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SoilHack

FIRST SOILHACK GATHERING

The first SoilHack gathering will be held over the weekend of 27th/28th May 2017 near Street, Somerset.

Details here

Soil what?

SoilHack was set up to provide a space for people to collaborate in sharing information to help us both better understand our soils and improve their health, having been inspired by the DIY spirit of the Farm Hack movement.

Over the past few years we've been seeing an increasing number of people sharing stories of how they've transformed their soils (and in some cases workloads) through applying novel methods: no-tillage, cover cropping, biochar, agroforestry, etc etc. This struck us as significant, given the current horrific rates of soil depletion, and the game-changing role that soil carbon could play in regenerating the biosphere.

The challenge, especially for people who are full-time producers, is to somehow get a toehold on the growing body of soil research which helps one understand why these practices work, as well as getting a sense of how they'd be relevant in our own situation. Our response to this has been to try to create a self-organising network for sharing knowledge. to bring together people who are looking into such questions.

Up til now we've done this through collating good resources on our wiki, running a soil events email list and a Twitter account, and presenting at Farm Hack events. In truth, SoilHack has yet to develop in the direction that we'd hoped it might, which is to harness the enormous potential of peer-to-peer learning and skill-sharing. With this gathering, that's about to change!

We're inviting you to contribute your experience, insight and curiosity to this effort, so that we can begin to rapidly grow our collective intelligence, and in turn all become its benefactors. This knowledge needs spreading and putting into action fast.

This wiki page

This is the 'homepage' of SoilHack. All SoilHack related tools and activities will be listed here.

This page is a wiki - that means that anyone can register (click the link top right of this page) and then edit the text here (click on the edit tab once you are registered).

Wikis tend to be much more valuable when lots of people contribute to them. If you think something should be added to this page but haven't got time, or don't know how to lay out the text on the page, you can just add it to the page and someone else can come along later and tidy it up - isn't collaboration great?

The other great things about wiki pages is that you can elect to be notified when a page is updated and you can look at all the previous revisions of a page, see who has done what to it, and can get back to an older version if somebody somehow "breaks" the page. So when you edit you don't have to worry too much about accidentally messing things up, its easily fixed.

SoilHack announcements mailing list

This is a low volume email list for organising SoilHack and to announce soil releated events (currently UK events). We encourage people to use other internet based discussion venues (see recommendations below) for general soil related discussion as there are already a lot of great conversations going on.

To subscribe either -
* send a blank email to soilhack-announce-join@lists.ourproject.org or clicking here should open the email if you use outlook, thunderbird or another email client
* go and subscribe here
Once you have subscribed you will get a confirmation email to which you must respond before your subscription will be live.

Archives of the list can be viewed here

Bookmarking web pages

We have started bookmarking lots of useful websites on the pinboard.in soilhack account

These bookmarks are tagged (eg. compost-tea, video, microscope etc.) and you can click on the + sybols next to the taags on the right to make a progressively smaller, more focused list of websites.

Wikipedia

We've bookmarked some useful Wikipedia pages at Pinboard. There are some great soil related pages on Wikipedia - e.g. this page is useful if you have a microscope and want to learn how to identify different types of bacteria. We noticed that some soil related pages there could be improved or new pages added. We would encourage everyone to do this as its a great way to spread knowledge - lots of people all over the world use Wikipedia. If you have never edited wikipedia before you can learn more about how to do so here

Social Media

SoilHack is on Twitter

Discussion

We've found lots of soil related discussions on the internet. Here are some we found particularly interesting -

Email discussion groups (send a blank email to the address to join the group):

soil-age+subscribe@googlegroups.com - 'Exploring ways in which grassland ecosystem restoration can help mitigate global climate change.' Lots of posts about soil not related directly to grasslands. medium/hign volume list - few emails a day. Clicking here should open the email if you use outlook, thunderbird or another email client

compost_tea-subscribe@yahoogroups.com - 'Composts, compost extracts, the workings of the soil food web and soil microbiology as applied to gardening and agriculture' - 1 or 2 emails a day average. Clicking here should open the email if you use outlook, thunderbird or another email client

biochar-subscribe@yahoogroups.com - 'introducing the emerging, exciting new climate-energy-soils technology called "Biochar" to those who are new to the concept.' - 4 or 5 emails a day average. Clicking here should open the email if you use outlook, thunderbird or another email client

SANET-MG, 'a discussion group about sustainable agriculture, has been in continuous operation since October 1991.' USA based, lots of experienced growers and academics, has discussion about soil, soilfoodweb, compost etc. - 2 emails a day average.

Discussion forums:
Logical Gardener - lots of useful discussion about compost, vermicompost, compost tea and microscopy.

We also intend to organise webinars using an internet conferencing tool (quite possibly Skype - we have struggled to find a good open-source alternative) where sessions can be devoted to particular aspects of soil, and people with relevant experiences invited to make presentations and answer questions. Examples of topics we could cover are microscopy, compost teas, cover crops, biochar, no-dig / min-till systems, designing research studies. Hopefully we will also put on a real-life event at some point (after the growing season has ended would likely be the most sensible time for this) where members of the community can run workshops on these subjects.

Events

There are also soil related events listed at The British Society of Soil Science's page

SoilHack tools

The idea of this group is that those of us wishing to deepen our understanding of soils and to do something to improve their health can do so more effectively if we can share what we're learning with each other.

We have given much thought to, and done a fair bit of research into how this could most effectively be achieved and have started to use a number of internet based tools. In choosing these we considered:

  • what capabilities different tools have

  • how easy they are to use, both for reading and contributing

  • where existing relevant data and/or conversations are happening

  • if the tool promotes the open working practices we feel should be embedded at at the heart of this community (i.e open source tool, open data, non-profit owned/operated, data easy to export)

Unfortunately we haven't always found something that ticks all the boxes. As this is an open project, if you feel we are barking up the wrong tree or know other great tools to use in this effort please feel free to add them here.

Comments

BlackWelshLamb's picture

Have you seen the Prosoil project at IBERS, Aberystwyth? [http://www.prosoilproject.uk/en/]
Collaborative approach to developing soil health using development farms backed by controlled experimtents.