028 - Soil Health, Mindset And Integrity With Nicole Masters

How The Nutrition Of The Land And Of Our Mind Are Interconnected

In this episode we talk with Nicole Masters of integrity soils. She is an expert in ecology and soil science with over 20 years experience. She advises farmers on how to improve the health of their land an ecosystems.

Nicole shares about how she went from wanting to be a great white shark researcher to an agroecologist. We talk soil health, worm compost, producer and consumer mindsets and integrity. This conversation gets in to the detail about soil, but we also cover the overarching idea that mindset changes everything. Nicole mentions one of the best ways to live a probiotic life is to support your local farmers.


Just a note that half way through the interview a cable decided to quit, so I had to re-record my side of the conversation from that point on… Luckily it was my side, not Nicole’s.


Check out what Nicole is doing by visiting her website:










Thanks again to Confiture for a sample of their funky jazz.

Check them out at: http://confitureband.com/


Show Notes


Scientific Background

- Bachelor of Science (Ecology) at Otago University

- originally went to be a great white shark researcher

- study focus shifted from zoology to botany to soil

- light went on for her when she began to study soil

- this passion has now continued strongly for 20 years



Formative Experiences

- spent her early life in aircraft looking down at the earth

- the eruption of Mt St Helens put things in perspective for her, how powerful the earth is and how small we are

- saw a need to disrupt the current trend towards people living among their own man-made pollution

- willingness to be part of a conversation about what’s possible for transformation

- realised the mainstream farmers are the ones that she needed to be talking with, enter their worlds and make transformation profitable



Key Things to Know About Soil

- gastrointestinal system is very similar to the soil system

- the rhizosphere, or root interface with soil, is the most biodiverse system on the planet

- how do we support a very diverse ecosystem

- modern farming techniques are disturbing microbiology

- this depletes biodiversity and lowers nutritional value of food grown

- quorum sensing/quenching discussion

- sending out a little signal that tells biology to turn on a particular response

- plant can send a chemical signal asking for what nutrient it requires, and if the microbiome is intact it will send the plant that nutrient



Worms Farming

- the worm castings are the best part

- the perfect worm farm makes no leachate, if it’s making leachate you need more carbon in there

- most vermicast is bacterial dominated, which is the environment weeds prefer

- use white (soft) wood chips to make it more fungal friendly 

- get liquid form by running water through a finished (fully processed) vermicast

- leachate is not good to use on plants, pour it back into the worm farm



Current Focus

- workshops in Montana on how to assess soil health/pasture quality

- addressing sodium deficiency around the world to improve nutrition, animal health, erosion

- working with crop producers to reduce nitrogen and herbicide use, while keeping equivalent yield and higher profit margin

- how do we identify what a limiting factor might be on a property?

- working with clients’ goals, what outcomes do they want to see from these changes?

- evidence is showing that applying herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides are altering plants’ physiology, making them more susceptible to pests and diseases

- discussion about nitrogen & compaction



Integrity Soils: What Does This Name Mean to You?

- integrity: describes something that is whole and complete

- resilient, complete soils that will stand up to pressure

- being trustworthy and above board in all business practices

- dealing with childhood & personal wounds so you are whole as a person

- a call to work at these aspects as you interact with others, and in your work



Lessons Learned from Mother Nature

- Nicole has developed a feel for soil over time, while being ready with facts to persuade the skeptical

- the interconnectedness of everything

- water movement through a landscape

- aligning more closely to how things would have been naturally

- shifting from feeling out of control to feeling happy, excited about working with nature and what might be possible

- see weeds as an indicator of something happening, an opportunity to address an imbalance, rather than something to be killed outright

- cover crops as a step into regenerative agriculture



Change for the Future

- voting with your dollars: buy clean foods, ring to let companies know you won’t buy non-clean food

- Nicole believes this is the way to make clean food production go mainstream

- producers respond to consumer demand

- being willing to pay a premium for nutrient-dense food, which you need less of to feed yourself

- conversation on these topics happening on every level



Closing Thoughts

- consider the “underground workforce”: how am I support the microbiology within my soil?

- refractometer is a good investment, quick key to checking nutrient density

- carbon is the currency of the planet, and our soil has been running low on it

- food actually does taste less sweet than it used to due to lack of soil nutrients

- make those greens sweet and tasty again, that’s how to get the younger generation excited about this

- “Dirt in your Skirt” podcast

- currently writing about doing triage on soil, Nicole’s step-by-step process

- www.integritysoils.co.nz - get the newsletter!