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Feb - May 2019

The Soil Series:

Grassroots for the Climate Emergency

Bethany Church,

32 Main St, Randolph, VT 05060 

Wednesdays 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

A collaboration between Building A Local Economy (BALE) and Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition (VHSC)

Calling all land managers, farmers, gardeners, seed savers, citizen scientists, conservationists, town planners,  educators, healers, and advocates, join us for a series of critical conversations about soil health and how we can become response-able to meet the climate emergency we face with confidence. There will be great food provided before and, following powerful panel dialogues guided by VHSC members, audience discussion on topics of food, soil, water, health, climate and hope. Together, we can explore what is possible in rehabilitating Vermont's soil health to hold our landscapes and communities together. This potent – and important – six-part series takes place on Wednesdays starting Feb. 27 at the Bethany Church in Randolph.

Suggested donation $5 (donations not necessary). Each program features a social half-hour with great food provided by Black Krim Tavern, Randolph.

Six Evenings

February 27 

Ground to Body: Soil Health & Human Health,

Didi Pershouse, Grace Gershuny, Michael Denmeade

March 13 

Shielding Soil with Plants and Animals

Tatiana Schreiber, Graham Unangst-Rufenacht, Lisa McCrory

March 20 

Connections Through Stories

Katherine Oaks, Maddie Kempner, Sha'an Mouliert, Cheryl Herrick

March 27 

Building the Soil From the Ground Up

Juan Alvez, Jess Rubin, Cat Buxton

April 10 

Social Mycelium: the Fiber of Community Resilience

Mindy Blank, Simon Dennis, Chris Wood, Henry Harris

April 24 

A Soil Sponge to Cool the Planet

Judith Schwartz, Jan Lambert, Henry Swayze

v7_Soil Series_Grassroots for the Climat

Over 350 people attended the Soil Series in Winter/Spring 2019!


Read the notes and watch the videos of

the SOIL SERIES EVENTS that took place in Randolph, Vermont:

Part 1 Ground to Body Soil Health and Human Health: VIDEO, NOTES/RESOURCES

Part 2 Shielding Soil with Plants & Animals: VIDEO, NOTES/RESOURCES

Part 3 Connection Through Stories: VIDEO, NOTES/RESOURCES

Part 4 Building the Soil From the Ground Up: VIDEO, NOTES/RESOURCES

Part 5 Social Mycelium: the Fiber of Community Resilience VIDEO, NOTES/RESOURCES

Part 6 A Soil Sponge to Cool the Planet VIDEO, NOTES/RESOURCES 

Outcomes from the Soil Series include a range of similar Soil Series' popping up all over Vermont; strong connections made between citizens and between organiztions resulting in stronger communities and increased collaborative action on the ground deepening roots, shrinking lawns, building the soil sponge, and planting trees; and a batch of new citizen leaders all over the state!

With Deep Gratitude To Our Sponsors

Contact Cat Buxton to add your logo to this important series.

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Series Content

February 27 Ground to Body: Soil Health & Human Health

Speakers: Didi Pershouse, Grace Gershuny, Michael Denmeade


The foundation for human health and public health lies in the soil beneath our feet. Soil organisms and the plants they help to fill with nutrients are the conduit to building healthy humans and to holding our landscapes together. As our soil health declines globally so does human health and the health of all our planet's ecosystems. But soil health can be regenerated, and our own health along with it.


Our February 27th Speakers:  

Michael Denmeade has worked in health care for over 33 years as a nationally certified therapeutic recreation specialist (CTRS).  He currently works on a physical rehabilitation unit at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center. He is on the Wellness and Sustainability committees.  His passion in health care is to provide patients with the highest degree of care which includes and healthy environment free of pollutants and healthy food.  Hippocrates the father of modern medicine, said "do no harm", which everyone in healthcare has to adhere to known as the hippocratic oath. But he also said another but less famous thing, "our first medicine in our food".  As part of the Sustainability and Wellness committee's Michael has convinced the powers to be at MAHHC to provide antibiotic free meats and get a percentage of the food from local sources when possible. Michael has practiced microbiotics, organic gardening and healthy soil management researching and knowing explicitly the link between healthy soil, food and human health.


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 on the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition steering committee.

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



March 13 Shielding Soil with Plants and Animals

Tatiana Schreiber,  Ph.D., Keene State College and Rich Earth Institute

Graham Unangst-Rufenacht, Robinson Hill Beef and Walking Onion

Lisa McCrory, Earthwise Farm & Forest

Principles of soil health tell us that the worst thing we can do is have bare ground exposed to the elements, a phenomena rarely found in nature. Multifunctional landscapes that integrate trees, shrubs, plants and animals can rebuild soils, enhance biodiversity, and improve livelihood strategies for our agricultural communities. We will discuss the value of integrating trees, perennial edibles, and animals into our farms and gardens (and surrounding landscapes) and the ways this in turn enhances soil biological health and healthy agroecosystems as a whole.

Our March 13th Speakers:  

Tatiana Schreiber lives in Westminster West where she grows and sells organic seedlings at her tiny farmstead, Sowing Peace Farm. She earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from Antioch New England, doing research concerning the connection between biodiversity and cultural diversity among coffee and cacao farmers in southern Mexico, which inspired her interest in agroforestry systems. She currently teaches ecological agriculture courses at Keene State College in New Hampshire and conducts social research on urine diversion and re-use at Rich Earth Institute in Brattleboro. Other current endeavors include development of dual-use solar and agricultural projects, and service on the Westminster Conservation Commission.


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.


Lisa McCrory is a consultant, teacher, activist, organic farmer, and co-owner of Earthwise Farm and Forest, a certified organic, draft-animal powered homestead farm located in Bethel, Vermont. the mission of their farm is to grow healthy, vibrant, food and forest products for their customers and themselves by following the principles of Holistic Management and applying Regenerative, Biodynamic, and Organic practices to the land and livestock that they steward.


March 20 Connection Through Stories

Cheryl Herrick, UVM Extension Pasture program, Who Farms Project,

Katherine Oaks, Vermont Law School

Maddie Kempner, Policy Advisor, Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-VT)

Sha’an Mouliert, I Am Vermont Too

When people are left out of shaping the solutions to the problems they face, the solutions fail.

To make a new food system we need everyone at the table, listening and communicating.

How can we build a food system that creates options for people, and doesn’t leave anyone out, in order to ensure real and lasting sustainability? Stories can amplify the voices of people all across the food system. Let us listen.​


Our March 20th Speakers

Cheryl Herrick is the Communications Specialist and co-coordinator for the Who Farms? project for the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and a student in the UVM Rubenstein School master’s program in Leadership for Sustainability.   She has a deep love of storytelling that she’s been able to explore through a couple of decades of non-profit fundraising and communications, freelance writing, marketing and social media. She lives, cooks, gardens and writes in Burlington with her two sons.


Maddie Kempner is the Membership & Advocacy Coordinator for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT). After working and playing out West for a few years, Maddie is excited to be back in her home state and joining the wonderful team here at NOFA-VT. She has worked in various capacities in outdoor education, agriculture, and food policy in Utah, Colorado, and here in Vermont. In 2014, Maddie worked with the VT Right to Know GMOs Coalition to help pass Vermont’s GMO labeling law. She is passionate about advocating for positive food and farm policy change and thrilled to be doing so here at NOFA-VT. Maddie has a BS in Environmental Studies from UVM and a Master of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School. She lives in Cambridge where she enjoys mountain biking, gardening, and canoeing on the Lamoille River.

Sha'an Mouliert is a consultant, community organizer, educator, and artist. She is co-coordinator for the Who Farms? project for the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture and co-coordinator for I AM VERMONT TOO a photo/story project of The Root Social Justice Center.   Sha’an was a core trainer for Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory at the Brecht Forum in New York City, For decades, she has facilitated trainings and has led conflict resolution, human potential, creative arts, racial justice and community organizing workshops nationally and internationally.  She is a grandmother and has lived and worked in the Northeast Kingdom for over 35 years where she shares her love and joy for gardening with her young neighbors.

Katherine Oaks, an attorney and lifelong advocate for ecological justice, directs the Healthy Soils Law Project and Soil Stories Survey at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment. Ecological systems thinking shaped Katherine’s work as a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia, and drives her work as Energy Fellow for the Farm and Energy Initiative at VLS.  Katherine grounds her research in a civics of environmental stewardship, social justice, and reclamation of democracy through grassroots-informed policy design.


March 27 Building the Soil From the Ground Up

Cat Buxton, Grow More Waste Less

Juan Alvez, UVM Pasture Program

Jess Rubin, MycoEvolve & VT Myconode

The Soil Food Web was discovered in the 1990's, shifting our collective understanding of the interplay between plants and organisms while reshaping the way we think about and manage our landscapes.  Capturing sunshine with living plants and creating soil from organics waste will help us to feed the billions of soil organisms that weave our landscapes together, minimizing flood and drought effects, and creating habitat for new people and species who will be displaced by climate change.

Our March 27th Speakers:  

Juan P. Alvez  Joined the UVM, Center for Sustainable Agriculture in 2012. He obtained his BS in Agronomy in Brazil, his MS in Plant and Soil Science with Bill Murphy and his Ph.D. in Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. He has experienced interdisciplinary research in grazing management, agroecology, ecosystems goods and services, land use change, conservation policy, green markets, and ecological economics. His work addresses  environmental, social and productive aspects of grazing farms, with emphasis on dairy management, ecosystems conservation and sustainable livelihoods in Vermont and New England. In his study, grasslands play a key role because they are complex ecosystems that sustain a vast array of functions and processes delivering benefits for supporting healthy environments and communities.


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 leads Land Listener workshops with the Soil Carbon Coalition, and organizes the Upper Valley Apple Corps and a host of other projects including the Vermont Healthy Soils 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


Jess Rubin is an earth tender dedicated to ecological restoration for watershed conservation. She co founded and facilitates VT Myconode, a fungal literacy and earth repair collective which hosts workshops and an active lab. As a nature mentor, permaculture practitioner, ecological educator, and scientific researcher, she notes fungi’s often overlooked role in nurturing microbial diversity and habitat vitality. With a BA in Ecological Literature from Cornell University, an MS in Environmental Studies with VT science teaching licenses from Antioch NE, and various herbal, nature awareness, outdoor leadership, and permaculture design/teaching certificates, she researches myco and phytoremediation  green infrastructure practices for habitat rehabilitation. Facilitating partnerships between fungi and plants can support towns, farms, and neighborhoods to transmute terrestrial toxins for watershed health. Learn more at


April 10 Social Mycelium: the Fiber of Community Resilience

Mindy Blank, Community Resilience Organizations

Simon Dennis, Center for Transformational Practice

Chris Wood, Building A Local Economy

Henry Harris, Center for Grassroots Organizing

Mycelium are a dynamic underground network of fungi that enable biological nutrient cycling. The social mycelium mimics this collective intelligence on a human scale with symbiotic interconnections that support the whole. What does it mean to build resilient communities and who will do the work?

Our April 10th Speakers:

Mindy Blank is the Executive Director of Community Resilience Organizations - a nonprofit dedicated to helping communities enhance resilience for challenges that lie ahead, whether climate change impacts, social disconnects, or economic disruptions. The approach is focused on building civic engagement and healthier, happier communities that address vulnerabilities in the climate change era by becoming increasingly “community sufficient” - meeting their needs locally and sustainably. Mindy teaches a range of environmental courses at Green Mountain College and is the Co-Chair of the Academic Resilience Collaborative of the Resilient Vermont Network. She holds a Masters of Environmental Law and Policy degree from Vermont Law School and formerly worked as an Energy Analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris where she developed road mapping processes that accelerate deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and smart grid technologies. She also approaches climate change and social change through herbalism, working closely with plant medicines and teachers in Vermont, North Carolina, Peru, and Panama.

Simon Dennis serves as the founding director of the Center for Transformational Practice, a small residential community and nonprofit organization that supports its region’s transition to a just and sustainable culture by advancing inner transformation as the foundation for positive social change. Prior to this, he spent ten years co-founding and co-directing COVER Home Repair and Reuse Program. In 2012, Simon was elected to the Hartford Selectboard where he currently serves as Chair.  In these and other community initiatives, his work has endeavored to search out the root causes of the current state of emergency within human consciousness.

Henry Harris grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. He and his amazing 14 year old daughter live at the new center in Marshfield, VT. Henry has worked in social movements and in building trades around the US.  Most of his volunteer work has been in mass actions or direct action movements, though he has also worked for food sovereignty, cooperative economics, and racial justice. Henry is involved in training for racial- and climate-justice actions for youth and adults, and currently works with the Vermont Climate Union, the VT National Lawyers Guild, the Switchboard Trainers Network and an arts & action collective called the Make.

Chris Wood is the founder and Executive Director of BALE (Building A Local Economy), based in South Royalton, Vermont.  In addition to serving on numerous community boards and organizations, Chris has founded or co-founded many nonprofit Vermont organizations over the last 35 years including Rural Vermont, Vermont Community Loan Fund, Rainbow Coalition of Vermont, Vermont Resource Cooperative, Vermont Community Reinvestment Association, Onion River Arts Council, Vermont Committee on Southern Africa, Focus on Film, Vermont Jobs with Justice, Vermont Consumers’ Campaign for Health, Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance, Green Mountain Film Festival, Studio Place Arts, Royalton Community Radio, and Gross National Happiness USA. His strength is networking, collaboration, and working with diverse groups/participants to strengthen community goals. His only recognizable relaxation is hiking, trailing behind his wife Sylvie on skis, and happily taking control in the kitchen (he also co-founded the quirky and beloved Horn of the Moon Café in Montpelier over 40 years ago).


April 24 A Soil Sponge to Cool the Planet

Henry Swayze, Former grazer, cool the planet NOW activist, Greenzine radio WFVR-lp

Jan Lambert, Author of Water, Land and Climate: The Critical Connection, Co- founder of Voices of Water for Climate; Editor of The Valley Water Journal (online newsletter)

Judith D. Schwartz, Author of Water In Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World and Cows Save the Planet and Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth

Water is life! Living soil is the greatest storage tank and filter of fresh water, but it’s being depleted globally, resulting in water scarcity, desertification, flooding, droughts, declining water quality and poor public health. With good land stewardship and proper planning, we can harvest water and sink it into the ground, restoring water cycles, improving ecosystem health and cooling the planet simultaneously. There is enough cooling available to actually cool faster than greenhouse gasses are now warming.

Our April 24th Speakers

Judith D. Schwartz, Bennington, Vermont, is a longtime journalist and author whose recent work focuses on nature-based solutions to global challenges. She speaks on this theme in venues throughout the world. She is currently writing a book on the global ecosystem restoration movement. Basic info at:


Henry Swayze, Tunbridge Vermont, has been paying attention to climate change since 1967 and shortly after in sustainable farming.  He and his 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 everywhere.  Email:

Jan Lambert, of Charlestown NH, has been writing and presenting about water and climate connections since 2014, when she first learned of the importance of the renewing natural water cycles as a way to moderating  global warming and climate change. She is particularly influenced by the work of Michal Kravcik of Slovakia, and co-authored a Global Action Plan with him, which is included in her book, Water, Land and Climate:The Critical Connection(2015). In 2017 she co-founded Voices of Water for Climate ( Her newest offering this year is an online newsletter, The Valley Water Journal, published by The Valley Green Journal, which she co-founded in 2012 (both available at Email:

Karl Thidemann, co-founder of Soil4Climate, serves on the board of the Somerville Community Growing Center, an urban oasis offering artistic, cultural, and educational programs in a regenerative-organic garden setting. Karl has experience in the environmental laboratory field, and he marketed electric vehicles for the company that began as MIT’s Solar Car Team. His focus is climate communications including poetry. Karl holds a B.A. in chemistry from Wesleyan University. Email:


May 8 - Growing Action!

- A followup event putting what we have

learned into action!


Join us on May 8 for a facilitated community discussion:

Growing Grassroots Agency and Action for the

Climate Emergency. We'll take all that we have learned

from the six Soil Series events including community

comments and questions, and we'll work together to

guide community discussion and create an ongoing

action plan to continue building the social mycelium

and strengthen our community response, addressing

adaptation and transformation for the climate emergency.










Series organizer: Cat Buxton. Email Cat at

May 8 Agency and Action for the Climate
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