Episode-828- Steve Solomon on Organic Mythology and Soil Health

Steve Solomon author and founder of SoilAndHealth.org

Steve Solomon founder of SoilAndHealth.org

Steve Solomon writes books on food gardening.  He officially “retired” at the age of 44 after selling the mail order seed business he built up with great success in the 1980s.  Today he makes his home in Australia where he grows the majority of the food they consume.

Steve considers himself a political libertarian and sees his role in life to be “encouraging others food self sufficiency and better health.  He describes his methods and books as “beyond organic” or even as “outside organic”.

Today he joins us to discuss why the quality of our food has been in decline for centuries.  The importance of mineral amendments in not just growing a lot of food or good looking food but growing highly nutritious food.  Why you should definitely do a soil test on the land you are growing on even if you are getting good or even great production and more.

Steve will even explain why although organic food may be free of many toxins it is often no more nutritionally valuable then conventionaly grown produce.  He will even challenge the definition of “heirloom seeds” in a quite convincing manner.

Additional Resources for Today’s Show

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49 Responses to Episode-828- Steve Solomon on Organic Mythology and Soil Health

  1. Learn how to destinguish between the words THEN and
    THAN. “This apple is larger THAN this apple.” When comparing something, use THAN.

    Quit using the word SEEN. “I seen that plane land”.
    Seen and saw.

    Basic stuff

    Ron Hill
    Hanford, Ca.

    • Modern Survival

      If you are that worried about this then you are a lot more concerned about it than I have time to be. Go proof read someone else’s stuff and don’t bother me with such trivial stuff. There is a reason the show is an AUDIO program. If I have a typo in my notes I really don’t care. It is also embarrassing for you that you have a typo in a post correcting another person’s typos.

    • Rlly? Tht’s wht th frst cmmnt is fr ths epsde?

      Ron, plse plse PLEASE focus on, and honor, the information provided in this episode not the spelling mistakes in the summary notes. Steve has a vast amount of growing knowledge and we should feel blessed that he spent time with the TSP community and shared his wisdom and experiences.

      Jack, it was wonderful to hear you use the words “nutrient-density” when discussing gardening. I have been meaning to write you about this topic for a while now. I frequently ask myself, “Why doesn’t Jack ever mention BRIX or nutrient-density when discussing gardening and growing food?” And “then” I saw the title of this episode and found myself smiling the entire time I listened to it.

      Thnk you so mch.
      Compost Junkie Dave

    • HA! Jack is speaking in a dialect and for that dialect is actually absolutely correct. I live in Jacksonville, FL and my guess is that this is where it came from. I don’t speak with that dialect, but some of THE MOST intelligent people I know do.

      Peace brother.

    • InalienableWrights

      You are lucky he did not bite your head off. He must be in a good mood.

    • InalienableWrights

      Ron are you aware that in Jefferson’s time, who IMHO was a very, very intelligent person that there was no such thing as a dictionary and people spelled things in different ways. I guess this made a the founding fathers stupid. Food for thought Ron.

  2. My bad, change that word to DISTINGUISH.

    R

  3. I’m really excited about this podcast. I’ve been a long time fan and user of his “COF”.

  4. Now that thar wuz some interestin stuff. That ol boy certainly sounded lak he new his stuff.

    And kudos to you Jack for your chastisement of the grammar Nazi. I work in themedical field. Everyone of my coworkers holds a post graduate degree, often times multiple post graduate degrees. And ain’t never see’d nary none of em get bent outta shape about the occassional typo.

    We’s all tew busy becoming millionaires.

  5. I almost always love your shows, but this one hits on a subject I have been wondering about since getting into gardening (Thanks to the TSP). Yesterday’s guest was awesome as well. Thanks for all you do to get others on the show to add such amazing diversity. Do you have links for the soil testing firms? Thanks again Jack, oh, and typos are just fine with me, most people are plenty smart enough to figure out what ya mean. I believe that there was some study that found people primarily look at only the first and last couple letters of a word and fill the rest in based on the context of the writing, But enough said… Love the show since I found it a little less than a year ago.

  6. How exciting to hear Mr. Solomon, as I just picked up my bone meal, etc., from the feed store to make COF for the first time!!!

  7. Cant wait to hear him ,My favorite gardening book is gardening when it counts . Reread it every winter

  8. Not to feed the troll, but I am considered by many friends/family to be a grammar nazi. I feel that writing and speaking properly is necessary to effective communication. If you can’t communicate intelligently, your message is lost. However, show notes are not a formal thesis or dissertation, not an instructional booklet – they are NOTES!… don’t be a douchebag!

  9. Lidia Seebeck

    Oh, can I ever believe that excess Mg (possibly also Ca??) can harden a soil. The soil here in Midway is VERY high in Ca and I think Mg and it’s like cement. Now, when I used to be here I did find that animal-manure based compost did help the tilth rather significantly. However, here in Colorado we get about 10-12 inches of precip a year– thus a very low amount of leaching.

    What he says about heirlooms–excepting, of course, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, peas and beans– is very true. We now see Oaxacan Dent corn with altered characteristics due to the presence of modern (in this case, GMO) corn in the region. Just an example of outcrossing degradation in a traditional open-pollinated corn. Also beware– and I am surprised he did not mention this– degradation caused by saving too few members of a variety. “DeCicco” broccoli is an excellent example. The genes in that variety are terribly degraded.

    Landraces– the “every family growing its own varieties”. I started landracing peas in California and that was one heck of a lot of fun– and very productive. It’s an excellent idea, done right. Just be aware, your landraces become useless if you move! I need to pass on my landraces…

  10. This may be a dumb question but is it possible to get minerals into soil by running water over a desired rock of certain mineral qualities or by just crushing them and throwing them in a garden?

  11. Awesome Jack!
    I just came home from work, so I haven’t listened yet.
    But Mr.Solomon’s “Gardening When it Counts” is one of my favorites books, and is a frequent reference for me. It’s a Must Have if you plan on growing your own food, imho.

    I’ve been using his COF for a couple of years with a good bit of success.

    Thank you and Mr. Solomon. I look forward to this episode immensely!

  12. Very interesting guest. I hope you have him on again when you have your soil tested. Mr. Solomon makes me question how nutrious the food is that I feed my family.

  13. I started out this morning thinking this guy has lost his marbles! He is way of topic, he is down in Australia, etc. Now I cannot wait to get your book! from the library Sir! I have bookmarked your website to sir Thank you for what you have done for gardening.
    Jack please pull that guys listener spot.

  14. Pingback: www.nourishyourfreedom.com

  15. Jack – Really enjoyed this show, and gave us a lot to think about. What I’d like to ask:

    If/when you follow-up with a soils test and another conversation with the guy, can you do a follow-up show, possibly solo (as opposed to another interview show) as far as your thoughts on his methods?

    A lot of what he said represents a major paradigm shift in the way I’m gardening. I am certainly using the samoa method. My native soil, desert alkaline sandy soil in El Paso, TX is virtually devoid of organic material. I assumed if I just keep adding more shit to the soil, it would naturally develop better tilth and assumed the fertility would increase. Maybe that’s not exactly right?

    Thanks for your thoughts on the point/counterpoint.

    • Hey Tim,

      If you would like to learn more about the methodology that Steve discussed, head over to Acres USA and order the following CD by Dr. Arden Anderson – The Consumer Rules – Food Nutrient Density, Taste, and Shelf Life. It’ll rock your world (in a good way). I listened to it in 2007 and it forever changed how I have looked at food and farming.

      Paradigm shifts are a good thing…it means YOU’RE growing. :-)

      If we all started to use a refractometer to buy our food, we would force growers to change their practices, grocers to change their buying habits, and we would increase the health of our nation. Sounds like a win win win to me.

  16. Lisapaintergirl

    Question for Steve:
    After your teeth were becoming loose and fingernails soft, what did you find was missing or wrong with that soil?

    • I have the same question, and would also like to ask if you were just eating the vegetables or were you eating meats and dairy as well?

  17. I really enjoyed the interview. Back in my teens my Grandmother turned me on to gardening, homesteading, and … Organic Gardening and Rodale. It was a wonderful experience and I was thoroughly converted to “organic”. Like many on this site, I ‘stopped worrying and learned to love the mulch’! Even though you Mr. Solomon had/has personal differences with Rodale, they are two great rebels in my opinion – pushing against conventional wisdom and getting us to look past the official story. So I don’t regret being a Rodale follower, but I definitely look forward to learning from this new mentor Mr. Solomon. Thank you for bringing him to my attention. But I will still love the smell of mulch in the morning.

  18. I understand and will do the testing. Will do the Logan Labs as suggested (as well as my Co-op and Ag Extension as they are cheap and should serve as a great cross) But the part I kept waiting for with baited breath and just did not hear is the interpretation of the results. Who / what / where do I go with the test report and a bunch of numbers and get told, do “THIS” to make it right.

    I know my Co-op and Extension tests will tell me NPK and Lime, but not what to do “organically” and looking at http://www.loganlabs.com they offer consulting services but is that who (or whom for the grammar police) he recommends?

    Love the show, keep it up.

  19. Nice to hear Steve’s spoken voice ‘live’ – I’ve been a long time ‘lurker’ on his web-site ‘soilandhealth’. I can now put a voice to his written posts – nice.

    FYI, I 100%, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, recommend Michael Astera’s book ‘The Ideal Soil’ (Compost Junkie posted a link in earlier post above) as it is for the layman and VERY clear.!!

    Nice work.!

  20. Great show! What really got me was the story about the fitness level of young men in 1940 in Missouri. I live right in the middle of Missouri and hearing that 300 out of a thousand were unfit was concerning. Certainly some were unfit for reasons unrelated to food but we underestimate the role of nutrition in health. What your mother was eating for years before she gave birth to you probably makes more difference to your health than what you’ve been eating for the past few years too. This would also relate to how would you test nutrient density in the resulting vegetables? For example, how would I test the health of a head of lettuce from my garden as compared to one from an organic farm or even aquaponics. I guess you can’t go by looks alone. I’d like to hear more about that subject.

    • Hey Greg,

      Search the terms “refractometer” and “nutrient-density”. For less than $100, you can get a small hand-held device that will allow you to test the nutrient content of your foods until the cows come home.

  21. Thanks Compost Junkie, those two sites look good, but I do not see the connection to Mr. Solomon, or am I just missing it? Will listen through the show again tomorrow.

    Thanks again.

    • Hey Alan,

      Steve mentions Michael Astera in the early portions of the podcast I think. Michael was the one who pointed out the Magnesium issue with Steve’s soils.

      I suggest going to Steve himself for the answers to your questions, however, if he’s too busy, Michael and I.A.Ls will run very similar tests for you and provide similar types of recommendations. Essentially, you want someone who is going to provide soil test recommendations based on growing nutrient dense foods, not the typical BS that most extension services provide. The soil nutrient levels that you’re trying to obtain for growing nutrient dense foods are quite different than those levels most extension services are trying to move your soils towards.

      Essentially, Steve approaches soil health from a particular school of thought. I recommended several people who also approach soil health from that perspective.

      Does that make more sense?

  22. Backwoods Engineer

    To me, this was a VERY frustrating episode.

    It seems like the guest was more interested in talking smack about survivalists, homesteaders, organic gardeners, dead guys we’ve never heard of, and even trying to talk down to Jack a few times, than give any cogent answers to Jack’s persistent and patient questioning.

    Even when asked THREE different times what to do about gardens that were deficient of certain minerals, Mr. Solomon repeatedly went back to slandering those who used dolomite lime in magnesium-rich soil, or people who used lots of compost (the “Shit Method of Agriculture: SAMOA” – really?), or those who keep seed banks, or just homesteaders in general.

    Good gosh, Mr. Solomon, you have all this knowledge, why don’t you just condescend to us peasant homesteaders from your fief in Tasmania and tell us WHAT THE HELL MINERALS TO PUT ON OUR GARDENS?

    Sorry. Compare the forthcoming style of Steven Harris to Mr. Solomon, and perhaps you’ll see why I’m so frustrated.

    Jack, please find another guest to talk to us about mineral supplements for soil. Someone who will tell us how things work, and not berate us as “SAMOA” practitioners.

  23. Backwoods Engineer

    And by the way…

    Mr. Solomon exaggerates a bit: you don’t have to have a perfect mineral balance in soil to grow some food. Otherwise, how to you explain aquaponics?

    • Hey Backwoods,

      I think you misunderstood what Steve was saying…

      SAMOA has it’s place in the garden/field, however, when you shift you’re goal to producing nutrient-dense food, you have to take SAMOA one step further and start looking at balancing soil mineral content.

      That’s all. I didn’t find him offensive at all. Different than some of Jack’s other guests? Yes. Offensive? No. The fact is…Steve is a freakin’ homesteader and has been for more years than most of us, so I can’t imagine he was talking down to us “peasants”. In the end, who gives a shit what other people think about survivalism, homesteading, etc. If that type of lifestyle makes you happy, than that’s all that matters.

  24. Ok, went back and listened again, and Michael Astera is who did the soil analysis for Mr. Solomon. So think I will just shift my emphasis to Mr. Astera, his book, and his lab and results.

    Thanks for pointing it out to me, I sure did not catch it first pass.

  25. I think Steve stumbled on something that I’ve long suspected, and I don’t think he realized it. I’ve always been told that weeds mine and surface the deficient minerals that a soil lacks. In the town Steve went to where the food was so great, the fertility was not based on dumping rocks and dust but rather on tilling a season’s weeds into the soil. I’m sure the silt getting dropped into the region helped, but the point is the fertility was local self manifesting weeds used as green manure. Jack seems to do a lot of the same using local weeds, trees etc. Older farmers seemed to do similar things where they would “rest” a field for a season. Of course the field wasn’t really resting… Weeds grew that were later tilled back into the ground.

    Also to Steve’s mulch point, I have had some difficulty with mulch and seedlings, but the solution has been to clear the mulch back enough not to contact the seedling until it wasn’t a seedling anymore. So far that has made a big difference.

  26. Great interview! I’m getting my soil tested immediately and I’ll probably get that ebook The Ideal Soil. I bit pricey, so I’ll have to wait until payday, but pretty sure it’s worth it. Anyway, awesome information. Thanks for doing what you do.

  27. I can’t catch all of the shows, but BOY AM I GLAD that I caught this one. Wow! I feel like this show, Permies.com and Agroinnovations is letting me in on some of the world’s lost secrets!

    Jack, this episode has many little nuggets of amazingness that put it up there for some of the most valuable information ever. It’s these moments that, hopefully, are small part of what saves mankind.

    Joel Salatin had me goin’ too!

    Keep up the great work!

  28. I enjoyed the show and I don’t mind that Steve rambled. That’s the prerogative of an older man. I learned a bit, plus I’m going to pursue his recommendations on soil testing. One thing I am a little curious about, though, is his statement that soil in western Oregon sucks and that’s why the Indians didn’t garden. Then what explains the Willamette valley being the destination of the Oregon Trail and thousands of pioneers seeking a better life there, due to supposed lush soil and excellent conditions for agriculture? It’s either one or the other, but not both.

  29. What was the site or place that Steve mentioned to get my soil tested.

  30. Really enjoyed the show. Could you post a link to the soil testing firm he recommended?

    Thanks Jack, I really appreciate what your do.

  31. Jack,
    I have listened to every one of your podcasts and I can say that this is in the top 5. I know you apologized at the beginning of the podcast for the apparent rabbit trails but the stories almost always led back to the main theme: Proper mineralization of soil is key to hum and and animal health.

    I really appreciated this show.