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Interview With Soilutions: Everest’s Soil Provider

Everest is proud to partner with Soilutions, a local soil and compost company that provides our farm with soil tailored perfectly for growing our cannabis plants. Recently, we were able to chat with Ben Dickerson, Business Development Manager at Soilutions, about how they started in the industry, what makes their soil so special, and how they’re helping the New Mexico community with their Food Waste Program:

What is Soilutions all about?

“First and foremost, Soilutions is about sustainability. While our mission has expanded in the past 25 years, we’ve been recycling local organic waste into compost, the core of our mission remains the same: to protect our valuable land and water by diverting organic waste from the land fill and turning into healthy and productive compost to enrich our native soils. We are in Albuquerque’s South Valley, right in the heart of the middle Rio Grande’s urban farming community.”

How did you get started in this industry?

“Jim Brooks, the founder of Soilutions, dedicated his career to erosion control and soil health through permaculture (the practice of creating self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems). In New Mexico, this can be a daunting task due to our arid environment which is lacking in the proper moisture and organic matter necessary to sustain natural topsoil and loam, so he decided the best path forward was to use what the local environment had to offer to create what was missing from our soils—organic matter in the form of compost. Compost can hold up to 5 times it’s weight in water so remediating the native desert soil with compost to capture moisture and control erosion is a simple and effective strategy with the benefit of encouraging new growth of native grasses and wildflowers. Jim has since retired, and Dawn and Justin Dewey took over the reins in 2021. Dawn and Justin both have history and familiarity with compost and sustainability, so it is a natural fit.”

What makes your soil so healthy and good for the environment?

“This is a doozy. Our soils are created with our composts as a foundation—and our composts are made up of green waste (landscape trimmings, trees, leaves, etc.) and local food waste that otherwise would have been sent to the landfill. In the landfill organic matter breaks down and releases methane which is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. When broken down by natural bacteria and fungus, all that organic material breaks down to the healthy, nutrient rich compost which then returns to new growth, completing the organic cycle. Aside from the organic matter, compost has a phenomenal water holding capacity—up to five times its weight, which means less water use and more rainfall capture on our farms, in our landscapes, and throughout our community. Other benefits include run-off pollution filtration, increasing pollinator plant populations, capturing and storing carbon emissions, I could go on all day. The bottom line is the famous anonymous quote—“Despite all our achievements we owe our existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains”. Over the last century we, as a society, have depleted that topsoil at an alarming rate through deforestation, industrial agriculture, and urban development; so, what we do at Soilutions is trying to help create the resources to recreate and preserve that topsoil so our children and their children can go on to achievements of their own.”

Can you explain what “live” soil is and why it’s ideal for growing cannabis?

“‘Living Soil’ is any soil that uses organic matter, notably compost in one of its many forms, as a medium to provide nutrients to plants. Each handful of quality compost contains billions of living bacteria and other microorganism, hence- it’s alive. The microbes in living soil help create sustaining micro-ecosystems, breaking down large elemental nutrient chains into forms that are available to plants. Add to that system worms, cover crops, and the natural fungus that occurs, and you have a complete, living ecosystem in every container or field. Cannabis was not developed in a lab, so replicating or creating an ideal natural environment for it to grow is the best way to maximize cannabis’ many beneficial properties. Rather than feeding it synthetic nutrients a living soil provides a smorgasbord for the plant to feed as it needs, which enables each plant to develop its characteristics to its full potential. Like how we talk about how a wine expresses its terroir, or environment in which it’s grown, cannabis will express its best characteristics, specifically terpene production, when it’s grown in a natural environment. When you consider this in conjunction with recent study out of the University of Arizona which provides clear evidence of the beneficial entourage effects of cannabinoids and terpenes, living soil is the clear choice for the highest quality cannabis.”

Is Soilutions soil suitable for growers just starting out?

“Yes. We provide bulk or bagged soil, compost, and amendments to everyone. You can have a dump truck deliver to your facility or home or bring in a five-gallon bucket and fill up at our facility. Our staff has years of experience with land reclamation, farming, gardening, and of course, cannabis cultivation. We are available to answer any questions and help problem solve.”

How can we be more sustainable and waste-free when growing cannabis at home?

“Start with a living soil and a drip system. A large majority of the waste from cannabis comes from polluted runoff from synthetic nutrients, not to mention the plastic containers and packaging they come in. Using a living soil will eliminate a lot of that byproduct waste. A drip system for watering will help maintain a steady moisture level in the soil which helps keep the soil productive and reduces stress on the plants, but it also reduces water waste. Additionally, starting a home worm bin or compost pile for the pruned foliage will give you a readily available supply of nutrient dense soil food. For fertilizer, use what you have on hand when you can—banana peels and cucumber skins are great sources of potassium and will break down in your your soil in a very short time, grass clippings are a great source of readily available nitrogen. Learn about nature’s process and mimic it to reduce waste. Nature builds its healthy soil by recycling that material, there’s no reason we shouldn’t follow her lead. When you need more, Soilutions offers organic fertilizers and amendments with compostable and reusable packaging, and we encourage everyone to keep packaging and single use plastics in mind when they consider they’re purchases.”

What is the best part about working with local companies, like Everest?

“First off, working with the team at Everest has been nothing short of amazing. Everest’s commitment to quality and sustainability is second to none. Sharing these values with Everest, and all our community partners, is the most rewarding aspect of what we do. Since we started the food-waste collection program we have recycled over 42 million pounds of food waste from eco-minded restaurants and businesses. Diverting that waste from the landfill and repurposing it into nutrient rich compost is fulfilling, but the best part is being a member of and growing community anchored by sustainability and working together to educate others & achieve shared goals that directly benefit the health of our city, state, and global environment.”

Soilutions is a New Mexico company that has been providing premium composts, soils and amendments to growers, gardeners and farmers in NM for 25 years. Soilutions also operates the state’s largest Food & Organic Waste recycling program. In partnership with 50+ businesses, they take their green waste and use it as the fuel to create their organic composts. They’ve diverted more than 42,000,000 pounds of food waste away from the landfill and back into replenishing our state’s soils. Learn more here.