors in our world that support us to bring education and learning to our Foundation. We give thanks for the cycles as they come and go and mostly, give thanks for our beautiful planet as she continues to provide for us.

One of the fundamental sharings in #soilschool is that WE ARE NATURE. We talk about how we are not an ego-system in a hierarchical model of providership, but a part of a living ecosystem. When we change our thinking to acknowledging we are nature, a part of the overall ecosystem, we begin to see things around us so differently. We begin to look at our surroundings in a symbiotic framework, one that we can contribute to and regenerate for the betterment of all.

With gratitude...

So as the calendar year ends, we extend to you all the deepest gratitude for the holiday season.

May your soil be rich in organic matter, your water tanks full and your table abundant with family, food and laughter. Deepest gratitude and we are so looking forward to bringing you more from Organic Matters Foundation in 2022 and beyond.

Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Remembering what we already know

Tei Tei Taveuni

It's difficult to know where to start writing about Tei Tei Taveuni and the teachings, students and friendships built since our first ever Soil School in 2010.

The saying by Margaret Mead comes to mind. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

To say this group of farmers is inspiring is the understatement of the century.

This dynamic small association, with a passion for healthy soil and thirst for knowledge, reached out to us to come to teach a series of Soil Schools, empowering their core farming group to move their practices from high-level use of glyphosate (roundup) towards a more regenerative approach for Taveuni Island, known as the ‘Garden Island of Fiji’.

Our first Soil School was booked for 12 people. During the day though the word got out and the next day our participant numbers doubled in size. Before we knew it, we were teaching back to back Soil Schools, travelling across the whole of Taveuni Island visiting farms of Yagona (Kava), Dalo, mixed vegetables (village gardens) and large pineapple and coconut plantations.

We had our hands filled with soil, our bellies full of nutritional local food and some of the best nights spent at Alan’s B & B listening to locals play their ukulele. There is never a dull moment in Taveuni.

Not only did we teach, share and remember alongside students, we also improved our syllabus contents due to this group. We were constantly challenged by Tei Tei to improve our work, leading us through several versions of the workbook, refining it to Island needs.

We were constantly challenged to improve our work

One of our fondest memories is the many hours spent tramping through the jungle to take a soil sample of remote farms. We were privileged to see such an abundant country and support farmers who were looking for a different approach to farming. They were looking to increase their yields, improve their livelihood and provide for more than themselves, provide for the village as a whole. We were here to support these farmers on their mission to rebuild soil and combat reforestation occurring due to the need for more farmland to meet local and international food markets.

We worked alongside Tei Tei conducting demonstrations evidencing what the change to biological farming meant to the soil. At this time the Island’s Dalo average was 900grams with a reject of 25%. After two seasons of practice change, we recorded a 1.2kg weight with 10% reject.

The Soil was healthier, the plants were healthier. With healthy soils, we begin to grow community. With healthy soils, we improve our health and vitality.

This core group of farmers has taken the base knowledge that Soil School provides on biological soil management in the regenerative framework and studied more, always learning and improving their farms. Living by example.

Check this video out to see how amazing this small island’s farmers are.

Our Soil School begins with an invitation. An invitation to prepare to have your mind and all your learnings so far challenged and Tei Tei Taveuni met us in this invitation.

Actually, they surpassed us.

Organic Matters Foundation sprouted their knowledge. They took the seed and grew an incredible network of farmers who all practice regenerative farming and biological soil management.

THANK YOU TEI TEI. You inspire us to forever change and grow.

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Soil as a connector

There’s something special about soil - it's a connector.

When we arrive in-country, ready to roll with another Soil School, immediately everyone has a shared mindset. It's all about the soil. Tools to use, methodologies, opinions, discussions, debates, stories and laughter. So much laughter.

Over time with our blogs, we’ll revisit where we’ve been over the last 10 years and dive a little into the communities and outcomes of our projects.

Today we’re remembering the Cook Islands. In particular, our time doing introductory and advanced soil schools under the amazing care of the Titikaveka Growers Association.

The thing with the Islands is, as soon as you step off the plane, there’s a sense of welcoming. A feeling as if you're home. We definitely had this feeling when landing in the Cook Islands!

The picture below was taken a little over eight years ago on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands as part of our Soil School program with the Titikaveka Growers Association. We had spent two weeks in-country working alongside farmers to support them to better understand their soil tests, and in turn their soil.

There’s something humbling about being on the land with the farmers who care so deeply for it and rely on the produce and productivity to feed their families and the wider community. This is fundamentally what is so satisfying about our Soil School program.

We facilitate deliverable change that directly improves the lives of the community involved.

Soil School Program

Soil School is an adaptable, overarching program that ticks all the boxes. We teach farmers how to not only read their soil tests but interpret them with a focus on regenerative improvements and outcomes. Best of all, we adapt each program to each area’s needs. We speak with focus groups and participants before we begin, ensuring we have a full understanding of the area’s needs, intentions, hopes and opportunities.

Yes, we do Soil School, but first, we listen.

Here’s a link to our Strategic Partners page. If this interests you, or you think that Soil School would be a helpful part of your organisation’s education, contact us.

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