Strategic Advisory board
Our Strategic Advisory Board consists of experts from science, business, campaigning, economics and farming. They contribute their varied knowledge and perspectives on soils and soil health by providing strategic input and guidance into our activities with specific focus on the three workstreams and other key initiatives.
Kevin Austin, Environment Agency (observer status)
Stephen has been providing farm business consultancy throughout the UK and internationally for over 20 years, and has been active in influencing agricultural policy at UK / EU levels. He has a masters in Soil Science, was a 2011 Nuffield Farming Scholar studying global agroforestry and was founding Director of the Institute of Organic Training & Advice.
Building soil health and resilience to maintain biodiversity and productive potential should be at the forefront of the minds of farmers and land managers. Stephen hopes his combination of Scientific rigour and practical farming experience will help direct the SSA to facilitate and deliver and improved understanding of practical soil management options.
John founded the annual Groundswell show which began life with 700 attendees and has grown to almost double that in 3 years. He is a passionate practitioner and supporter of no-till farming from his home farm base of 2500 acres in Herts. He aims to establish an agronomy label to educate and train farmers in regenerative farming practices to facilitate a move away from intensive agriculture and the industrial food system.
I have always been interested in soil, which in the end is the most important thing about farming… When you see someone who is farming without moving the soil it is mind-blowing.
Chris coordinates the SSP, a £multi-million research project to understand how soils resist, recover and adapt to land use and climate change, and is Professor of Environmental Science at Reading University.
Chris also sits on the government’s Natural Capital Committee and is the Chair of the Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee. He is on the Board of Directors for Linking Environment & Farming and Director of the Soil Research Centre, bringing together researchers across the University of Reading with external stakeholders to explore the challenges around soil as a key resource. He is Chair of the SSA Science Panel.
Previously Technical Sustainability Manager at G’s, Charlie came from a Senior Agronomist role for M&S with activities including quality, ethical and environmental management of the supply chain, exploration of post-harvest technologies, ensuring responsible sourcing, supporting sustainable agriculture and product development / innovation.
Charlie is qualified in postharvest technology (University of California), agricultural sustainability, supply chain and leadership (Cranfield School of Management) and advanced agronomy (Harper Adams University). She is the main collaborator on our soils and the supply chain initiative.
Stephanie has established herself as a leader for a sustainable future and systems change. As recently appointed CE for UK international development organisation Bond, Stephanie works to unite the development and environment worlds and increase the impact of large scale systems change projects. She was previously Head of Forum for the Future and has been fundamentally involved in the wider sustainable development movement.
The idea of bringing people together to address big challenges and change systems is central to my work. One of those challenges is sustainable nutrition, and it is clear that soil is the most fundamental lever of change in the food system. I am keen to bring my expertise in systems change and collaboration, along with my drive to create change in this arena, to make a contribution to the sustainability of soils via the SSA SAB.
An award-winning author, strategist and campaigner working on farm policy, environment and food issues for 25 years, Vicki was previously Director of Campaigns & Policy at War on Want, Head of the Friends of the Earth Food Programme, Sustain’s Policy Director and Director of the SAFE Alliance. She published Perfectly Safe to Eat? in 2000 (Women’s Press) and was Chair of the Eating Better Alliance.
With a background in entomology and pest management as well as decades in driving policy change Vicki will be able to bring both scientific as well as policy expertise to help the Alliance’s work.
Gareth joined the Soil Association after many years at the RSPB as Head of Agriculture Policy and External Affairs. Prior to this he served as Senior Agriculture Policy Officer for Natural England.
It’s no surprise that the work of the Sustainable Soils Alliance is of great interest to the Soil Association which has its roots in the idea that truly sustainable farming starts with an understanding of the central role of soil. My own background lies in environmental policy and before that biochemistry, and I recently joined the Soil Association as Head of Farming and Land Use policy because I think a recovery in the UK’s biodiversity can only come with a transformation in what we eat and the way we produce it. I’ll be working with the SSA to ensure that soil health is properly reflected in government environment policy, and good soil management is provided with the right incentives and support.
Sue is a farmer, running an organic, permaculture livestock farm in Wales, and also Director of the FFCC - a two-year independent inquiry that aims to shape a future for food, farming and the countryside that is fairer, stands the test of time and aligns more closely with public expectations and values. The SSA is partnering with the FFCC on research in to practices to improve soil fertility and water quality on Lincolnshire farms.
In light of the 25 Year Environment Plan, our priority for achieving soil recovery is to involve farmers, growers, businesses, citizens and communities, in more thoughtful and informed conversations, about the choices that face us and the actions we urgently need to take.
With a background in agriculture and forestry, Charlotte has been a commercial-scale organic farmer for more than thirty years. She has been Head of Learning at Eden for nearly 10 years, with experience and background in environmental education, agriculture and food policy.
The Eden Project is passionate about soil and its crucial role in maintaining life on the planet. Through their work on climate change and connection and communication with global audiences, the organisation hopes to tell the stories, actively support and give voice to the vital work of the SSA.
Liz is a researcher and sharer of soils knowledge with growers – and hence is often found in a hole in the ground. She is currently Head of Farming Systems Research at NIAB and leads the cross-sector levy-funded Soil Biology & Soil Health Partnership (AHDB/BBRO; 2017-2021). This Partnership is working with and for the agricultural industry to develop practical tools for soil health assessment and supporting information for farmers to use to develop site-specific soil management approaches.
Bringing together the knowledge of research into the detailed interactions within the soil together with the practical husbandry skills and local knowledge of farmers can lead to amazing breakthroughs in the our understanding of the ecosystems beneath our feet. I’m looking forward to working with the SSA to help ensure that all stakeholders develop an enhanced understanding of soils’ value and functions and look to work in ways that ensure all land is managed sustainably.
Harry has owned and managed forests and farmed in South West England for nearly 30 years. He was a GB Forestry Commissioner from 2007 and became Chair in February 2014. The Forestry Commission manages the UK’s state-owned forests, is the country’s largest land manager and includes forest research which has been a significant contributor to our understanding of forest soils. In 2017 Harry was appointed an honorary professor at Exeter University, researching forestry, and he is also an honorary fellow of the Institute of Chartered Foresters. He was Deputy Chairman of the Independent Panel on Forestry which reported on the future of English forestry in July 2012.
Andrew works with food and agriculture brands, financial institutions and governments to help them enjoy the business benefits of the transition to regenerative agriculture at scale across the value chain and build a market that values these practices, as part of Soil Capital - a farm management firm committed to scaling regenerative agriculture through market solutions.
Andrew brings his experience of the superior economics of practices that improve soil health, and how to make those benefits accessible to brands, financiers and governments, into the SSA's work.
Prior to his role at Soil Capital, Andrew led the sustainable finance practice at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership for 10 years, where he remains a Senior Associate.