Understanding the life in the soil and using it to improve plant and human health will be the focus of a keynote address by soil biologist Dr. Elaine Ingham at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 42nd annual conference, Our Time: Essential Links in a Strong Food Chain, this February.
In her Saturday, February 13 keynote address, presented by Turner Farm, “Soil vs. Dirt: Connecting Plant and Human Microbiomes,” Ingham will compare a healthy soil food web, which contains beneficial microbes that help plants grow strong, and a healthy human digestive system, which also contains sets of microbes that provide nutrients’ to the gut’s lining. Ingham will explain why there is no need for inorganic fertilizers, minerals, vitamins, or supplements if the right sets of organisms are present to cycle nutrients and outcompete disease and pests.
“Soil is an amazing place, full of life and bursting with diversity,” Ingham wrote. “The underlying principle of our current agricultural system, the so-called “Green Revolution,” is clueless about what soil really is, and thus destroys everything that promotes soil, plant, or human healthiness.”
Dr. Elaine Ingham is founder and president of Soil Food Web and director of Soil Food Web School. For the past four decades, she has pioneered research in the field of soil biology and is widely recognized as the world’s foremost soil biologist.
Her goal is to empower farmers to restore the ecological functions of living soils all over the world, ensuring healthy, strong plants and nutritious food, while eliminating soil erosion and the need for chemical inputs.
“Nature uses the soil food web—beneficial bacteria, good-guy fungi, protozoa, and beneficial nematodes—to create the soluble nutrients for plants. Plants feed the microbes so the microbes will retrieve the nutrients needed by the plants. Predators of the microbes then make sure the soluble nutrients will be delivered in the right place, at the right time. It’s a wonderfully simple, yet in its own way complex, system,” wrote Ingham.
She has a masters in microbiology from Texas A&M University and a Ph.D. in microbiology from Colorado State University. Elaine served as chief scientist at The Rodale Institute from 2011-2013. She has previously served as a professor of forest science, botany, and plant pathology at Oregon State University, affiliate professor of sustainable living at Maharishi University of Management, adjunct faculty at Southern Cross University, visiting professor at Melbourne University, and program chair of the Ecological Society of America.
She is author of the USDA’s Soil Biology Primer, The Compost Tea Brewing Manual, The Soil Foodweb, and other publications.
Ingham will also lead a full-day Food and Farm School Class, “Soil Food Web: Structure and Function,” on Wednesday, February 10 and a 60-minute workshop, “Life in the Soil: The Soil Food Web’s Five Over-Arching Principles,” on Saturday, February 13.
OEFFA’s 42nd annual conference, to be held online February 10-15, will also feature keynote speakers Will Harris and Navina Khanna; more than 60 educational workshops; full-day Food and Farm School classes; an interactive virtual trade show; debates, mixology and chef lessons, an open mic, children’s activities, and more.
Sliding scale rates and a limited number of scholarships are available. For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2021.