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Monday, December 15, 2014


Moe (my lovely bride of 37 years) and I have been learning quite a lot over the last few years about sustainable agricultural practices.  We have been on a deliberate journey of learning and practice with the intent of creating the richest and most fertile soil possible on the land we manage.

We were recently introduced to the thinking of farmer/rancher Gabe Brown (GB) of Bismarck, North Dakota.  GB argues that our goal should not be sustainability, but rather, regeneration.  He believes that using the word "sustain" implies that we're trying to maintain the status quo.  GB insists that our goal(s) should be richer than that; it should be to renew, re-energize, re-invigorate, and replicate the life-producing and life-enhancing cycles that have been depleted either through time or through damaging practices.  

I like his thinking in this regard.  It makes perfect sense when you think about the cumulative effects on the land of the industrial farming model.  

GB proposes five principles to guide the thinking and practices of agricultural practitioners (these tenets are borrowed from an article by Dr. Joseph Mercola):

  1. No-tillage. Cease the practice of constantly disrupting the soil by overturning it.  No-tillage limits soil erosion and allows soil microbes to thrive.
  2. Plant diversity and rotation.  In the natural state, each plant has a purpose in the ecosystem and represents a critical component in the interplay of life.
  3. Multispecies cover-cropping. Cover crops provide the carbon that becomes that all-important "armor" on the soil surface. Cover crops also act as insulation, so the soil doesn't get as hot or cold as it would if bare. This allows microbes to thrive longer. Also, the soil biology heats up the soil, which can extend your overall growing season in colder areas.
  4. Maintaining living roots in the soil year-round.  It’s important to have living plant roots in the soil as long as possible throughout the year. 
  5. Livestock integration and diversification.  Just as diversity is critical to the health of soil at the microbial level, the same regenerating impact is seen when the "surface" of the ground is impacted by living creatures (both wild and domestic).
Now let me provoke your thinking...

The bottom line is that the health and well-being of the food produced by the land is ultimately dependent on its nutritional "roots."  

Same goes for us humans - nutritionally, physically, cognitively, emotionally, spiritually.  We are only as healthy (both as individuals and as organizations) as our "nutritional sources."  

I'll leave it to you to chase the analogies I insinuate.

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