Dr. Elaine R. Ingham – President, Soil Foodweb Inc.
Dear Mary —
Great talk! The overview of why we lost these critical organisms from soil, and how to bring the beneficial back on was impressive.
Thank you so much!
Dr. Elaine R. Ingham
President, Soil Foodweb Inc
President and Director, Soil Foodweb School
Annette C – 20 November 2021
Apologies for adding to what I am sure is a very busy inbox, but I could not go without saying a very special thank you to you for presenting ‘Understanding the Fungal Kingdom’ via EarthWhile Australia today. In particular, acknowledging your great generosity and kindness in addressing some of our more specific queries.
I cannot imagine the degree of frustration people such as yourself must have with both spreading of the message and implementation, having beaten the path for so long. I am relatively new to the regenerative agriculture space, and I am already finding myself madly thirsting for knowledge but sensing frustration at the need for things to happen quicker. I have seen many YouTube videos in which you feature. I was the oldest of the children in my family, so I am ‘Big Sis’ and the youngest is our ‘Bub’, nevertheless I too was pleased to have been surrounded by gardeners, farmers etc. and remember very fondly my walks through the bush with my Pop as he spoke of the various relationships between plants and animals etc. He taught us some Noongar (local aboriginal) words and knowledge also, which he gleaned having worked alongside Noongar people during his life. The more time I spend in this land the more I appreciate their spirit and connection and the way they passed their knowledge. The weight of responsibility to help repair/nurture this land is ever growing and immense, I grieve for the prior knowledge that was mistreated or lost along the way. I hope I can learn to be a good/better guardian for future generations.
I left your presentation today buoyed by hope and optimism that we might find a kinder better path, the transition has been and will be a struggle, as I am sure you well know, but oh what a win if we can get there. There seems to be a sense that momentum is building, but we so badly need mentors such as yourself over here in the West. We are so used to being brow beaten about our dry climate and ‘poor sandgroper soils’ that we are prime targets to those who sell nutrition from the bag and chemical ‘solutions’, and I worry that some might feel overwhelmed at the challenge of improving soils and their function too great and succumb to the ‘moron’ model with resignation.
The second of our four children has a disability and I recall a similar lack of confidence plaguing us in the beginning of that journey. We were very fortunate to come across mentors who introduced us to the concept of full inclusion, and the need to have both the will and the skill to include, to take into account people as a whole, to see there is value in diversity, and in being valued at all times. It changed our lives and perspective we were whole again. I feel like my regenerative journey is following a similar path. Gardening used to be segregated from farming, nutrition separated from soil etc. etc. – it has made hell for my filing system (advice gratefully accepted) but now all I can see is connectedness between everything … and logically that is how it should always have been. I really hope it would make for a better future for family farming and our communities that have been so ravaged.
You were so generous in giving extra time and attention today, and I am happy to pay for that time if you wish to forward and invoice. Your insight is so valuable it should not go unrewarded, especially since in the past we spent money on fertiliser that mostly disappeared down creeks or into the sky! I hope it will please you that I am doing my best to introduce my ‘bubbies’ to the large and interconnected world, including via my new microscope, they will not have the excuse of ignorance. We are early in our transitional journey at the moment, but on top of much experimentation in the past – no till, perennial pastures, … we are now experimenting with mixed species cash crops and pastures, and thinking about summer mixed crops/cover or at the least allowing more cover to remain. The highly diverse species that surround us are probably sighing at our hopelessness and wondering just how many times they have to show that diversity, diversity, diversity in every level is how you play the game of life! I discovered a paper titled ‘Native Vegetation in Western Australia is Actively Involved in Soil Formation’ and have attached it above FYI, a fascinating look at how the plant/soil/microbe/exudate interactions have shaped our soils, with some great illustrative photos and diagrams, if you have not come across it before.
I really hope you can make it over to WA at some point. Being located 500km (one way) from Perth (in the Fitzgerald Biosphere Region and adjacent to the National Park) and running a mixed family farming enterprise and with kids at school etc. it is not often I can get away to physically attend events at a distance, and in that sense the online courses resulting from Covid have been a boon for our family. Even if I cannot see you in person, as long as others can attend learn I am sure the knowledge can filter through. If you can show us sunny sandgropers in the West can learn to improve our soil and grow good food, it should be a doddle elsewhere!
Thanks again for your time and insight,
Kathleen Robinson – Work Placement as part of Bachelor of Agricultural Science, La Trobe University
Dear Mary, Anita and Alan,
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to complete work placement with you. It was truly one of the best, most unique experiences I’ve done during my degree. Having missed over a year of practical classes due to COVID, it was so much fun getting back into putting scientific principles into practice.
Mary and Anita were always willing to share their wisdom. Their guidance and willingness to teach and share new skills was so encouraging, and I always felt like I was part of the team. Every day in the lab was different, and filled with new opportunities to learn. I have been taught a wealth of knowledge that will stay with me throughout my studies and my career.
What Mary and the team at Agpath do is incredible. Their passion and commitment to biological farming was infectious, particularly with encouraging and inspiring others to improve soil health and work towards a sustainable future. I feel even more motivated than ever to pursue a career in Agricultural Science, particularly in regenerative agriculture, after my time at Agpath.
I encourage students and likeminded individuals with a passion for science to look into what Agpath do, attend their workshops, and complete work experience here. The Agpath team are warm and welcoming, encouraging and some of the most inspirational people you will meet. What a wonderful workplace to feel a part of, I will forever be grateful for this time with them.
Hoping to see you all again very soon!
Ruby Hanson – St Paul’s Year 10 Work Experience
Once again, thanking all the Agpath team for the time and dedication they put into helping others and allowing for me to partake in work experience there.
There was never a time when I was not learning something or completing a task for the first time, and the whole experience was very educational. The laboratory is so diverse and the range of knowledge they have is amazing. From Field work to microscopes, pathology on sap to agar plates, the lab is highly versatile and to experience what they have to offer was a pleasure.
On top of, the way they all work as a team and are so inviting and patient when teaching, shows a lot about their commitment and their love for what they do, as well as their value in education. They explain topics in an understandable way, and after the lockdown last year this was a great way to put theory into practice again. The entire week was inspiring and motivating, with a supportive and encouraging environment with learning always happening. The value of this experience was truly unforgettable and so unique compared to what work experience is normally seen as.
Thank you to Mary, Alan, Anita, Fur babies, and team for such an enjoyable work experience.
Tony – Resilience Farming
Rachel Cavallo – work placement as part of Bachelor of Environmental Conservation Science, Federation University, Berwick Campus.
I would love to thank everyone at Agpath, Mary, Alan, Heli and Anita, for the most amazing work experience placement. My time at Agpath was one of the greatest experiences of my entire degree. Everyone at Agpath made me feel like part of the team throughout the entire time I was there, and what a great team to feel a part of!
Agpath is such a greatly diverse laboratory, with great ranges of knowledge and life experience from which I learnt so much. The whole team at Agpath were so willing to share so much of their knowledge with me and spend time teaching me new skills, even if they had to explain several times, they were still so patient and encouraging. There was never a time I felt I did not understand anything by the end of the day, and I can honestly say I have gain mountains of knowledge and experience from my time with Mary, Alan, Heli and Anita.
I have been given so many opportunities by Mary, Alan, Heli and Anita, I am so incredibly thankful, and I don’t believe I could ever thank them enough for their time and energy they’ve put into me. I will forever grateful.
I would like to thank everyone at Agpath for my time at Agpath, it will be a time never forgotten.
Dear Dr. Mary,
Again thank you for giving this opportunity to participate your fruitful and practical workshops. I really learnt more about composting, compost tea and microscope application in agriculture during two days. Please convey my special regards and thanks to Alan as well for hospitalities and delicious food he provided beside practical section he did perfectly.
I am from Iran and gained a PhD in Agronomy (organic farming) from “Indian Agricultural Research Institute” in 2010, and have some experience related to sustainable agriculture in Asia, Europe and Africa as well.
For sure, AGPATH was best place that I have worked! Dr. Mary and her colleagues are friendly and I can really learn so many things practically besides theoretical concepts from them and got familiar more with the work environment in Australia there.
Nowadays, there are few people like Dr Mary who share their invaluable knowledge and experiences freely with young scientists! What I got from her during work placement was not only scientific matters like microbiology and biological agriculture, but morality and philanthropy!
Thank-you, Your crazy student, Reza Davari.
Maggie Millis – Year 10, Drouin Secondary College
I would like to thank Mary, Alan, Heli, Anita and AgPath as a whole for taking me in for Work Experience in 2018. My Work Experience at AgPath was just for a week – and the AgPath team made sure to help me fit right in.
The environment was extremely friendly and inviting, and at no point did I feel lost in the lab, always being told what was going on and being given understanding. Everyone in the team is extremely passionate and were always on their feet; allowing me to be involved in all of the work being performed in the laboratory.
Mary and the team were extremely willing to give their time and vast knowledge; giving me a space in the lab for just this small amount period of a week.
Even if my knowledge was limited comparatively, at no point did I feel as though this was an problem; Heli and Anita were always explaining certain things to me and I feel as though my knowledge expanded and I was able to pick up on certain aspects after just a day.
Throughout this week I was able to look at Protozoa and Nematodes, also looking at how AgPath works and the brilliance behind what they provide. I was able to sit in on an interview between clients and Mary; discussing how AgPath would be involved and how it would benefit.
Mary, Heli and Anita are three extremely smart and generous women, and I would like to thank them all once again for having me.
What I benefitted from this experience is nothing I could gain from working anywhere else.
Jordan Treneman, Yr 10 Drouin Secondary College
5/09/2017 4:41 PM, Jordan wrote:
To Dr Mary Cole, Alan, Heli, Anita, and all of the Agpath team,
I wish to thank you all for your time and assistance during my 2017 work experience placement. During my week I was given the opportunity to participate in a small microscope course, one of the many courses available through Agpath laboratories run by Mary Cole. Through this experience, I gained knowledge on a variety of laboratory tasks including using an autoclave, writing notes and using a microscope correctly, just to name a few. I was given the opportunity to identify organisms consisting of protozoa, nematodes, fungi, and other organisms using a microscope.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Agpath laboratories, and once again thank Dr Mary Cole and her team for their time, and sharing their knowledge.
Thank you once again, Jordan Treneman, Yr 10 Drouin Secondary College.
(Jordan, with Heli, Mary and Anita in the Agpath Lab).
Viktoria Stepanova, graduated from Holmesglen Institute in 2016, Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques.
I am very grateful for Dr Mary and Alan’s contribution in my life. When I met them in March 2017 I had been looking for a job for 4 months and I was absolutely devastated because of the lack of experience. I cannot describe how helpful and invaluable Dr Mary was, with her passion to share her incredible experience and to support young people on their first steps to Science.
Agpath’s team is very friendly and I enjoyed every minute I have spent at their lab. Microscopy was one of my favorite units when I studied at Holmesglen, and I had a great opportunity to deepen my knowledge in identifying of protozoa, nematodes and fungi while gaining work experience at Agpath.
Moreover, I was involved in all aspects of their work, as well as meeting with clients and going to client’s sites to see the real picture of their fields. It is a pleasure to see how Dr Mary helps farmers to be more sustainable and reduce negative impact on our planet.
I would like to thank Dr Mary and her team for giving me a chance to work with such great professionals who love their job! I now have a job; in fact I was offered two jobs in two days.
Heli & Viktoria looking at protozoa.
Mariam Abouleish, graduate of Cairo University (2016) & Hohenheim University, Stuttgart, Germany (2013).
Agricultural Engineer at SEKEM farms, Egypt. (see www.SEKEM.com).
I want to thank Dr. Mary Cole, Alan Cole and all the Agpath team for the very instructive and great 3 weeks I had the chance to spend with them.
I came all the way from Egypt to learn more microscopy and how to use it to identify the microbiology of soils, compost and compost tea. I found myself learning a lot more than only that in the 3 weeks I spent at Agpath. Unfortunately, very few laboratories worldwide are using this method of analysing the microbiology of soils, compost or compost tea. It is a method that gives you an overview of the microorganisms in the soil and how they interact and contribute to the natural nutrient cycling that a plant needs.
I was very surprised about Dr. Mary’s patience and time. I thought as someone with that much of experience, responsibilities and obligations would not have sufficient time for teaching or answering questions. But I found out that for Dr. Mary there was ALWAYS time for teaching and there was NEVER stupid questions. She takes her time for teaching and advising very, very seriously.
Besides learning a lot about soil microbiology and how to analyse and interpret the results, I learned also a lot about pathogen identification and the symptoms of the different diseases on the plants. Being an agricultural engineer cultivating organic vegetables and fruits, it is very important for me to know how the things look like in the field and in practice. At Agpath with the experienced and professional team I could learn, beside the scientific side also the practical side. I also had the opportunity to build a thermal aerobic compost pile with Alan. Even though I have made windrow compost in Egypt I have learned here at Agpath that there are important details such as raw material inputs and their effects on the composting process that need to be considered.
I am very thankful and grateful that I had this opportunity to spend some weeks in Agpath and I would like to express my greatest appreciation for all the people here, for their time and for passing on some of their knowledge to me.
I would be very happy if Dr. Mary and Alan Cole could act as consultants for us in Egypt (SEKEM) to share their experience on soil health and the importance of microorganisms in soils as well as the role of compost-making in enhancing the soil.
Michelle Grixti, graduated from University of Melbourne in 2014 with a Bachelor degree in Agricultural science.
Agpath provide friendly, professional and effective services for a vital area of agriculture. Mary and the Agpath team are passionate about soil health and biology, evident through their quality of work produced to assist famers, fellow scientists, and clients interested in sustainable farming practices. Her lab is capable of providing a range of analysis, consultation and education services.
Mary’s experience, knowledge, and passion comes through in all her work, whether meeting with a farmer to assess the impact of a pathogen on their crop then working with them to develop a management plan, holding education workshops for small groups or within the larger community, or conducting detailed and extensive analyses to meet various client requirements.
I was fortunate enough to work with Mary and her team on a scholarship project in 2013, and since then have recognised how generous she is in giving her time to share years of comprehensive knowledge and experience about soil health, with anyone sharing her passion for sustainable farming. I have met with farmers interstate and overseas who share my appreciation of Mary’s work and its impact on their sustainable farming knowledge and practices’.
Chris Paynter, Science Student at La Trobe University.
“Mary and her team are a highly skilled professional group dedicated to improving their clients soil biology; an aspect of soil health that is extremely important but largely overlooked save for a small number of labs like Mary’s worldwide.”
“The lab at Agpath is quite unique and the team extremely friendly, committed to providing fast, reliable service, and promoting best farming practices in the surrounding agricultural landscape and across Australia.”
“Mary let me come to her lab for work experience. I found her to be very generous with her time and knowledge, sharing ideas and explaining the principles behind many of their procedures. She also expressed a keen desire to share her vast knowledge with others, wishing to pass on her knowledge to new generations of scientists and farmers alike.”
Once again, l would like to thank you VERY much for your willingness to present at the ‘Soils on the Mornington Peninsula’ information session and discussion that was held at the 24th of June 2012 at the Main Ridge Community Hall Main Ridge.
This event received some very very positive feedback! This would not have been possible without your knowledge, expertise, and tremendous ability to convey it!
Denis and I really enjoyed working with you, and we are very excited about the possibility of working with you again at some stage.
Click Here to read Report containing the feedback and learnings that came out of this event.