More than something to hold the plants up: soil as a non-human ally in the struggle for food justice
Ferguson, H & The Northern Rivers Landed Histories Research Group 2015, 'More than something to hold the plants up: soil as a non-human ally in the struggle for food justice', Local Environment.
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Healthy, fertile soil is the material of life itself. It is chemically, biologically and physically structured to support the growth of healthy, environmentally sustainable foods. Recent years have seen a resurgent focus on soil science in Australia. Yet, the influence of soil in the politics of food systems has received comparatively little attention, despite long awareness in farming communities of how the natural world shapes farmers’ choices and possible actions. Drawing on work with SoilCare, a Landcare group with a focus on soil processes in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, this paper explores the usefulness of approaching soil as an actor in food systems. Taking a participatory approach, and drawing on recent work on new materialisms, we argue that soil can be understood as an important ally in the struggle to shape a just and sustainable food system. While this work is intended to test this idea through a modest local case study, it may point to important new avenues for investigation in food politics.