Social Impacts of Regenerative Agriculture with Gabe Brown

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In this episode, I interviewed Gabe Brown, a rancher who is a veteran no-tiller and the owner of Brown’s Ranch in Bismarck, N.D..

We discussed Gabe’s experience farming without applying any fertilizers, the ability to feed more people with regenerative agriculture than with the current system, the economics of grazing beef, and the tremendous opportunity of growing non-commodity crops. This episode is a great look at the practical applications of regenerative agriculture systems.

Gabe's new book, Dirt to Soil, will be available in fall 2018 from Chelsea Green and Amazon.

Support For This Show & Helping You Grow

This show is brought to you by AEA, leaders in regenerative agriculture since 2006.

If you are a large-scale grower looking to increase crop revenue and quality, email hello@advancingecoag.com or call 800-495-6603 extension 344 to be connected with a dedicated AEA crop consultant.

Episode 2 - Gabe Brown - Highlights

0:02:40 - What moments have lead Gabe to where he is today?

  • Since Gabe wasn’t born and raised on a farm, he didn’t have any preconceived notions, and was open to new ideas
  • Gabe went to no tillage
  • Gabe learned how to use the land without the use of synthetic inputs

0:04:40 - What were the key pieces Gabe changed to how he had been farming?

  • Incorporating livestock
  • Lowering synthetic inputs

0:07:20 - How important is it to incorporate livestock?

  • Soil health revolves around carbon
  • We can still definitely improve soil health without livestock, however they will not reach the levels of soil that had livestock
  • Cover crops are still a no-brainer, however!

0:12:00 - Commodity crop mindset

  • We have a human health crisis
  • Nutrient density is a fraction of what it used to be
  • Health of soil ecosystem is causing downward trend in nutrient density
  • Focus on human health is a coming wave

0:16:40 - Do we actually have a food production problem?

  • We have a distribution problem, not a food production problem.

0:20:50 - Iowa’s change from 1946

  • Gabe is succeeding by focusing on growing different things
  • Money coming from working on little things

0:25:00 - Agriculture is fun again!

  • Much more enjoyable to work with a model of life rather than death

0:26:20 - We have a model of agriculture antagonistic to growers core values

  • There are human health implications

0:28:30 - Can we increase meat consumption globally and produce an equivalent or greater amount of meat using the system Gabe has described?

  • Absolutely yes!
  • Not having animals out on the land causing issues
  • Commodity vs regenerative model - growing cover crops, grazing

0:32:40 - Growing food as medicine

0:34:10 - What has really puzzled Gabe?

  • Dealing with perennial weeds
  • We have to get fungal activity back into soils

0:38:20 - What has surprised Gabe?

  • Not able to be truly regenerative without removing or significantly backing off the use of synthetics

0:40:40 - What synthetic fertilisers has Gabe been using?

  • Dry synthetic fertilisers such as urea
  • They were significantly over applying nitrogen and phosphorus
  • Need to wean off of synthetics

0:43:40 - What does Gabe believe to be true about modern agriculture that others don’t believe to be true?

  • We aren’t given an owners manual for our soil
  • Need to realize soil is living, dynamic, resilient ecosystem
  • What thing that sets Gabe’s operation apart: Living growing root in the ground as long as possible throughout the year

0:47:00 - Most growers haven’t observed truly healthy plants

0:48:20 - What is the biggest opportunity in agriculture today?

0:51:00 - What is a book or resource Gabe recommends?

0:53:30 - What ideas and technology is Gabe excited about for the future of agriculture?

  • Leaps in knowledge of soil biology
  • Instrumentation to scan a food item to scan nutrient density
  • Advancements in measuring carbon

0:58:00 - What actions would you recommend for growers?

  • Educate themselves - have a desire to learn
  • 5 principles - least amount of disturbance possible, armor on the soil, diversity, living root in ground as long as possible, animal integration. Try these 5 on a given field for 5 years
  • Getting more perennials growing

1:01:50 - What question does Gabe wish John had asked?

  • Just try something! Don’t have to do it all to start
  • Need to not drive young people away from agriculture

Feedback & Booking

Please send your feedback, requests for topics or guests, or booking request have a Podcast episode recorded LIVE at your event -- to production@regenerativeagriculturepodcast.com. You can email John directly at John@regenerativeagriculturepodcast.com.

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