In recent weeks, I’ve had the chance to talk with one of the leaders in the field of soil fertility, and to mourn the passing of another. I’m reminded again of how important it is to stay in touch, exchange ideas, develop new theories and share everything that’s happening in the world, even while we isolate ourselves physically.
First, I had the chance to speak with Neil Kinsey, world-renowned founder of Kinsey Agricultural Services and a soil consultant since 1973 after completing a program of study developed and taught by Dr. William A. Albrecht. Neil and I shared some thoughts on many things, but also on how to reach out and impact the growing number of organic farmers.
Then, just a short while later, I heard of the passing on September 4th of my friend and mentor, Michael Astera. Michael was the owner of soilminerals.com and Agricola and was the gentleman who inspired and shaped my career in agricultural consulting. He was a great champion of the Albrecht method of soil fertility and soil balancing. Michael wrote The Ideal Soil 2014 – A Handbook for the New Agriculture v2.0. It is the result of studying The Albrecht Papers, an eight-volume collection of essays written by Dr. William A. Albrecht, as well as chemistry, physics, agriculture, and a host of other related disciplines.
Prior to completing his first book in 2012, Michael had begun helping farmers increase both the nutrient density and yield of many different crops. In due time, he had satisfied clients throughout the globe, from Australia to Japan, South Africa to Finland, from Argentina to Alaska and almost everywhere in between. He had written soil prescriptions to balance the minerals on farms, ranches, greenhouses and backyard gardens. His refined version of the Albrecht method is in use on coffee plantations in the highlands of Laos and the hills of Zambia, rice farms in Thailand and the Philippines, horse pastures in Borneo and sheep pastures in Oregon.
Michael’s passion was in sharing with the world all he learned about soil mineral balance. It was his mission to show home gardeners and farmers how to grow the most nutrient-dense food possible. He was keenly aware of the relationship between declining soil fertility, and the increase in degenerative diseases of humans and animals over the last century. He made his living as an agricultural consultant but was also committed to showing anyone how to increase and manage soil fertility for themselves. Such was Michael’s generous spirit.
Whenever I was stuck or stumped and needed guidance, Michael was always confidently there with the answers and solutions. He would take the time to answer in detail and made sure I fully understood the how and why. The depth of Michael’s generosity is illustrated by the fact that I was not the only one he mentored and encouraged. The list of his protégés is long and varied, from fellow consultants to farmers, home gardeners, viticulturists, and arborists. Michael’s presence will be greatly missed.
Two giants in the world of sustainable agriculture – one who still influences thousands of farmers and gardeners every year, and one whose legacy will provide guidance for years to come. How fortunate I am to have felt their impact.