Regula Gutierrez, a piano teacher at Kantonsschule Uster in Zurich, and her partner Branko Previti, a retired organic farmer, tried Biovision’s Sounding Soil project – and for the first time in their lives, they heard the sound of the soil in their garden.
Laura Angelstorf, Editor at Biovision
Ms Gutierrez, how did you come to be listening to your soil?
Regula Gutierrez: A good ten years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to buy a piece of land in Schottikon, in the Canton of Zurich, with a large, unfertilised meadow. Branko, my partner, laid out some beds and I began to grow medicinal plants. Then, when I read a newspaper report about the Sounding Soil project, it immediately sparked my curiosity. I got into contact with Biovision, and we were able to listen to our soil very soon afterwards.
What was that like for you?
Regula Gutierrez: It was fascinating to hear so many different sounds. Their intensity depended on their location, and sometimes there was no noise at all. The sounds were particularly loud in the compost heap and the meadow, which we mow as little as possible. On the other hand, there was practically nothing to be heard in the vegetable bed, where the earth is of course often turned over. As far as I’m concerned, these noises confirm that it’s worth working without chemicals in the garden – otherwise there might one day be nothing more to be heard.
Mr Previsic, what does soil mean to you?
Branko Previsic: Most people know very little about soil. If you were to ask a random selection of people off the street about the meaning of humus, many of them would probably talk about the tasty chickpea dip rather than soil quality. Nevertheless, the composition of humus is the most important factor governing our ability to cultivate a garden sustainably and keep it healthy.
What do you do to achieve this in your own garden?
Branko Previsic: I use microorganisms and vegetable charcoal to build up humus – and have been doing so for 30 years. Rather than using insecticides against pests, I make room for the beneficial species. The slowworms and fire salamanders are my special pride and joy. Ever since I created refuges for these animals from wood and roofing tiles, I’ve had no more trouble with snails.
What impressed you about the Sounding Soil awareness project?
Regula Gutierrez: It makes people curious! At last, Sounding Soil provides access to material that isn’t too "preachy", just intriguing and fascinating! This is a positive way to appeal to an extremely broad selection of the population. As a teacher myself, I think it’s important to educate people about this subject in schools too. Many young people have never really visited a farm. In school, much of the information is over-complicated, and it’s at least as important for students to actually experience the subject in nature as it is for them to sit over their books and study. Sounding Soil offers them an opportunity to move their relationship with the soil to a new level.