The Soil Sponge Workshop: Summer 2024

How the biological workforce provides resilience to floods, drought, heatwaves and wildfires (and how you can help). Mondays, July 22nd to August 19th

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Join us for this participatory online workshop on whole-systems landscape function,
with Didi Pershouse

Learn how thinking in systems can dramatically reduce the risk and impact of extreme weather events, rebuild local economies, and restore health and immunity for all living working with (not against) nature's own processes.

5-week course on Mondays: July 22nd to August 19th, 2024

There will be two options of session times, to allow for people to participate in different time zones. Use the time zone converter to find the time in your region, and pick the session that works best for you.

Session A: Mondays, 10:00 am – 12:30 pm, EDT (UTC-4). Use this Time Zone Converter to see in your zone

OR Session B: Mondays, 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm EDT (UTC-4) Use this Time Zone Converter to see in your zone

Get ready! This workshop on whole systems landscape function will give you an entirely new view of water, soils, climate, and economics. You will meet people from around the world, and come away feeling inspired by a new understanding of how we can address many of our major challenges through simple changes in land management.

You will learn why the living matrix of a healthy “soil sponge” is fundamental infrastructure that makes life on land possible, and how the work of other species creates our climate and weather, and underlies all successful economies.
If you sign up, be prepared to get into deep discussions with other participants, and to reflect on your own lived experience. The class includes small group discussions, large group discussions, journaling, the use of living systems frameworks, as well as informational lectures with slides.

Completion of the course also serves to fulfill the prerequisite requirement for those who want to join the international Land and Leadership Development Community.

All sessions will be recorded, for those who need to miss a session.

The sessions will be held on the Zoom platform. You will be sent relevant links. (To have access to the recordings, materials, and reminders, you will also need to complete some questionnaires the Soil Food Web School as they are providing the platform for this course.)

PLEASE NOTE: This course will fill up quickly, as it is being offered as a collaboration between the Land and Leadership Initiative and the Soil Food Web School. We likely have room for about 30 students through this Land and Leadership Initiative portal.

Scroll down to enroll!

“This will be an incredible course. Didi Pershouse is one of the best educators around.”
Nicole Masters, Integrity Soils

Read comments from recent participants:

The regeneration of a deep soil sponge can provide interrelated benefits such as:

  • Healthier crops, animals, and people
  • Food and water security
  • Cooler regional temperatures
  • Reduction of wildfire risk
  • Increased resilience to flood and drought
  • Reduced erosion, dredging, and road repairs
  • Prevention of algae blooms and dead zones
  • Cleaner air and water
  • Reduced conflicts over resources
  • Thriving local economies
  • Putting atmospheric carbon to work creating landscapes that support all of life.
This isn't about using heavy equipment to move soil around. This isn't about buying products. This is about understanding the work of other species and how we can collaborate with that work to create a better future. In addition to many stories from the diverse experiences within the group, we will look at successes of innovative land managers who are providing real value to their communities, reducing damages from storms and crop diseases, and restoring the dignity and profitability of farming.
Participants will gain:
  • a working knowledge of whole systems landscape function
  • an increased ability to evaluate land management decisions, practices, and policies
  • a clearer picture of soil's central role in addressing current economic, social, and environmental needs
  • a community of practice: deep discussions with people working toward similar aims

Course Topics
Landscapes that Work for All Life
A living “soil sponge” can soak up rain, store and filter water; and provide health, resilience, and thriving economies for the communities that grow from it. What is the "soil sponge" and why is it essential infrastructure for life on land? How does biology slow and sink water on a total landscape scale? How does nature grow a soil sponge, and how can we participate? How does a healthy soil sponge provide resilience to flooding, drought, and wildfires?
Collaborating with the Essential Workforce of Other Species
What is the essential work of other species, and what are the job descriptions in a functional landscape? How does biological work regulate local and global temperatures, create rain, and drive the water and carbon cycles? What currencies does this natural workforce use in its economy, and how can we participate in a larger economy (without money) that enfolds our own? What are the principles of land management that this natural workforce uses, and how can we apply those principles to farming and ranching?
Measuring Change for Long Term Success
How do you know if your land's soil sponge structure and function is improving? What tests are useful and affordable? What apps can you use to save your data? Should you share your data or keep it private? When should a project use monitoring, and when is it safe to trust in computer-simulated models of landscape function?
Money, Life, and Land
How can we deepen our understanding of the relationship between the soil sponge, and functioning ecosystems and economies? Where will the money for regeneration come from? What are the costs of degraded land and who is paying those costs? Can we redirect those funds toward land regeneration? Are the emerging markets for soil carbon, water, and ecosystem services actually working from a living systems perspective? If not, how can we improve them?
Choosing Effective Intervention Points
Why are some regenerative land projects gaining enormous momentum while others are stalling? What role do human relationships play in effective projects? When do "experts" and research studies help make change, and when do they disempower people from taking action? How do we design projects and policies that grow human and ecological capability, and engage people for the long haul?
(Note: these topics may change somewhat based on our discussions, but this gives an idea of where we will likely go.)

Healthy soil is the fundamental infrastructure that makes life on land possible, but only when it is alive and functions like a sponge. It can soak up rain, store and filter water; and provide health, resilience, and thriving economies for the communities that grow from it.

Discussion among participants can continue via our private Google, What's App, and Facebook groups this is a great way to deepen connections with people working on regenerative projects around the world, learn from each other's wisdom and experience, share resources, and dive into more detail on specific questions.

If you have any questions please email me through my contact page by clicking here, or at [email protected].

NOTE: BE SURE TO DOUBLE CHECK YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WHEN ENROLLING. IF YOU PUT THE WRONG ONE, WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO CONTACT YOU WITH COURSE INFORMATION! If you are finding the enrollment page troublesome, please try using Chrome as your browser, or starting over from an incognito page. Teachable has a cookie issue. (As do many of us!)

Your Instructor

Didi Pershouse
Didi Pershouse

Didi Pershouse is the author of The Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money, and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities and Understanding Soil Health and Watershed Function. She is a contributing author for Health in the Anthropocene, Climate Change and Creation Care, and the Regenerative Economy Collaborative.

As the founder of the Center for Sustainable Medicine, she developed a practice and theoretical framework for systems-based ecological medicine—to restore health to people as well as the environmental and social systems around them. After 22 years of clinical work with patients, Pershouse now travels widely in North America and Europe as a speaker, teacher, and consultant.

Pershouse is a skilled facilitator, who brings people with diverging views together into effective working groups with common aims: improving soil health, public health, food and water security, and regional resilience through simple changes in land management. Both online and in-person, her participatory, inquiry-based workshops engage farmers and ranchers, policy makers, investors, and scientists in living-systems thinking and deep listening, to allow for emergent strategies. She was one of five speakers at the United Nations-FAO World Soil Day in 2017.

In 2018, she founded the Land and Leadership Initiative, and the "Can we Rehydrate California?" Initiative. She is currently a Planning Commissioner for her town, and on the board supervisors for the White River Natural Resources Conservation District. She is on the board of directors of the Soil Carbon Coalition and the Vermont Healthy Soils Coalition. She was a member of the Vermont State appointed Payment For Ecosystem Services and Soil Health Working Group (and helped to steer the state into a better path than simply financializing all of nature's processes.) She led a successful effort to conserve the Zebedee Headwaters Wetlands while serving as a Vermont Conservation Commissioner.

She is currently working on projects with the UN-FAO Farmer Field School program and the Climate Resilient Natural Farming Initiative in Andhra Pradesh, India (involving over 800,000 farmers). You can learn more about her work at

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do I have access to the course?
You will have access to the recordings for at least one year after the course ends.

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