About Soil Terroir

Terroir (/tɛˈrwɑːr/, French: [tɛʁwaʁ]; from terre, “land”)

French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop’s specific growth habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir also refers to this character.[1]

from the Wikipedia article “Terroir”, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Biological Microscopy Assessments

Hello, my name is Hilary and I’ve been training with the Soil Food Web School started by Elaine Ingham, who is a world renowned expert in soil health.  I am a certified lab technician through her Soil Food Web School.  I use a microscope to assess the biological soil composition.  I can compare your existing conditions to levels in a highly functioning soil for the successional stage you are working in (the type of plants you are growing). 

Years ago when I was looking for work in the ‘real world’ I noticed that many entry level jobs consisted of spraying non-native plants with herbicides and this did not agree with me.

I had just graduated with a degree in Wild-Land and Range Science and knew about how plants and animals drive the natural succession of our environment by cycling nutrients with the sun’s energy, air and water, and soil.  I also knew that our development and conventional ag was driving ecosystems to produce more ‘weeds’, or early successional species.  

The mainstream solution was, and still is, to use herbicides/pesticides/fertilizers because people think that is the only way to deal with these issues.  But this is based on a heavily influenced chemical and heavy tilling culture that exploded in the industrial age as well as undeveloped knowledge in microbiology and of the microscope.  

I knew that we needed to change the way we developed and farmed, but even with all the native plant restoration work I did, I still wasn’t finding the solutions that made sense. I explored and found permaculture.

However, I pursued careers using my degree qualifications and landed various biological consulting jobs for assessing environmental impacts.  I then had a family and studied education.  Because of the strong value that I held, I finally heard about Elaine Ingham through a podcast about restoring our hydrological cycles. 

 I was so relieved to know that this was happening because it deepened my understanding that biology drives systems and not the inorganic chemicals, which were actually developed for war in the first place. 

In the SFW training, I learned that an important breakthrough in the last 20 years in soil science is the use of the microscope to assess the soil health instead of using petri dishes.  Further, it is by doing a technique called shadowing microscopy that we are now able to see these microorganisms and how they function

The petri dishes basically grow diseases and pathogens, and do not show diversity of what is there.  The shadowing technique shines the light at an angle which casts an outline around the organisms so we can see a contrast between them and the slide sample.  

The nature of soil provides a home for water, air, plants, and animals.  Soil is literally our foundation for life, giving us everything.  We have come to know that when the soil is destroyed so is a civilization.  Our responsibility is to reciprocate soil’s offerings so we can respectfully transcend our limitless creativity and experience.  With this practice, I dedicate myself to bear the light, and the shadow, of our inherent biology and intuitive connection.

Additional Experience

  • Native Landscape Restoration
  • Range-Tech Tahoe National Forest
  • Environmental Resources Planner and Regulator
  • Edible Gardening
  • SFW Bio-Complete Techniques of Composting, Extracts and Teas

Credentials & Certificates

  • SFW Lab-Tech
  • B.S. Range Science, Chico State
  • Permaculture Design Course Certification
  • Wetland Delineation Certification