The morning excursion with trailer in tow was a telling sign to the owner of a regional nursery. She had invited us to visit and guide us through the native food producing offerings at her nursery. After seeing the trailer, she knew what we had in mind before we spoke one word. One couldn't help being excited on this early summer Saturday. The possibilities grew as we weaved our way through the rows of fruit-bearing trees, berries and potential cover crops as we began filling our cart. The nursery owner pivoted quickly with our first selection and asked, "what about your soil"?, as if it was a prerequisite to the purchase of the plants. We hesitated. She promptly prescribed a soil health consult prior to planting. We were referred to Cameron Skinner, Owner, Living Soil Farm.
While I am engaged in the soil health/human health movement, this has generally been the purview of the commercial farm community. This was my first introduction to a business specifically operating to cater to residential clients. Cameron Skinner is the founder and owner of Living Soil Farm. He is passionate about soil health with the credentials and experience to offer clients practical solutions backed up by science.
A little about Cameron Skinner. Cameron hails from Big TImber, Montana where he owns and operates an organic/regenerative farm business using a CSA business model. His practices promote nutrient density by way of evolving soil health research and application. Currently he sell his food products through a CSA and direct model to consumers and wholesale clients. Caterers have been a channel that have been an especially interested client-base driven by the uniqueness of his methodologies and the role that plays in their businesses.. Cameron's passion is refining growing processes such that you can taste the difference, at the same time gaining the maximum nutrients.
Likely Cameron's largest "crop " (and often unstated) is his growing knowledge and application of the ever-evolving science of soil health. Cameron is on a journey seeking out the best minds through his academic work, books, networking and podcasts. He touts the expertise he gains from those like Nicole Masters, Gabe Brown, The Savory Institute and others, pointing out that Kareen Erbe, Owner of Broken Ground is one of his favored mentors. His academic program afforded him the opportunity to have access to information and people that were life changing. He didn't wait until he graduated to launch a new service. Cameron wanted to begin sharing the knowledge he acquired with a relatively under-served audience - the residential homeowner. Living Soil Farms, therefore, began offering consultations and support to residential clients in urban and rural communities as an additional service to the CSA farm.
Living Soil Farms offers soil consultations for private home owners and has been doing so for the past 5 years servicing an area between Bozeman and Billings, Montana. The request for services normally fall in one or more of the following areas:
holistic thought processes
Consulting is based upon the principles of permaculture design, incorporating regenerative and native design practices. Cameron's work with clients is to help them mimic ecosystem health while supporting a functional program that can be maintained and enhanced by the client. "Each call is unique.", says Cameron. "An initial meet with the clients would be an assessment of their wants and needs, as well as an assessment of the property and soils, of course. The assessment can result in a broad ranging menu of programs, from increasing the functionality of a holistic homestead to soil analysis for small farms and gardens. All of it involves a component of education and sharing of those resources with many opting for an on-going and annual assessment to identify further improvements. The goal is always the same, helping them realize their dreams."
I am constantly seeking out the masters from academics, business and policy. I am driven to promote health in the eco-system and in turn, impart knowledge and support for a community that works together with nature, promoting conservation. - Cameron Skinner, Living Soil Farm.
New Horizons - NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service/Yellowstone Soil and Water Conservation District)
Following on Cameron's work helping clients assess their properties, he has begun an additional role, part-time, specifically as it relates to water management systems. In keeping with his other work, Cameron is looking forward to learning and sharing in a relatively new program of monitoring quantitative data as it relates to the efficiency of pivot systems to conserve and improve water quality. "It is yet another tool to support soil health by virtue of, if done right, more water can be available to the soil for growers to maximize quality crop growth and I can't wait to get started.", Cameron states enthusiastically
Possibilities For Collaboration
How would Cameron like to collaborate with other businesses? Cameron sees himself as a life-long learner and welcoming of meeting others in the soil health space. "I've learned that I thrive on providing solutions for clients and know there are larger public forums, people, ideas, networking and platforms to learn and share that would take our collective knowledge of soil health and nutrient density of our foods to even a higher level. "
Of course, Cameron is all in on growing consumer and buyer demand for those offering organic/regenerative products and services.
All of the commitment to learn and share brings Cameron to the realization that education is a big part of moving forward the group momentum on soil health and nutrient density. He would like to explore new models of practical, hands-on education models and/or a network of programs that better connect soil and human health, as well as offer an access point for those more inclined to hands on learning.
Reach out to Cameron via email or
Living Soil Farm: https://www.livingsoilfarmmt.com/
P.S. Cameron was called upon for an initial assessment. We all agree we're between a rock and a hard space. More on that later.