• Thrive Inc.

Gardening with Robin Kelson

We have a very special guest on the podcast this week, and she has actually been on the show before for what was our most downloaded episode! We’re chatting again with Robin Kelson, but this time about all things gardening and relationships.

Robin is a master gardener, and the owner and founder of The Good Seed Company, an heirloom seed company dedicated to re-establishing the community practice of selecting, saving, and sharing seeds for common use. When COVID hit, Robin took us through each of the necessary steps to help us create a thriving garden, and it has been such an enriching process for us.

Join us this week as we discuss the importance of solid foundations in gardening and how this applies to business. Nature is an extraordinary teacher, and a garden has a lot to say about how to develop relationships. Learn how to use this fantastic resource in this week’s episode!

If you’d like us to speak at your organization about conflict, stress, team-building, or leadership, work with your team virtually, or coach you or leaders on your team, reach out to us!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • The strongest foundation you can provide for a garden.

  • Some practical tips to start a garden.

  • How to create a thriving garden and how this relates to business.

  • The importance of supporting your local community.

  • How gardening is similar to business.

  • The first thing to plant in a garden.

  • How Robin's work supports communities.


Full Transcript:

Susan: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am Susan.

CrisMarie: And I'm CrisMarie.

Susan: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

CrisMarie: On this podcast we’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team, your relationship and even you work more effectively. You can find us at thriveinc.com, that’s www.t.h.r.i.v.e.i.n.c.com or follow us on LinkedIn at Thrive Inc. We hope you enjoy this episode.

Well, welcome. I’m CrisMarie Campbell.

Susan: And I’m Susan Clarke.

CrisMarie: And today we have a very special guest, Robin Kelson who’s been on our podcast before. And actually her podcast, The Resiliency Podcast was the most downloaded show. So you might want to check that one out. But today we’re going to be talking about gardens and relationships.

Susan: And also you may also have seen some of you may have seen that we did a little video around gardening just recently. That was also quite well received. So it seemed like an easy thing to bring her in to talk today and try to bring some of that out even further into the conversation that we got started then.

CrisMarie: And Robin is the owner and starter of the Good Seed Company which is an heirloom savings seed company. Did I say that right, Robin?

Robin Kelson: Pretty close, good job.

CrisMarie: And people have referred to her as our garden mentor because last – well, when Covid hit, Susan and I had never had a garden. And we have our very dear friend who is this – a master gardener and in the natural way. And we said, “Robin, we want to have a garden.” And she took us through each step. And we had a very thriving garden. We are the envy of a lot of gardeners.

Susan: And one of the coolest things about it for me was you would really pull us back from having to be garden perfectionairs and not that I’ve really done anything perfectionately, but I might think I was going at it well. And you would sort of like, “No.”

CrisMarie: It’s good enough.

Susan: Good enough, and apparently that was really helpful because we did have some really healthy soil and I don’t think it was, yeah.

CrisMarie: Well, and we want to just say, Robin, I mean because people listening to this podcast you listeners probably want to know, well, what are Robin’s secrets, if I’m starting a garden. Can you just frame up some of what the tools that you helped us start our garden? I know we’re in a different place in year two.

Susan: Before you go there because I do want to make sure. I want the gardeners to be happy here. And I want you to know that as we’re doing this conversation, part of why we’re doing it, we actually think this is a metaphor for pretty much starting anything in many ways. Nature can teach us a lot and a garden has a lot to say about how to develop relationships, which you business owners that think it’s all about money and bottom line, there is information for you in here.

CrisMarie: Well, and I think actually the relationships and the fruit of the garden is really – would be the metaphor even to the bottom line and harmony and relationships. So yes, it’s about relationships and it’s about gardens. Okay, so back to you Robin.

Robin Kelson: Okay. So I’m going to start talking and then you can pull out from it what you think relates to the business world. But what we did is I started you off with a strong solid foundation. And the strongest foundation you can start with a garden is to provide good strong microbially rich live soil. Because it turns out that it’s the microbes in the soil that are the real farmers, really our job is simply to create a space for them to thrive and then get out of the way. That’s really the best thing we could ever do.

So with you guys, what we did was we developed and started with really good quality soil.

Susan: You said I could interrupt you as we went, just because I think something you’re saying here is really important in that really the soil is the farmers. And we’ve done a lot of things as a human species to not really be too kind to our soil, interrupt that soil.

CrisMarie: Interrupt that process. People always want to get fertilizer and stuff, and why is that a problem for the little microbes?

Robin Kelson: Right. So the modern man, I’m pretty sure our ancestors, we’ve been around for a couple of hundred thousand years. And we’ve been eating for all that time so we know what we’re doing at that level. But we didn’t impose our thought process on it until pretty recently. And so if you listen to my Resiliency talk what I say is the youngest part of us is our prefrontal cortex, that’s our executive brain that figures, [inaudible], all that, does all the logical thinking and it’s very creative, and it’s super intelligent. And I’m not dissing it at all.

But it tends to be pretty linear and shortsighted and so it tends to think it knows best. The reality is, is that plants have been growing and soil’s been developing for about somewhere in the hundreds of millions of years. That is way more elaborate and dialed in than our thinking is. So we started to mess with it. And the problem is, is the more you turn the soil and the more you add stuff to it the more you disrupt the community of microbes that have over literally hundreds of millions of years developed a relationship with the roots of growing plants so that they are a symbiotic community.

And now we’ve gotten rid of half of that community which is all the microbes in our modern day agriculture. And that’s why we keep needing to apply fertilizer, but we’re not producing the nutrients in the plants that way. So it turns out our science has finally gotten to the point where we can really understand the microbes in the soil and the more we’re discovering that the more we’re realizing we need to think more creatively and more broadly about the relationships. And discovering that apparently they have all this dialed in, we don’t actually have to do anything. So does that answer your question?

CrisMarie: Yes, that was great, Robin.

Susan: It does and I really, you know, there’s just so much to that, of course in my own world in this time of Covid I can’t help but think about, you know, you said the science is finally cut up to deal with things. And here we are facing this virus that’s spreading everywhere. But there’s some really interesting things about virus that relate to how it started, where it moved. I don’t know that we need to go down this road.

But the reason that I think it’s important is because it’s like there is the science that’s actually right now, may be very helpful for us because it became a pandemic, getting a vaccine out there. There’s also looking at why are these variants coming in from places where we have really destroyed ecosystems and viruses need to find the next parasite, so it passes on. There’s something there that we disrupted a lot that makes it…

CrisMarie: Like the virus looking for a new home.

Susan: Yeah, I don’t know. I think there’s some truth to that.

CrisMarie: Robin, do you have anything that you want to add to that?

Robin Kelson: So let me say the following. As old as the bacteria are and everything else in our planet is, viruses are older. So they’ve been around here since pretty much the beginning of what we call biological life which is to say that they are the peak of resiliency. You’re never going to get rid of them. And the reality is, is that we actually need viruses. There are viruses in our body that are part of our system that keeps us alive.

So the reality is if you’re just looking through the lens of nature, if you don’t think about humans and the way we think, just look through the lens of nature, it is a fact that everything is connected, period. So it is an illusion to think that one can be disconnected. Now, when you put the human piece in, we try through our thinking and our belief systems and however we do it, we try to control connection. And you guys can take this to the business world.

Susan: You can take it to all sorts.

Robin Kelson: But what I’m telling you is that that’s just a story, like it or not, whatever, the data from nature which is our platform for understanding the definition of resiliency is we are all connected, period. There is no other. There is no separation, nothing. I’m happy to go through hours of stories to prove that to you.

CrisMarie: No. You don’t have to prove it, so what’s the implication? Because I think what you were saying is we in our prefrontal cortex think we can control this, we can make this better and make it happen, even the virus. And I think you were even saying, this was before on our video which you can also watch. But the microbes are on our skin?

Robin Kelson: Yeah. We have biomes all over, we have biomes in our gut and the thing that we don’t really think about as humans is that microbe biome which is made up of a whole series of microbes of different kinds and some viruses. They’re responsible for the digestion of the food, the extraction of the nutrients from our food that then get passed through the cell wall of our small intestines and into our blood streams to provide the nutrients that our body needs to grow and to thrive.

That same process is very similar to the process that plants use, it’s very similar to the process that every other animal on the planet uses to extract nutrients from the plant life that they ingest, it’s all the same. I don’t know if that was specifically your question. Then we have microbes on our eyelids. We have microbes on our skin. There are microbes in the memory glands.

We have a whole series of microbes in the vaginal tract, all of which that are part of protecting us from managing our relationship with the outside world in a way that supports the vitality of our bodies and supporting the babies that come through our vaginal canals be ready in the world. This is created over a millennia, it’s not just humans.

CrisMarie: I can see how our desire to be clean or to do things to our skin, or whatever, is really interrupting this natural ecosystem or many ecosystems that we have in our own bodies. It’s another way that we try to power over nature, which I think you would say nature always wins. Is that true?

Susan: Yeah, you did say that on our last podcast. And I’m all for what you’re talking about right now. And I also know that our neocortex as you said in and of itself is really not the problem. The desire to figure out how to solve something, do it. The problem is we sometimes discount other inherent natural relationships and abilities and what’s available to us and get caught up in our own kind of right track without incorporating that. And that’s when I think it really is a serious problem that we could invent.

I mean I remember when I was dealing with my cancers and my good friends Ben and Jock who are both doctors were like, “There’s a time for western medicine, go get [inaudible].”

CrisMarie: Go get their surgery.

Susan: Get the surgery. And then we’ll deal with the ecosystem inside of you to get you back connected so that, you know, because – and your doctors aren’t going to talk to you about that.

CrisMarie: And you’re talking about more the relationship?

Susan: Yeah, the holistic.

CrisMarie: No, the emotional component of what created your disconnection even inside of you and in your ecosystem as a part of dealing with cancer.

Susan: Well, that was part of it but also my connections out in the world, yeah, so you know.

CrisMarie: Some people don’t even have – we could do a podcast all on Susan and the, you know, no, I’m saying that. People don’t have that context around cancer, many people don’t. They think again, western medicine, do chemo, cut it out and you’re going to get rid of it. Versus looking at the internal relationships, and emotions, and what’s going on inside of me.

Susan: Yes, which back to, I want to bring this back to, that’s the whole point of you even talking to us about the garden. Don’t just go out there and think you’re going to manhandle nature and put your damn garden in there. Think about how nature works and give nature the benefit of it.

CrisMarie: And so just even for our listeners because I’m sure they’d even love some practical tips of how you started us. You started us with a good foundation and soil and I believe there were many layers on our soil. People call it a lasagna method, right? Tell me where I’m wrong.

Robin Kelson: No, that’s true. So the first thing I did is I actually didn’t separate you from the earth. We started with the ground that you had and we added to it. There used to be a way of thinking that one needed to put a barrier between the garden one was building and the ‘weeds’ or the ‘stuff we didn’t want’. And so people would put down what are called weed mats or plastic barriers or whatever. And all that does is put a barrier between you and life, your garden and life.

CrisMarie: You mean the microbes that’s the life?

Robin Kelson: Yeah. So what we did is – actually you already had a garden bed there but if you hadn’t we would have started with just the grass that was there. And what we did is we put down layers of – well, we did actually. You just had a lot of weeds in your garden bed.

CrisMarie: We never used that garden box but yeah.

Robin Kelson: Okay, I forgot. Anyhow, so we started with layers of cardboard that we wet down because that will actually smother the grass or the weeds. And then we put on top of that, leaves and other things that the microbes could digest. Microbes actually love the carbon that’s in the cardboard so that works out really well. And we basically created enough of a height over those weeds that those weeds finally died because they didn’t have access to light. But we didn’t put a barrier down so that the microbes could actually eat, not only the cardboard but also those dead weeds.

And as they digested it they were retraining those nutrients and creating soil. And on top of those leaves and that wet cardboard we also added some good quality soil. We have some really good resources here where we live in the Flathead and wherever anybody else is living around the world. If you take a little bit