Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition is a coalition of mostly Vermonters, representing grassroots activists and enthusiasts, organizations, and businesses that work with or for the land, water and climate. We are land managers, farmers, gardeners, seed savers, citizen scientists, conservationists, authors, consultants, educators, healers, organizers, and advocates of diverse backgrounds. We seek to cultivate diversity in our base.
We operate under the premise that we can restore land water cycles by covering Vermont's bare soil with actively growing plants, which nurtures photosynthesis and the biology underground. We believe that many collaborative statewide possibilities can come out of this coalition that will positively affect our farms, forests, communities, and public lands.
Our coalition exists to increase the awareness of the significance of biological soil health and to maximize the collective effectiveness of soil and water groups. Our purpose as a coalition is to foster education, communication and collaboration to catalyze relationships that regenerate healthy soils and the communities that depend on them.
Our vision is to shift the paradigm of how people interface with the land and one another to one that promotes community resilience, improves the quality of our food and our health, and protects soil and water from erosion, flooding, and droughts.
We Agree that:
Climate change is real, it is predominantly human caused, it represents an existential crisis, it affects particular populations more than others, particular populations / industries / practices are more responsible for contributing to (and conversely alleviating) climate change.
The current economic system is deeply flawed and destructive: it does not measure or value ecological integrity, social well being, personal health, or a number of other factors which contribute to a just and livable society and planet; it externalizes costs to the many, and internalizes profits to the few; this economic system works against the interests of most people and the planet - we cannot have an economically viable regenerative agriculture within an economy which does not value regeneration.
Farmers and non-farmers deserve a right livelihood and livable wage based compensation for the work they provide; we support meaningful, fulfilling, and justly compensated livelihoods
Regenerative agriculture is not only technical - it is political. A just transition to regenerative soils management and rejuvenating the water cycle addresses and is necessary to heal and improve the quality of: our soils, our biological systems, our climate, our personal and social well being, our democratic political processes, and our economies.
All stakeholders’ voices and perspectives are valid and are valuable contributions to the discussion. Given Vermont’s predominantly caucasian population we must cultivate diversity and create the conditions where all people feel that they belong.
VHSC Board Stands with Black Lives Matter
As the board of the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition, we write to you today to state unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter - and all BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities. We have been working towards unlearning many entrenched white supremacist behaviors as individuals and, through the creation of this coalition, have been working to understand institutionalized racism and explore ways in which we can build institutions that are anti-racist. Please join us in these efforts, continue to do the work that many of you regularly engage with or are just beginning to, and deeply listen, learn, and act in this moment so that it creates true change in our world and doesn't fade into the background once again.
We are enclosing the statements made by, and opportunities created by, other organizations who we often align our work with and proudly continue to do so as they also speak out against racial injustice, police brutality, and oppressive systems.
The Board of the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition
How we operate
Our Board of Directors is currently working to develop guidelines for membership, a sociocratic governance system, and a strategy for achieving our goals. We believe that in order to shift the paradigm we must not travel the usual path.
Read the minutes from the Board Meetings
VHSC Board of Directors
Cat Buxton is a change facilitator working to build the social mycelium that holds our communities together. She promotes soil health and food system change through education and advocacy, working with individuals, schools, community groups and statewide organizations to make a difference one meal, one compost pile, and one landscape at a time. She co-created and manages the edible schoolyard at Thetford Elementary School, leads Land Listener workshops with the Soil Carbon Coalition, organizes the Upper Valley Apple Corps and a host of other projects. She is co-founder and the acting director of the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition. She represents VHSC as a member of the National Healthy Soils Policy Network and the forming Northeast Healthy Soil Coalition. She consults, teaches, and presents about soil and ecosystem health to individuals of all ages and groups of all sizes. Learn more about her work at www.growmorewasteless.com.
Grace Gershuny writes and teaches about soil, compost, and organic agriculture. Her books include The Soul of Soil,The Rodale Book of Composting, and Organic Revolutionary: A Memoir of the Movement for Real Food, Planetary Healing, and Human Liberation. She has taught about organic and sustainable agriculture for the Institute for Social Ecology, Goddard College, Sterling College, and Green Mountain College. She got her start working with NOFA in the 1970's, and has never looked back. Grace currently works as an organic inspector and serves as an agricultural adviser to the Center for Grassroots Organizing and QEW African Diaspora Earthcare Coalition.
Contact Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org
Henry Swayze, Tunbridge Vermont, has been paying attention to climate change since 1967 and shortly after in sustainable farming. He and is wife Cornelia rebuilt the soils of a worn out hill farm with a flock of 400 sheep. They brought the first hy-powered electric fence chargers and related equipment for managed grazing into the united states. Henry now is working on cooling the planet through land management and drawing down carbon to boot. He co-hosts an hour long weekly environmental radio program called GreenZine on Royalton Community Radio, WFVR-lp locally @ 96.5 and streaming everyware.
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Didi Pershouse is the author of The Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money, and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities and Understanding Soil Health and Watershed Function. She teaches participatory workshops both in person and online, helping to connect the dots between soil health, human health, water, and climate resiliency. She is the president of the Soil Carbon Coalition, the founder of the Center for Sustainable Medicine, and a co-founder of the "Can we Rehydrate California?" Initiative. She was one of five speakers at the United Nations-FAO World Soil Day in 2017. You can learn more about her work at www.didipershouse.com
Contact Didi at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jaiel Pulskamp has been playing in the soil since she was a child on a small homestead in New Mexico where she was found covered in mud or following the goats around in the fields. She has a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Friends World College. She conducted her thesis field work in Panama while living with the Embera in the Darien gap. Through the framework of agroecology her senior thesis explored how indigenous agricultural practices work in collaboration with natural systems compared to industrial agricultural practices which work against natural systems. In 2002 she moved to Vermont to apprentice on an organic animal powered farm. Since 2008, she has operated Kettle Song Farm. Using organic farming principles she continuously tries to improve her farming practices to work in alignment with the surrounding ecosystem, to build soil health and grow nutrient dense produce for her community. She served on the Capital City Farmer’s Market Board for three years. Two of the those years as President. Before starting her own farm she worked as the Membership Director for Rural Vermont. She currently works as a Field Organizer with 350Vermont a clime justice organization. She is also a mother to two amazing daughters. Contact Jaiel at email@example.com
Graham Unangst-Rufenacht grew up in East Montpelier and currently lives in Plainfield, VT. He has grazed and raised grass fed and finished beef cattle in different parts of central Vermont for more than 10 years; and has been operating Robinson Hill Beef in Calais, VT since 2013. He also collaboratively runs an edible and medicinal landscaping company, Walking Onion. Graham has worked as a mentor and educator with youth ages 6-18 at EarthWalk Vermont, the ROOTS School, the King Street Youth Center, Uprise! Camp, and other local schools and educational programs. He offers adult education in the community as well - from agroecological practices, to fermentation and herbalism. Graham is the Field Organizer at Rural Vermont, and previously served on its Board - a small farm and economic justice advocacy and policy organization. Graham graduated from UVM with a degree in Religious Studies and Plant and Soil Science; has a Permaculture Design Certificate from Yestermorrow Design / Build School; and attended the 3 year clinical herbal training program at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism.
Contact Graham at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Young is a retired chemical/environmental engineer with 40 years experience in environment related process engineering experience. Dan's career started in biological and pharmaceutical chemistry manufacturing. Later, he specialized in water and wastewater treatment and energy and utilities management systems. Dan founded an environmental engineering firm that specialized in site remediation of brownfields and toxic waste sites. In his retirement, Dan is working on thermodynamic aspects of sustainable methods and lifestyles in order to clarify the details of cause and effect in climate change and to promote more effective remedial measures. He is the author of Restoring Climate Stability By Managing Ecological Disorder: A Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamic Approach To Climate Change.
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Lauren Weston’s work on water led her back to the land. After working as a water resource engineer in Vermont, Lauren went north to farm on an organic permaculture-based diversified vegetable and berry farm. Currently, she is working with various leading ladies across Vermont on topics like understanding the soil carbon sponge, mycoremediation projects in the Lake Champlain Basin, and community-led edible food experiences. She is working to contextualize healthy soils, transpiration and the water cycle, and photosynthesis as part of the whole system of nature. She has been working to organize, listen to, and learn from farmers for insight into the path forward for the climate justice movement with an eye toward regenerative agriculture and regenerative culture.
Carrying Czech roots and an upbringing on the Mississippi River, Mindy Blank first moved to Vermont in 2008 and currently resides in Bethel. She believes the root issue of the climate crisis is disconnection, and the industrialization of basic human needs has inspired her work to prioritize building regenerative culture to shift power with community-scale and individual empowerment at the core of climate action. Mindy is the Executive Director of Community Resilience Organizations (CROs), a nonprofit that assists communities design and implement projects that increase resilience and leverage their place-based strengths by becoming increasingly “community sufficient.” She earned a Masters degree in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School, taught at the former Green Mountain College, and worked as an Energy Analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris developing processes for governments to systematically decentralize electric grids.
VHSC is a proud member of the National Healthy Soils Policy Network.
Launched early in 2018, the National Healthy Soils Policy Network is a group of farmer-centered organizations that advocate for state and federal policies on behalf of sustainable, organic, beginning, minority and/or family farmers. The group recognizes the importance of using farmer-informed policy to scale up these practices, leveraging robust funding, technical assistance and research to accelerate their widespread adoption at the state level. Members share models, lessons learned and strategies related to policies that incentivize agricultural practices with climate benefits, in particular, those that build healthy soils.
Network members are aligned in their conviction that many farming and ranching management practices can significantly mitigate climate change, enhance on-farm resilience to extreme weather and drought, and improve water and air quality and that these solutions require supportive policies.
Members of the National Healthy Soils Policy Network:
California Climate & Agriculture Network (CA)
Center for Rural Affairs (IA)
Illinois Stewardship Alliance (IL)
Kansas Rural Center (KS)
Land Stewardship Project (MN)
Maine Farmland Trust (ME)
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (WI)
National Young Farmers Coalition (CO, national)
New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group (NM)
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) MA
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) NH
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) NY
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) VT
Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OH)
Oregon Climate & Agriculture Network (OR)
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PA)
Rural Vermont (VT)
Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition (VT)
Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Fair Farms Campaign (MD)
Renata Brillinger, Executive Director, California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN)
renata(at)calclimateag.org or (707) 329-6374
Liz Moran Stelk, Executive Director, Illinois Stewardship Alliance
liz(at)ilstewards.org or (217) 528-1563