Restoring soil quality and farmer health
Exploring the power of soil biology to repair damaged agricultural soils and build the health of humans working with these soils.
My work seeks to accelerate the adoption of practices that capture carbon in the soil and support farmers to grow healthy food for healthy communities in BC and beyond.
A LITTLE ABOUT ME
I am a graduate student at the University of Victoria, British Columbia Canada, pursuing a PhD with the Ecogastronomy Lab in the School of Environmental Studies. My work is designed to understand the dynamic connections between soil quality and farmers’ health as a form of adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change. With 20 years of lived experience successfully navigating interdisciplinary public sector decision making, I understand the complexity of advancing policies for agricultural climate resilience, currently stalled due to a lack of data and resources. I am inherently hopeful about the ability of natural systems to recover from disruption, and am encouraged by the inspirational stories of farmers working in relationship with soil to create positive outcomes.
Soil erosion and associated losses of soil carbon affects the ability of soil to function properly, in turn affecting the security of local, national, and international food systems. In an export-focused econo-centric commodified food system designed for efficiency, a comprehensive business case for practices that build soil quality through carbon capture is critical to accelerate the adoption of carbon-capturing management practices.
The mental health of farmers is of national concern, with high levels of burnout and isolation (Finnigan 2019, Jones-Bitton 2019). To date, the business case for farm and soil management change focuses on yields and costs, with separate reviews assessing environmental costs such as reductions in ecosystem services. The social costs of soil carbon and the role of mental health of farmers in adopting conservation practices are rarely, if ever discussed.
BC’s food system is in transition, with an aging farmer population and a fractured extension services network. These challenges are complicated by the large-scale degradation of soil quality and loss of biodiversity through intensive agricultural practices designed for economic efficiency in support of global supply chains. By understanding the characteristics of profitable optimistic farmers with high levels of soil carbon, new approaches to incentivize and reward soil management practices can be considered.
Accomplishments and Milestones
SOIL FOOD WEB CERTIFIED LABORATORY TECHNICIAN
October 2022 - Present
Qualified to conduct microscopy assessments of soil, including fungal to bacterial ratios, protozoa and and nematode counts.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND VOLUNTEER
National Farmers Union, Canada
Chair, Mental Health Working Group 2020-2022
Speaker, National Convention 2021
Speaker, Region 8 Convention 2022
Pacific Regional Society of Soil Science, BC
Board member 2020-2022
Speaker, AGM 2021
“Closing the Supply Gap” Capital Regional working group member, Victoria
Keynote Speaker: Peace Region Living Labs Kick-Off - August 2022
September 2020 - Present
Supported the delivery of undergraduate classes, including lecture delivery in the School of Environmental Studies (ES 200; ES 240 ES481)
April 2000 - April 2020
Worked with increasing levels of responsibility across six ministries in the Province of British Columbia. During this time, I led many teams to deliver cross-government initiatives, including the creation of a provincial Procurement Strategy to improve the way government buys $6.6 billion annually of goods, services and construction. I was honoured with a Provincial Leadership award in 2016.
Thanks for your interest in my research. Get in touch with any questions or comments regarding my work and publications. I’d love to hear from you.
School of Environmental Studies
University of Victoria
British Columbia, Canada