Farming elephants, not cows, is one way to look at biological farming, says ecologist John Grant who relayed a funny story during a World Soil Day farm tour at Booyong.
A biological dairy producer was asked how his cows were going and the farmer replied by saying "I don't grow cows", and went on to explain that he managed the four tonnes to the hectare of bacteria in the soil - which was equivalent to four elephants a hectare.
"I look after the biology. The cows are a bonus," the farmer said.
This connection between soil and food was the focus of conversation during the tour of Edward and Jeanie Wylie's mixed farming enterprise, Frieda's Field, on red basalt soil at Booyong near Bangalow.
Here on country that once grew rainforest now runs Wagyu/Angus cattle. These are grazed in 16 paddocks managed in rotation on subtropical pasture that is more diverse in winter than summer, when kikuyu dominates.
An irrigated market garden provides fresh produce to an on-site restaurant.
On only 48ha, but with fertile flats, the sustainably-grown enterprise wouldn't profit as much without the value-added nature of the business.
And this highlights a problem of growing food in a way that builds soil health.
"There is little difference in price paid for sustainably grown and commercially-grown product," said Dr Grant, of Southern Cross University, Lismore.
"We know healthy soil grows healthy food but just because you work hard and create a good product isn't enough. Retailers want quantity and consistency."
Ms Wylie said having a restaurant as the focus of their enterprise allowed them to cultivate diversity in the garden and the paddock, with their menu rotating with the seasons and their chef working with what vegetables were available.
Part of this week's World Soils Day, held on December 5, included an awareness of diversity that extended to ideas.
"Seek out people who are different," suggested Dr Grant.
Throughout history and running through all the religions are references to humanity moulded from clay and how inter-connected we are with the dirt under our feet - especially the biology that exists in our gut and in the soil.
Dr Grant describes the pillars of healthy soil as chemistry, physical structure and biology.
"For the past 60 years agronomy has been all about the chemistry and it hasn't done that well when it comes to soil health. We can't keep propping up the stool without all three legs."
During last year's extreme flood, the Wilsons River ran red with ferrosols from the upper catchment.
"That's the blood of the landscape. We are literally bleeding production out of our farms."
Again he quoted the old religious texts that described a point of time before Christ when Lebanese Cedars were cut down and flood and famine followed.
"The message is clear," he says.
"The protection of soils is really important. And you don't have to understand the complexity of soils to nurture them."