Soil Classes

Current soil science shows that healthy, nutrient-rich soil is a living matrix whose biological members (bacteria, fungi, roots, worms, etc.) are at least as important, if not more so, than the sand, silt and clay. In this understanding, carbon becomes the most essential fertilizer, ahead of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other minerals.

Our soil classes are designed to help you take this new understanding of soils and integrate it into practical steps that can enrich your garden, farm, or ranch while building a landscape that catches and infiltrates rainfall and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.

We prefer to offer soil classes live and in person – rather than online – as this offers more opportunity to engage all of your senses. The classes we offer in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area are listed below.

If you have a group or organization that would like an interactive, fun, and stimulating soil education, we are happy to travel to your location to share our excitement, understanding, and knowledge about all things soil.

We offer half day, full day and 2-day workshops, depending on your needs. Contact us to inquire. The topics we can cover are included in the class listings below.

In Spring 2019 in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area we are creating these events and programs:

  • The Land Listeners Workshop with Peter Donovan of the Soil Carbon Coalition on March 23rd, 2019. 9am – 4:30pm. (Details below.)
  • The Medicine Garden Program in collaboration with Acorn School of Herbal Medicine. Starts March 29th, 2019.
  • The Regenerative Round Table on April 6th at the Banner Community Guild. 10am – 3pm. (Details below.)

The Land Listeners Workshop

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

What is the role of soil and carbon in creating healthy landscapes and fire resilience? 

This workshop is a participatory, daylong workshop aimed at creating “communities of practice”— groups of closely-connected people with shared goals for regenerating landscapes and improving watershed function who share skills and knowledge for learning together.

This workshop will cover:

  • Why the soil carbon sponge is the basic infrastructure that makes life on land possible.
  • Connections between plants, soil microbiology, and carbon and water flows.
  • The impact of those relationships on local economies, watershed function, weather, and climate resilience.
  • Soil health principles 
  • Hands-on skills for mapping and monitoring changes over time in soil health and watershed function.
  • Group facilitation skills to maximize participation, connection, and learning.

We are organizing this workshop, which is taught by Peter Donovan founder of the Soil Carbon Coalition. Peter has spent the last decade studying innovative soil practices that work. In the 1990s he studied holistic management with Allan Savory, low-stress livestock handling with Bud Williams, and consensus building with Jeff Goebel and Bob Chadwick.

Time: 9 am to 4:30 pm, March 23rd.

Cost: $80. (A few scholarships may be available.)

Location: Laughing Oak Farm, Rough and Ready, CA

Space is limited. Please contact me here to register.

The Medicine Garden Program with Acorn School of Herbal Medicine

Starts Friday, March 29th, 2019

Learn soil care, garden growing, and medicine making skills in one comprehensive program! Full details here.

Regenerative Round Table

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

This is a day of information-sharing and discussion focused on exploring the transformative possibilities of regenerative land management in Nevada County. Participation in The Land Listeners Workshop is highly recommended (but not required!) as a precursor to this event.

Whether you are a land owner, farmer, rancher, gardener, homesteader, or land steward – your land management choices impact the carbon and water cycles of our region. Together we can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes to regenerate the health of our soils, grasslands, forests, rivers, and community.

Facilitated by Renee and Tom Wade, Certified Permaculture Designers and Living Soil Consultants.

Round Table Schedule:

Morning Session – 10 am to 12 pm

  • Build Your Soil Sponge: Infiltrate Water and Sequester Carbon
  • Will include 30 minutes of presentations by Tom and Renee Wade, followed by small group and larger group discussions.

Lunch – noon to 1 pm, with informal networking and discussion time. (Lunch will be available for purchase or bring your own.)

Afternoon Session – 1 to 3pm

  • Using Animals to Reduce Fire Danger
  • 30 minutes of presentations by Tom Wade and Chris Dudine followed by group discussions.

3:30 – 4:30 Debriefing and Planning for next Round Table (open to anyone interested).

Attend for one session or all day, cost is the same: $12 Banner Guild Members or $15 Non-Members. $8 additional for Lunch. All fees go to support the Banner Guild.

Location: Banner Community Guild, 12629 McCourtney Road, Grass Valley.


Fall 2018 Classes: Growing Living Soils!

It’s downhill now to the Fall Equinox, the ideal time to get your winter soil growing strategies into action. To help you decide what will work for your garden, we are offering our final soil classes of the year on September 8th and October 13th.

Topics we will cover include:

  • Cover crops and mulching – how these differ in their effects on your soil allies: the fungi, bacteria, and all the other members of the soil’s web of life.
  • How to put your garden to bed in ways that maximize carbon sequestration.
  • How to make a cover crop cocktail (without any alcohol!)
  • Using soil to catch the winter rains.
  • How to time your soil building activities with the changing season.

Soil is the key to a healthy and happy world, Soil organisms have been transforming our planet into a paradise for millions of years. It’s time for us all to give those microbes some help! Come and be inspired!


Spring 2018 Classes: Growing Great Soils!

Are you ready to grow the most nutrient-dense foods possible? Would you like to learn about the simplest and most effective carbon sequestering strategy available to all humankind?

Then join us for Growing Great Soils! This is a 3 class series on Saturdays March 10, April 14, and May 12, 2018. Take any one, two, or all three. Classes start at 10am and end at Noon.

Each class will focus on soil-enhancing activities appropriate to that month, sending you home with ideas and insights that you can immediately apply. Each class will also include at least 30 minutes devoted to answering questions, so we can be sure we are giving you help where you need it most.

We can save you time, money, and energy by helping you understand what techniques to apply in your garden, when to use them, and what fertilizers and amendments to buy. (Hint: almost none!)

Soil is the key to a healthy and happy world, but it’s not about the soil chemistry – it’s about the soil biology. Soil biology has been transforming our planet into a paradise for millions of years. It’s time for us all to give those microbes some help!

All 3 classes will cover:

  • The critical importance of soil organic matter and how to build it in your soil.
  • Enhancing the liquid carbon pathway for deep carbon sequestration.
  • Using your weeds to build soil health.
  • How to grow soil that creates “effective rain”.

All classes will be demonstration-oriented, filled with well-timed strategies, and grounded in key principles so you can think on your feet.

Soil Building for Gardeners and Climate Activists

We can improve our own health and well-being while sequestering excess atmospheric carbon by learning to take care of the soil beneath our feet. This is not just a project for farmers; it a project for everyone.

This 2-day class series is for those who want to understand what it takes to create healthy soil for both plants and planet. Human health, prosperity, and resilience are dependent on both high quality foods and on a stable and reliable climate to grow the plants that are the source of that food. A living, carbon-rich soil creates both of these.

October 21, 2017 Workshop Topics:

  • The Bio-Cycles of Healthy Soil, part 1: This is a process-based look at soil chemistry and soil structure. We will examine the relationship of soil microbes to the minerals and chemistry of the soil with an emphasis on how they contribute to creating soil aggregates – the key to moving carbon and water into the soil.
  • Plants as Soil Builders: Plants are much more active in choosing and working with microbial partners and in foraging for nutrients and water than is widely realized. We will be taking a close look at what goes on in the root zone – the rhizosphere – and how that contributes to a healthy soil.
  • Key Techniques to Building Healthy Soil: The focus will be on mulch and compost, two of the most effective techniques for supporting soil biology. We will discuss details of materials to use, pitfalls to avoid, and how to grow successfully using these techniques.

November 4, 2017 Workshop Topics:

  • The Bio-Cycles of Healthy Soil, part 2: Continuing our process-based look at the movement of nutrients in the soil, we will dive deeper into the soil food web – that web of life that creates a rich and living soil that sequesters carbon, nitrogen, and other minerals. We will explore the role of earthworms, gophers, and other soil creatures. in creating healthy nutrient and water cycles.
  • Carbon, Energy, and Water: While much soil information continues to emphasize the role of nitrogen, carbon is truly the king of living soil. We will learn about the Soil Regeneration Cascade, exploring how the activity of plants, soil microbes, and larger soil creatures combine to create a synergistic flow that stores carbon and water in the soil where we need them while growing plants that offer us the peak of nutrition.
  • Beginning Biodynamics: Biodynamics is an agricultural system that takes up where organics leaves off. We will take an introductory look at cosmic and atmospheric growth factors on plants and animals, silica-clay-lime interactions, biodynamic composting preparations, biodynamic field sprays, and the farm as organism.

You will also receive a weekly email between the two workshops to fill out the information we cover in class, to keep you stoked, and to provide links to web resources. In addition, workshop participants can opt to receive an on-site consultation with either Tom or Renee Wade at your garden location and get $20 off the regular consultation fee.

Both workshops taught by Tom and Renee Wade, certified Permaculture Designers along with guest teacher and Biodynamic farmer Marney Blair of Fulcrum Farm.

Tom and Renee are both certified Permaculture Design consultants, farmers, and landscapers with over 40 years combined experience. Renee is also the author of The Living Earth Handbook: Creating Sustainability from the Inside Out. She holds a degree in Ecological Agriculture. Tom is a talented storyteller with an amazing capacity to bring the details to life. Marney is a biodynamic farmer and compost expert. She is also active with the Slow Food movement.

The Real Dirt on Soil Workshop

Discover the secret to healthy soil: biology and carbon! Soil science is in a huge growth phase, similar to that being experienced by modern medicine as both discover this new “organ” within our bodies and planet, created by the beneficial microbes that live in collaboration with us.

Soil that is rich in biology will create its own balanced nutrient-dense chemistry, creating super healthy plants that are not bothered by insects or disease. Such soil is also essential to re-establishing a healthy carbon cycle and mitigating climate change. Knowing how to kickstart and support your soil’s microorganisms is the key, and autumn is an ideal time to start this process.

In this 3-hour workshop you will learn:

  • Which common garden practices have the biggest effect on your soil’s health.
  • How soil health translates directly into plant health and your health.
  • The common myths about nitrogen that make for pest-attracting plants.
  • How to create a rich soil that cycles nutrients sustainably.
  • How to create humus-rich compost that feeds the soil life needed to support robust plants.
  • Why healthy soil is also drought resistant.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Taught by Tom and Renee Wade, innovative farmers and permaculture designers with over 45 years combined experience building healthy soil.