Enriching agrobiodiversity and soil health for more nutritious foods (interview with Gabe Brown of Brown's Ranch)
This is a conversation on Green Dreamer with Kamea Chayne, a podcast exploring environmental regeneration and intersectional sustainability from ideas to life. Subscribe to Green Dreamer on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or any podcast app to stay informed and up to date on our latest episodes.
Gabe Brown is the author of Dirt to Soil and the owner and operator of Brown’s Ranch in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he and his family have been farming profitably without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides for over twenty years.
After consecutive seasons of harsh weather conditions that destroyed his crops, leading to Gabe being rejected from the bank loans needed to purchase his agrochemicals, he was forced to experiment with how he could farm solely by taking care of the land itself.
This is how he discovered the power of regenerative agriculture in not only removing his need to purchase synthetic additives, but also in improving his soil health, increasing the nutrient density in his produce, enriching the biodiversity on his farmlands while providing habitats for wildlife, and also making his farm more financially secure.
Today, Gabe’s award-winning regenerative farming systems lead thousands of people to flock to his farm each year to learn how to implement them so they can support their own farms and ranches as well.
On this podcast episode, Gabe sheds light on why we need to stop focusing on yield as the ultimate measurement in food production; the importance of having ruminants and animals on farmlands to support agroecology; problematic, existing farm programs and regulations that incentivize monocultures and extractive agriculture that need to be amended; and more.
To start, get a glimpse below into the conversation between Gabe and Green Dreamer Podcast's host, Kamea Chayne.
On the vital role of ruminants in farmland ecosystems:
"Nature just does not ‘farm’ without animals. Unfortunately, today, many people think the best thing we can do is remove animals off of the landscape. That's actually the worst thing we can do; it will lead to much faster desertification.
These ecosystems evolved over time with animals living in harmony with them and it's very, very important to have the grazing ruminants out on the landscape grazing those plants. When they do, those plants then take in much more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and pump it into the soil.
And that's one of the reasons we have this terrible problem right now with way too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and not enough carbon in the soil."
On how regenerative agriculture impacts nutrient density:
"A very small percentage of consumers have really tasted nutrient-dense food, because when you taste nutrient-dense food, your body will know it, and it will crave more of that food.
We're just consuming, by and large, commodities today.
I just talked to an individual here last week who is running tests on carrots produced in different production models, and they found that phenols—which are really needed to drive human health—in the carrots produced in a regenerative manner were two-thousand times higher than those produced in a conventional manner."
On how transitioning to regenerative practices can make farmers more financially secure—even in the short-term:
"My business partners and I, right now, are consulting on about 3.5 million acres across North America, and we have yet to not show increased profitability on any farm or ranch we work with in the first year.
So, we can be more profitable in year one. And usually in year three, you're seeing significant changes to the soil ecosystem itself, and to farm profitability."
On the need to value the biological activity in our soils:
"So often, farmers have been taught that it's all about the chemical and physical properties of the soil. They think, 'Well, we can take a soil test and it will show that I have X amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc.'
But what hasn't been taken into account is the biological component of the soil.
And it's really the biology that drives the nutrient cycle. There are more microorganisms in a teaspoon full of healthy soil than there are people in this world.
But how many farmers, ranchers, or gardeners think of that?"
Gabe’s final words of wisdom:
"What I really encourage you to do is to do something.
Make a difference; never stop learning and understanding how ecosystems function; and share that news and knowledge with others. Then vote with your buying dollar."
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