'Soil caretakers in the spotlight' is a series of illustrative stories in which more than twenty 'soil caretakers' come into play. They tell us why care for the tiny, almost invisible soil life provides our gardens, streets, neighbourhoods, cities and landscapes with new qualities. The seven stories were developed by Architecture Workroom Brussels and documentary maker Jonathan Ortegat and commissioned by OVAM.

The soil lies right beneath our feet. Yet we do not realise the important role soil plays in our everyday lives. The natural processes in the soil are complex and invisible, but also very close and recognisable. They are part of the farmer's craftsmanship, determine the typical scent that the walker seeks in the forest and constitute the best known example of the circle of life. Soil is a crucial component in determining and maintaining the richness of our ecosystem. Healthy, living soils provide us with food and clean water, keep us healthy and arm us against extreme weather conditions.

The structural role of soil, the regulatory services it provides and the importance of biodiversity have been cast aside over the past half century. Our neglect of the soil is coming back to haunt us today. Climate change, with its peaks in rainfall and drought, repeatedly warns us how important soil is for the liveability and even the safety of our society. How can we change our approach to soil care in light of the climate challenges? How can we make soil care central once more in our gardens, neighbourhoods and landscapes? And why is soil care everyone's concern?

With these questions in mind, Architecture Workroom Brussels, commissioned by OVAM, went in search of actors who put soil care into practice. We interviewed no less than 23 soil caretakers spread across Flanders: teachers, farmers, local authorities, citizens, scientific experts, gardening specialists, entrepreneurs, earth-moving firms and Flemish, Dutch and European policymakers. They tell us why care for the tiny, almost , invisible soil life provides our gardens, streets, neighbourhoods, cities and landscapes with new qualities. 


We bundled all these insights in seven illustrated stories. Be sure to take a moment to look at the drawings. They immerse the reader in the field of soil care on the smallest scale as well as in a vast landscape. They show how taking care of what lies underground leads to gains above-ground.

  1. A journey of discovery into what's going on under our feet.
  2. Soil life as it is.
  3. Gardening to please your soil.
  4. Soil management on a neighbourhood scale.
  5. Entrepreneurs working with the natural processes of the soil.
  6. What if we aligned land use and soil properties?
  7. Soil care is everyone's concern: everyone is a soil steward!

Delve into the story: here

Year: 2019-2021  

Commissioning party: OVAM 

Partner: Jonathan Ortegat/Playful

Soil caretakers:
Rainer Baritz, European Environment Agency (EEA) 
Bart Backaert, Parks and gardens department Aalst 
Sandra Boekhold, Netherlands Institute for Public Health and the Environment 
Ann Cuyckens, Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) 
Dirk Dedecker, Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) 
Johan de Fraye, Signify & NICOLE 
Siegfried D'Haene, DEME Environmental Contractors 
Alain Delaet, Huyghe Brewery 
Ellen De Wilde, DEME Environmental Contractors 
Annemie Elsen, Soil Service Belgium (BDB) 
Andy Heurckmans, Grondbank vzw 
Kwinten Keulemans, Freinetschool de Zevensprong 
Froukje Kuijk, Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) 
Floor Jacoby, Freinetschool de Zevensprong 
Jérôme Metz, DEME Environmental Contractors 
Roy Meulemans, De Braem community centre 
Dietmar Müller-Grabherr, Environmental Agency of Austria and Chairman of Common Forum 
Walter Op De Beeck, City of Leuven 
Frank Petit-Jean, Velt 
Greet Ruysschaert, Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research  
Nico Vandevannet, De Levende Aarde 
Hans Vandermaelen, Ghent University/Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research 
Hilde Van Rillaer, City of Leuven 
Eddy Wille, Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM)