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 email@example.com
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.
Contact Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
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 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.
Contact Dan at email@example.com
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.
Jennifer Byrne is the manager of the White River Natural Resources Conservation District, a citizen-led, local unit of government developed in 1940 to address natural resource concerns governed by a board of elected supervisors. Based out of the USDA office in White River Junction, the White River NRCD provides conservation assistance, outreach, and education for Orange and Windsor counties in Vermont. From 2011-2016 Jennifer worked and volunteered for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in over 15 states, comparing targeted conservation efforts and local and regional water quality improvement programs by assisting with conservation planning, rural and urban soil surveys, wetland delineations, tree plantings and monitoring, and engineering surveys. Also in 2011, Jennifer invented and patented a system for markerless augmented reality known as the Human Positioning System. Jennifer holds a Master of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School, a B.S. in Agriculture Science from Oregon State University, and an A.A.S. in Alternative Energy Technology from Lansing Community College. She is currently a Fellow in the Environmental Justice Clinic at VLS managing the R.E.J.O.I.C.E. Project (Rural Environmental Justice Opportunities Informed by Community Expertise), an iterative policy creation effort developing Environmental Justice Policy for the state of Vermont.
Earl Hatley is a well trained and experienced environmental organizer who utilizes his training and experience to serve as a consultant to tribal and non-tribal groups (non-profits & tribal governments). He has served as an environmental consultant to Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, as well as indigenous grassroots groups around the country. Mr. Hatley’s work has included helping tribal governments to develop environmental programs, water and air quality monitoring projects, write quality control instruments, write grants, conduct culturally based risk assessments, and conduct hazardous waste site investigations. Mr. Hatley also serves as an organizing consultant to national and state-wide non-profit groups, including WMAN and the Indigenous Environmental Network. He served as a consultant and co-leader on a $5 M grant as a partner with Harvard School of Public Health and LEAD Agency. In this capacity he developed the Tribal Subcommittee of the grant’s Community Advisory Board. He served as a consultant on another collaboration with LEAD and Harvard sampling mercury in fish and human subjects in the Grand Lake watershed. Mr. Hatley has extensive research and grant management experience. His Political Science training included conducting demographic research, developing qualitative survey techniques, and development of quantitative survey instruments. He has utilized these techniques in the political and environmental science arenas, including cultural based risk assessments. Mr. Hatley is an enrolled citizen of the Missisquoi Band of Abenaki Nation with Cherokee/Shawnee heritage and a disabled veteran. Earl is retired, living in Quechee, Vermont. Read Earl’s full bio here.
Karl Thidemann is cofounder of Soil4Climate, a Vermont-based international, educational nonprofit, nongovernmental organization advocating for soil restoration as a climate solution. The Soil4Climate Facebook group, connecting farmers, scientists, journalists, policymakers, and climate activists, has more than 31,000 members in over 100 countries. Karl has experience in the environmental laboratory field and he marketed electric vehicles for the company that began as MIT’s Solar Car Team. He presently serves on the boards of the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition and the White River Natural Resources Conservation District. His interests include nature photography, writing poems about regenerative agriculture, and baking pies for fellow soil fanatics. Karl holds a B.A. in Chemistry from Wesleyan University.
Lauryn Sherman is a graduate of Vermont Law school’s environmental law program and is a current student at the Yale School of the Environment studying climate change, forestry, and agroforestry. As an undergraduate student, she studied agricultural production systems with farmers, Indigenous communities, scholars, social movements, and NGOs around the world, including in cotton, sisal, seaweed, coffee, corn, cattle, and food forest systems. After, she was a farm intern with the Living Lands Agrarian Network in California, where she worked with a network of farmers to supply a CSA, farmer’s market booth, local grocery stores, and restaurants from eight different farm sites. She holds a permaculture certificate from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and trained in composting methods at the University of Maine’s Compost School. As a law student, she researched soils policy and ag subsidy programs and worked on groundwater and climate adaptation planning in the Colorado River Basin. She has most recently been involved in litigation for Indigenous lands protection in the upper Midwest and is now working on federal climate policy for community banks. She loves having her hands in the soil and is happiest outside near water or in a forest.
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