Living Soil Garden
is a Regenerative No-Dig Market Garden on Goffin Land, in Exeter.
All of our vegetables are grown on 1/2 acre of permanent beds,
cultivated without synthetic chemicals, machinery or tillage.
The growing team is composed of Flavia, Dario and a few amazing volunteers.
We are part of Biophilia, a project that aims to regenerate landscapes and ecosystems, create a space for reflection, learning & well-being.
Check us out on social media
We are Flavia & Dario, an Italian couple with a deep love for simple living, self-reliance and learning from nature.
When we first arrived in England in 2013, we immediately fell in love with the British countryside & wildlife.
Our Italian passion for nutritious & tasty food quickly developed into the desire to grow all of our vegetables.
While training in Horticulture and studying Permaculture, we became very interested in biodiversity & soil ecology, and started exploring ways to grow in harmony with natural systems & processes.
This inspired us to start practising no-dig and regenerative agriculture, which transformed our garden into a bio-intensive haven.
Thanks to Biophilia, our dream of a small regenerative market garden has come true and we are excited about providing our local community with the best local, sustainable & delicious vegetables.
One of the best aspects of our profession is sharing our experience, the nuances, the open questions, the ethos of what we do.
Our vision is that of a world where a family's food is produced within its neighbourhood.
This can happen only if more and more people enjoy and engage in vegetable growing. Thus, we strive
to share all the aspects of what we do,
openly and transparently.
Come chat with us at Goffin Land,
at our Farmers Market stall
or the nearest pick-up point.
Meet our team
Flavia is the main grower of Living Soil Garden.
Back in Italy she went to Agriculture school, but she wasn't inspired by the chemical and machinery-focused practices of conventional growing. Years later, thanks to the practical and hands-on approach of English gardening, her enthusiasm for horticulture has come back stronger than ever.
She has a passion for propagation, perennial crops, seed saving and experimenting with novel varieties and exotic edibles.
Dario is a research scientist at the University of Exeter, where he studies the biophysics of soil and aquatic micro-organisms. He is fascinated by the interplay of soil microbiology and plant nutrition. At Living Soil Garden, he focusses on crop planning, soil management, and running courses and tours.
His passion is exploring ways to manage thriving and productive ecosystems by working with nature, simply & mindfully.
You can visit his personal website here.
How we grow
Here at Living Soil Garden, we aim to grow food
while regenerating our landscape and nurturing natural ecosystems.
Some believe that tweaking modern agriculture might be enough to produce food without destroying our planet. But we are not interested in this.
What is needed, in our view, is to entirely rethink the way we interact with the natural world, and design practices that not only sustain,
but regenerate the ecosystems we are part of.
To read more about our philosophy,
check out our blog post on why organic is not enough.
You may also wish to consult our Recommended Reading List
and a comprehensive list of Materials & Tools we use in the garden.
The cornerstones of our practice are:
No-dig soil management & zero-synthetics policy
We never disturb the soil or apply any synthetic chemicals, so as to allow microbial, fungal and bacterial life to thrive. This in turn feeds plants, which grow rich of precious micro-nutrients and minerals. To discover more about no-dig vegetable growing, we recommend our reading list, as well as the work of our mentors: Charles Dowding, Richard Perkins, No-Till Growers.
Because we concentrate our work on a small scale, we are committed to using only emission-free, human-powered and electrical tools to cultivate our fields.
Please visit our Materials & Tools section for a comprehensive list of what we use and where it comes from.
Seasonal & Local
We grow only seasonal vegetables and sell them locally. This reduces the necessity for energy-intensive ways to lengthen the growing season, and limits the impact of delivering our products to customers.
We have also recently started to supply Tend Revolution - a project that aims to connect big cities to small-scale farmers. This started in response to difficulties experienced by people in London during the lockdown.
Recyclable & plant-based packaging
We strive to reduce our waste, both on the field and in the distribution of our vegetables. In order to do so, we limit the use of biodegradable plastic and bio-plastics to very perishable items such as salad leaves and micro-greens. We use compostable bags made of potato starch for some of our loose leaves, and have nearly completely removed the need for paper bags in our veg boxes.
Soil Fertility built from local waste streams
We do not use any synthetic amendments to build the fertility of our soil. All of our compost comes from Coastal Organics, who produce it by recycling green waste from local gardens. We use farm-based resources such as vermicompost, thermophilic compost and fermented plant preparations as inoculants and fertility inputs.
Peat-free propagation compost
Although not required by organic certifiers, we avoid the use of peat in our growing, as we believe it is an unsustainable source of organic matter.
We are constantly questioning the opportunity and sustainability of the materials we source. Plastic is ubiquitous in agriculture, and it is very difficult to see a transition towards plastic-free food production. We are totally transparent about our plastic use and are happy to answer any questions you might have on the matter.
We use plastic tarps for initial weed suppression, plastic netting to protect some crops from specific insects (and thus avoid using any pesticides), biodegradable plastic bags for packing greens and plastic trays for sowing seeds. Our propagation compost comes in plastic bags and our polytunnel has a polyethylene plastic cover.
Our seeds are started only in durable, re-usable trays made from recycled plastic, that will need replacing only once every 15-20 years.
Polytunnel, fleece and insect-netting plastic are difficult to remove from our operation because the alternatives would involve using pesticides or energy-intensive heating (most likely produced via fossil-fuel burning).
However, we have already reduced the need for fleece by not growing crops out of season, and we have stopped using insect netting on our larger Brassica, thanks to the establishment of a good population of parasitoid wasps that deal with Cabbage butterflies for us.