MM (Michiel) van de Pavert MSc

MM (Michiel) van de Pavert MSc


Soil Care in Market Gardening

My thesis is centred around the concept of soil care in community-supported small-scale market gardening. The two gardens in Luxembourg where I conducted my fieldwork take a no-dig approach to regenerating soil health.

Based on prolonged ethnographic engagements I start  the thesis from the daily practice of soil care to sketch its process-relationality. Gardening with soil for two growing seasons has allowed me to internalise the logic of soil care and see its multiplicity and challenges. Next, I explore what lessons these human-nonhuman relations have for care theory. For example, nonhumans cannot respond verbally to the care given, which has implications for the responsibilities we take. In other words, how does caring with soil work in practice? In the next chapter I elaborate on the affective dimension of soil care. Being immersed in the gardens I have been able to feel the life regenerating processes. Without knowing precisely what processes occur in the soil, there is a strong sense that no-dig gardening is creating the conditions for life to flourish. Lastly, these gardens do not exist in isolation. Particularly the issue of land (high prices, insecure tenure contracts, etc.) is a pressing one. In this last chapter of the thesis I zoom out to see soil care in the wider context of land (un)availability. By looking at land relations I hope to learn about how the direct practice of immediate soil care is fostered or hindered by the wider care relations.

The thesis combines the issues and arguments that research participants make relevant in combination with is theoretically novel contributions to care theory. Throughout the thesis I aim to write creative non-fiction to engage readers affectively in the soil-centred stories. These stories serve to analyse the novel engagements of market gardeners with their soil to hopefully inspire eco-positive mindset shifts for transformative change.

I work together with the GEOS project. If you have any questions or comments feel free to send me an email at