Kiss the Ground

Interview by Isabel Kuh, photos by Sidney Velasquez

Kiss the Ground is an organization founded by Ryland Englehart, Lauren Tucker and Finian Makepeace that focuses on educating people about the importance of healthy soil. They created an internationally recognized video called The Soil Story that presents lots of information about what happens to our environment when soil is healthy and when it’s not.

Natalie Flores

Is there a specific moment or memory that inspired you or made you curious about the environment?
I must have been about 17 years old and I was at this artist community called Arco Santee with my friends. They were just living really uniquely amongst the land; they raised chickens and horses and cows. They were working with materials at their site, they weren’t bringing in a bunch of stuff from other places. They were just working with what they had and it was really inspirational. It was the first time that I had seen people living together like that and working as one unit. It was great.

Is there a motto practiced in the garden?
I think the most important thing is community like bringing people into the space and letting them know that it’s their garden to. They’re always welcome to come into the space, all their friends and relatives and kids are all welcomed. It’s all about encouraging them to get in the garden and it’s a communal garden. It doesn’t belong to one person, it really becomes to this community.

Do you feel like you make more environmentally conscious decisions after helping our with Kiss the Ground?
Well actually I’ve been farming for 10 years. I started my gardening endeavors by traveling and doing WOOFing. WOOF is an organization where you go and do work trade and that was really why I started farming. I travelled and got to meet and see all these cool communities. I built my own organization and then Kiss the Ground asked me to come work for them. I’ve learned a lot working with them. My type of work is more hands on, I can watch things only so many times. I have to physically, tangibly do them or else they don’t really mean much. I’ve been doing this for a long time.
What advice would you give teenagers who feel too small or insignificant to make a difference?
Oh my gosh. Nobody is too small or insignificant to make a difference. Everybody has the ability to change their habits, to build a garden, to volunteer at local community garden, to come here to harvest produce and work with me. We are all one big cosmic family and have so much power. We all need each other. We all need each other’s knowledge, we all need each other’s helping hands, we all need each other’s gifts. Every body is part of that web, nobody is without gifts or something to share with the world. We all contribute to the greater whole of this world and this planet. Don’t be afraid, have courage. To have courage, to stand up, to do what’s right, to start something in their communities. You can truly cultivate a garden anywhere and most importantly, you just need to be an artist. You don’t need to have a lot of money, you don’t need to have a lot of stuff, you don’t even need to know anything. You can go into the alleys and go to garage sales and you can find stuff and make a garden. You don’t need a lot of things to cultivate a seed. It isn’t that difficult and you don’t have to be a master. You just have to have the will to want to grow. Never stop growing, ever. Ever. Just keep growing. Cultivate something. Try at least. It’s incredible. The whole gardening process is itself a reflection of our own selves. To cultivate something, to harvest it, to nourish, to let it nourish our bodies, to then turn it into compost, going back into the soil. Dying and coming back to life. It’s a perfect cycle just like ourselves and that has been the best part for me as a farmer and gardener. Seeing my own personal metamorphosis in the garden, seeing that there are seasons. There are times when things look dead but they’re just in a new phase. There are times when things look super lush and vibrant and the bees are going crazy and it’s a party, and then there are times when it’s just time to turn this old matter into compost. It’s really cyclical like the phases of life. Like the seasons. It’s great. 
How are you a BADASS in your everyday life?
Wow I’m such a badass. When I first started gardening, even before I took off gardening, I was a guerilla gardener. I just gardened anywhere, without permission. Vacant lots, I would seed bomb. Now I go to festivals and teach people how to seed bomb and leaving places than how we had originally found them. I seed bombed sides of the road, highways, vacant lots, McDonald’s neighbors yards. This is how I’m a badass, I try to grow flowers everywhere I go.