Feed the soil, not the plant

Earlier this month, I headed south on a class trip. As a group of horticulture students, we were visiting three organic gardens, so we could learn from the wealth of knowledge that three growers had amassed in their years of growing and feeding their local communities.

Each gardener took different a different approach – from what they grew to how they sold, from pest control to plot-planning.

But they all had one thing in common: a deep understanding of the importance of soil. Of creating and supporting healthy, diverse, nourishing conditions for plants to grow in.

The venerable Charles Dowding put it most succinctly:

Feed the soil, not the plant.

When we focus on feeding the plant itself, we are taking a reactive, temporary approach that looks only at what exists in the moment. Feeding the soil, meanwhile, is about focusing on the long-term, creating those healthy conditions that can support this plant, and every plant that follows.

This isn’t to say that an individual plant or group of plants doesn’t require its own attention and nourishment, but that the bulk of our energy and resources is better invested in the ecosystem, the community, than the individual.

And whilst I know little to nowt about soil science, I can speak to how the very same goes for my business; for any small business.

Feed the soil: create and support healthy, diverse, nourishing conditions for my business to grow in.

Rather than investing the bulk of my resources in the business itself or in specific products, I tend to spend more of my time, energy, love – and even money – on the ecosystem it belongs to. In Little Red Tarot terms, that soil, that nourishing ecosystem, is the community.

It’s the artists whose creations we love. Their existence, their creativity, their art, is the flourishing tarot scene that cosily holds my little shop (regardless of whether I sell their products). So I invest heavily in this community of tarot artists, financially, spiritually, through sharing my platform, through sharing what I’ve learned, through offerings of encouragement or being a listening ear.

It’s the other retailers – even those with very similar businesses. I’m not in competition with my spiritual-biz colleagues, I am in community with them. I value and nuture these relationships and joyfully feed them, knowing that they feed me.

It’s the tarot bloggers who endlessly spread the word, promote the creations they’ve discovered, help little-known creators to rise in prominence, lift marginalised voices so we can all make our magic more intersectional, more radical, more magical. Who just talk talk talk about what they love and what they don’t, and how it all feels. They are the mycelium in the soil, spreading information through a resilient , infinitely connected network, sharing the wisdom about what’s good, what’s healthy, what’s working, what’s new.

It’s the people who buy tarot decks. Not only my own beloved customers and would-be customers, but tarot lovers the world over who speak with their wallets, putting their money where their values are, they show us what they long for, what they love.

It’s the staff at my local Post Office who handle my parcels throughout the week and who deserve every box of chocolates I take in in gratitude for their patience and the care with which they handle my parcels – despite long queues, stressful conditions and limited resources imposed from distant franchise bosses.

It’s the staff at my local mail sorting office who handle big boxes of stock with cheer and who offer me such a personal service.

Who am I missing? Couriers, manufacturers, factory workers, administrators. The raw materials, the paper from the trees, fossil fuels, inks, cellophane, packaging. Software, hardware, minerals, systems, data. There are many bodies, human and non-human, within the ecosystem my shop belongs to. As I dig down deeper into the soil to learn about the activity that takes place there, I grow more aware of the people and other beings who I’m not in nourishing relationship with, whose existence I don’t even know about, let alone show gratitude for.

If I really believe in feeding the ecosystem, feeding the soil, I need to be looking much, much deeper into the labour that makes my business possible. And so I pledge to do just that.