Seeds of Change in Times of Crisis

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations in the U.S. and Latin America that save, produce and sell seeds have seen a significant increase in the demand for native seeds. This new interest in seeds comes with great opportunities, but also some challenges.

Motivated to learn more about this phenomenon, Valeria García López, a researcher in agroecology in Colombia and Mexico, and David Greenwood-Sánchez, a political scientist specializing in GMO regulation in Latin America, set out to do some research.

Both López and Greenwood-Sánchez are independent researchers who in recent years have been part of different movements in defense of seeds in Latin America and the U.S. Both believe that this new interest in seeds, in the context of the current economic, food and health crisis, highlights the challenges local seed systems are facing in a post-pandemic scenario.

We recently spoke with López and Greenwood-Sánchez to learn more about their work, their love for seeds and biocultural diversity, as well as the motivations for their research.

Seeds and biocultural diversity: a love story

Greenwood-Sánchez is a native of Minnesota but his mother is Peruvian. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy. During his studies, he had to do an internship and decided to do it in Peru, looking for his roots.

Over the course of his research, Greenwood-Sánchez found out that Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes, had declared itself a GMO-free region, thanks to a push by potato growers and the existing moratorium on GMOs in Peru. Curious to know more, Greenwood-Sánchez ended up doing an internship at the Parque de la Papa (Potatoe’s Park), an association of five indigenous communities that manages more than 1000 varieties of potatoes and works on issues related to biodiversity, intellectual property and biocultural records. There, he discovered agrobiodiversity and its link to culture and traditions, and how people can promote agrobiodiversity through their culture and day-to-day life. He then decided to pursue a Doctorate in Public Policy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

David Greenwood-Sánchez planting potatoes in Minnesota

Greenwood-Sánchez’s research has focused on the construction of systems that regulate GMOs in Latin America, using Mexico and Peru as case studies. In Mexico, certain GM crops can be planted, while in Peru, there is a moratorium on GMOs. His research focuses on the different groups that come together for the defense of biodiversity, on how the state, society and global markets join their efforts to demand policies that regulate the use of GMOs. This is closely related to the identity of each country, its people and how that identity is connected to their biodiversity, for example corn in Mexico, or potatoes in Peru.

García López is Colombian, but has been living in Mexico for five years. For the past six years she’s worked with networks of seed keepers, mainly in Antioquia, where she is originally from. She studied biology and then did her internship on agrobiodiversity and orchards in southern Colombia, near the border with Ecuador. There she discovered the wonders of agrobiodiversity. Being in love with the High Andean region, she went to Ecuador, where she did a Master’s Degree in conservation of the páramo ecosystem and its relationship with climate change.

Back in Colombia, García López discovered the Colombian Free Seeds Network (RSLC). But in Antioquia, her native region, there was no local seed network, so she and other people were assigned to work to create a division of the network RSLC. Since the end of 2014, she worked to support the creation of community seed houses that would represent the first steps to create a Participatory Seed Guarantee System (GSP). That system would allow a certification of agroecological seeds under criteria internally established by the territories themselves, by indigenous and small farmers’ organizations—not by external entities, whether private or public.

This process has also allowed for progress toward the declaration of GMO-free territories. By taking advantage of protected indigenous reserves, which are exempt from complying with the Free Treaties Trade, García López and others were able to ban GMOs from the indigenouse reserves, and create a program to promote the conservation of native seeds.

García López recently completed her PhD in Ecology and Rural Development at the Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR), Mexico. The topic of her research was how seed guardian networks use different strategies to defend seeds. She studied cases both in Mexico and Colombia after observing that in both countries, the defense of native and creole seeds has intensified and how seed networks have come together to face threats. In fact, seed initiatives that had already existed but worked in isolation are now joining forces around a common goal.

Valeria García López holding a huge and beautiful squash she just harvested.

COVID-19 as catalyst for the agroecological movement

The pandemic of 2020 has exposed the fragility of the conventional food system, with its agribusiness corporations and long supply chains. Food supply problems, especially in urban centers, as well as an increase in prices and speculation have only been symptoms of this fragility.

Today, it is the small farmers who in many places keep local supplies going. In Brazil, for example, farmers from the Landless Workers Movement (MST for its Portuguese acronym) are donating food to people living in the cities. Organized movements in the countryside are mobilizing a lot of food, showing the capacity of alternative movements to respond.

The relationship between food and health is another topic spotlighted by the pandemic. People with chronic diseases linked to bad eating habits—diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol caused by bad eating habits—are more vulnerable to the virus. In fact, the strength or weakness of the immune system is greatly determined by our diet.

Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, said it more than 2,500 years ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This is why many people today are paying more attention to the food on their plates, its origin, how it was cultivated. People are more interested than ever in healthy eating, planting and having home gardens, and buying local food directly from the producers.

The pandemic has been shown the need to promote local agro-ecological food systems, which have proven to be more resilient than agribusiness systems. In this context, local and resilient seed systems become especially relevant, as they are the foundation upon which food sovereignty is built.

Pandemic times: Panic or hope? Looking for the seeds of change

García López and Greenwood-Sánchez are motivated to show there is hope despite the current global health and economic crisis. They decided to look beyond the mass media’s panic-inducing narrative about food insecurity, and investigate for themselves what was happening with producers. In particular, they wanted to know more about the initiatives related to the defense, reproduction, exchange and commercialization of native seeds, with the aim of learning and preserving traditional knowledge and practices in times where resilient and regenerative systems are much needed.

 To carry on their research, they followed up on the news, and they conducted a series of surveys and personal interviews (though not face-to-face, to comply with current social distancing). More than 25 initiatives from six countries in the Americas participated in the research: U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina and Peru. Medium-sized and family owned companies and individual, community, rural and urban initiatives gave their insights.

Here are some of the conclusions they drew from their research:

  • People are going back to appreciating what’s essential, the common goods, what sustains life. The crisis highlights the need to know where our food comes from, the importance of soil, water, and food justice.
  • More people are realizing the importance of growing their own food. Many people and organizations are now more aware of the importance of growing food for self-consumption. Many are starting their own gardens for the first time.
  • There’s a greater appreciation for the work seedkeepers do. The pandemic has generated greater awareness regarding the importance of food and farmers, as well as the role of seedkeepers who have preserved agrobiodiversity in a traditional way and who also have the knowledge on how to cultivate and care for seeds.
  • There’s renewed interest in seeds and food exchanges. Many traditional practices from indigenous people, such as Ayni in the Andean region, are becoming even more valuable today and inspire new forms of collaboration through networks of trust, support and solidarity.
  • People are realizing the need to be more creative to meet the rising demand for seeds. Many seed initiatives and ventures have been overwhelmed by the growing demand, exceeding their capacity to respond, and have had to creatively restructure their work in order to cope with the explosion of orders.

Collective planting. Photograph by Valeria García López.

 Who is behind the growing demand for seeds?

García López and Greenwood-Sánchez have found that it is not so much the institutions, companies or the government but the people and the communities who have been organizing themselves to acquire seeds and plant them. People are very interested in finding solutions and helping other people, out of pure solidarity.

Greenwood-Sánchez mentions, for example, an initiative that he promoted together with a group of friends, which today brings together about 700 people. The “Twin Cities Front Yard Organic Gardeners Club” encourages people to grow food on their front yard. Traditionally, in U.S. cities, people would have their vegetable gardens in the backyard, a custom that was especially adopted after the Second World War (Victory Gardens). In general, in the front yard there is just grass. But this is changing with the growing movement to replace grass with food. 

Front yard being turned into a vegetable garden. Photo by David Greenwood-Sánchez

Another example in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where Greenwood-Sánchez lives, is the “Outplant the Outbreak” campaign, which consists of making seed packets and putting them inside boxes where books are normally put, for public use and for free.

Envelopes with seeds for free. Photo by David Greenwood-Sánchez

In Peru, the government has started a campaign called “Hay que papear” to address the crisis by promoting potato consumption, as a complete, nutritious and cheap local food, and also to counter the general tendency to devalue this crop and to make its producers more invisible.

With growing interest come new challenges

While interest in seeds and growing food has spiked during the pandemic, the uptick in  interest has revealed new challenges. As part of their research, García López and Greenwood-Sánchez identified some of these challenges and potential solutions, including:

  • The greater demand for open-pollinated seeds requires a necessary increase in supply, which poses challenges in the organizational, technical, training, economic and legislative areas. Structural changes are needed to facilitate the growth and development of this sector.
  • Current seed laws and international treaties favor transnational seed companies and the promotion of GMOs. These laws threaten local seed systems, which are the basis of food sovereignty. Some examples are UPOV 91, the Seed Production, Certification and Commercialization Law or the Reforms to the Federal Law of Plant Varieties, in Mexico. To strengthen people’s food sovereignty, the first step should be to curb these treaties and laws and promote those that strengthen local seed systems, which have proven to be much more resilient against supply chain outages and the climate crisis. Fortunately, the greater awareness of the importance of agriculture and food, as well as the greater interest in growing your own food, is also bringing to the table the importance of these seed laws and treaties.
  • There need to be efforts to create public policies and laws that stimulate and strengthen local seed systems, including structural reforms at the market level to allow commercialization and seed exchange initiatives that cannot be subject to the same certification criteria as large transnational corporations.
  • One of the main arguments against the creation of seed laws that regulate and control the production of native and creole seeds is that the production of these seeds is not stable, unique or homogeneous. The main value of native and creole open-pollinated seeds is their genetic diversity, which gives them enormous capacity to respond and adapt to new geographic and climatic conditions. In Colombia, over a period of three years, several workshops and forums were held at the local and national level in order to identify the most important principles for seed guardians. The Participatory Guarantee Systems (SPG) has put together its own criteria, based on seven principles. It should be noted that one of the criteria of the Network of Free Seeds of Colombia regarding the sale of seeds specifies that in fact seeds themselves are not sold. What is sold is all the work behind the seeds, and what makes their existence possible. This is great progress, since it recognizes seeds as a common good which cannot be commercialized.
  • It is necessary to promote and protect the autonomy of the communities that have been practicing agriculture and that have cared for, selected and multiplied seeds for thousands of years. They do not need external validation, because these are practices that they have done for a long time. The challenge, rather than imposing external rules, is to ask ourselves how we can support them, how we can be useful for their work to prosper.
  • As more and more people start to grow their own food for the first time, it is essential to generate and promote educational spaces or gardens where these people can learn how to plant and maintain their gardens. It is important to understand the seeds should be planted, not saved and accumulated. Using them, multiplying them, exchanging them, donating them is the way to go.

 Next steps

Once García López and Greenwood-Sánchez complete the analysis of their research, they will share the results with all those who participated. They will also create a report, using plain language so it is suitable for the general public, to highlight the challenges that local seed systems face with this growing interest for native and native seeds.

Would you like to know more about the work Valeria and David do?

Write them a message: vagarcialopez@gmail.com, davidgreenwoodsanchez@gmail.com

Claudia Flisfisch Cortés is an agroecology specialist who is part of the commission of seeds and the articulating commission of RIHE (Chilean Network of Educational Gardens).To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

Living Off the Fat of the Land—Not the Fat of the Lab

All of my life I have heard, and used, the expression “Living off of the Fat of the Land.”

To me, that expression means doing well from the excesses that come from what you have. It is kind of like living on the interest that is paid on your savings account.

The definition of the idiomatic phrase supports that meaning:

To live off the fat of the land means to live well, to live off the surrounding abundance. The term live off the fat of the land was first used in the King James Version of the Bible, translated 1611, Genesis 45:18: “And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.”

An ecosystem that is operating optimally results in an abundance, which is true wealth. This abundance occurs only when the carbon cycle, water cycle, mineral cycle, energy cycle, microbial cycle, and all of the myriad of other cycles are operating properly.

Food that is produced naturally in a good working ecosystem is good for you. It is what nature produces, and what we evolved to eat. It is the true Fat of the Land.

Sadly, industrial, centralized, commodity farming practices are very effective at breaking these natural cycles. Much of the food that we now eat is manufactured in a laboratory. I think of it as the Fat of the Lab.

We now make meat in laboratories through methods that come from reductionist science. We are told that this fat [and protein] of the lab are better for us than the fat [and protein] of the land.

In a recent interview with CNBC, Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown expressed how he thinks the meat market will be obsolete in 20 years.

“From a nutritional standpoint our products match the protein quality and content of the animal products that they replace” and “ours is a clear winner from a health and nutrition standpoint,” [Brown] said in a “Mad Money” interview.

“This is why I think people are increasingly aware plant-based products are going to completely replace the animal-based products in the food world within the next 15 years. That’s our mission. That transformation is inevitable,” he told host Jim Cramer.

What could possibly go wrong in these laboratories? Many scientific processes and technologies are invented through reductionist science. These scientific methods almost always have unintended consequences that go unnoticed, often, for decades.

Of course, there can be good consequences (like penicillin for example). But more often than not, what we may call a “scientific breakthrough” at the time can later be recognized and recalled for dangerous unintended consequences.

Think about the number of modifications that we tried to impose on natural cycles, only to find out the unintended consequences later: using chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a refrigerant or in aerosol sprays that depleted the ozone, adding antibiotics in poultry and livestock feed that are growing antibiotic-resistant diseases, eliminating wolves from national parks that led to overpopulation and starvation.

Brown says that the transformation from meat to to plant-based products made in a lab is “inevitable”. To that I say:

• There is no natural cycle that creates fake meat.

• There is no regeneration of land when meat is made in a lab.

• Nor is there any reversal of the impoverishment of rural America that was caused by industrialized agriculture.

• There is nothing inevitable or permanent about creating a new manufacturing process, unknown to nature.

The Fat of the Lab is very new. The Fat of the Land has been under testing for a really long time. In our family, we’ve been living and eating The Fat of our Land since 1866. I trust cows and hogs a Helluva lot more than I trust chemists and marketers.

Wall Street and Silicon Valley will lie to you. Livestock don’t lie. CEO’S are self-serving. Cows are sincere.

Will Harris, owner of White Oaks Pastures Farm in Bluffton, Georgia, is a fifth-generation farmer and rancher. Harris is a co-chair of the national coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal.

Perspectives from Chad, Africa: COVID-19, Climate Change and Indigenous Knowledge

REPUBLIC OF CHAD, Africa – While COVID-19 has forced most of the world into lockdown, we are fortunate to report that our “Trails of Regeneration” video series is alive and well. Over the last few months we’ve focused on reporting the effects of the pandemic on farmers and ranchers and indigenous peoples from around the world. 

In our latest “Trails of Regeneration” episode, “Perspectives from Chad, Africa: Covid-19, Climate Change and Indigenous Knowledge,” we proudly feature Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, an award-winning environmental activist and indigenous woman from the Mbororo pastoralist community in Chad, which practices nomadic cattle herding.

Ibrahim is an expert in adaptation and mitigation of indigenous peoples and women in relation to climate change, traditional knowledge and the adaptation of pastoralists in Africa. She is founder and coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), which works to empower indigenous voices and improve quality of life by creating economic opportunities and protecting the natural resources to which pastoralist communities depend on.

Ibrahim was recently named Emerging Explorer 2017 by National Geographic. She has worked on the rights of indigenous peoples and the protection of the environment through the three Rio Conventions—on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Desertification—which originated out of the 1992 Earth Summit. 

The Mbororo pastoralist community reside near Lake Chad, located in the far west of Chad and the northeast of Nigeria. It was once Africa’s largest water reservoir in the Sahel region, spanning 26,000 kilometers. However, the lake has continued to shrink over time and is now thought to be one-fifth of its original size. 

Experts say climate change, population growth and inefficient damming and irrigation systems are to blame. The loss of water in Lake Chad is having serious adverse effects on communities, such as the Mbororo people, who are forced to migrate greater distances in search of water and green pastures. 

In a Zoom interview with Regeneration International, Ibrahim explained that in one year, the Mbororo people can travel up to a thousand kilometers and beyond, relying solely on nature and rainfall. Ibrahim told us:

“Nature is our main health, food and education system. It represents everything for us. In our culture, men and women depend equally on nature in their daily activities. The men herd the cattle towards water and pastures, while the women collect firewood, food and drinking water for the community. This provides a socially strong gender balance to our community.”

However, the degradation of natural resources is threatening these traditions, leading to human conflicts, particularly between farmers and pastoralists whose cattle sometimes roam onto nearby cropland and cause damage. These conflicts have forced Mbororo men to urban areas in search of a new line of work. Sometimes they don’t return, and the women, children and elderly are left behind to fend for themselves, Ibrahim told us.

In an effort to preserve the Mbororo’s nomadic way of life, and to help resolve conflicts between farmers and herders, Ibrahim established a project in 2012 with the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the World Meteorological Organization. The project uses indigenous knowledge and 3D mapping technology to map Chad’s Sagel region, home to 250,000 Mbororo people. 

Through its 3D maps, the project brings together rival farmers and pastoralists to collaboratively draw lines of land ownership and reach agreements on grazing pathways and corridors. The work has helped farmers and pastoralists agree on land boundaries, as well as established a calendaring system to coordinate grazing patterns with the harvesting of crops. 

The result is a win-win solution where cattle fertilize and enrich the land through purposeful grazing. This prevents crop damage and helps to mitigate climate change. According to Ibrahim:

“When we experience climate change, we use our nomadic way of life as a solution. When we go from one place to another, resting two or three days per location, the dung from our cattle fertilizes the land and helps the ecosystem regenerate naturally.

“Our traditional knowledge is based on the observation of nature which is the common denominator of all the traditional indigenous knowledge around the world. We live in harmony with biodiversity because we observe insects that give us information on the health of an ecosystem.

“We look at bird migration patterns to predict the weather and we learn from the behavior of our animals who communicate a lot of information. We look at the wind. When the wind transports a lot of particulates from nature during the dry season, we know that we are going to have a good rainy season. This is free information we use to help balance community and ecosystem health and adapt to climate change.”

Ibrahim believes that events such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, are nature’s way of letting us know she is mad because we are mistreating her. In order to heal the planet, we must listen to our wisdom and respect nature, she says.

Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s media producer and coordinator for Asia and Europe. To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

A Vision for the Social and Ecological Regeneration of Mexico City’s Xochimilco Wetlands

By Mayra Rubio Lozano

MEXICO CITY – Xochimilco is a city south of Mexico City best known for its canals. The area’s wetlands,  recognized for their important biological and cultural value, are why Xochimilco is named as a World Heritage Site (UNESCO) and Site of Agricultural Importance (FAO). 

Humedalia is a Mexican organization that works for the conservation and restoration of the Mexican wetlands. It is part of the Regeneration International partner network and as such, has applied for the Scientific and Technical committee evaluation program of the 4 per 1000 initiative

Humedalia’s work focuses on the chinampas of Xochimilco. (Chinampas refers to a system of growing crops in floating gardens created in shallow lake beds, using farming techniques developed by the Aztecs).

Agricultural production in chinampas, or islands of arable land, started over 800 years ago.  When the first tribes that settled in the Mexico basin, they were able to produce 4t/ha of crops. These high yields allowed the development of big urban settlements, such as what we have today in Mexico City. These cities generated a big demand for water resources, and ultimately led to the transfer of agriculture to urban soil.

Today, Xochimilco’s wetland and its landscape of chinampas retain only 2 percent of the fresh water that was originally in the basin. This agricultural landscape is highly threatened by processes linked to urbanization and the devaluation of the farmers’ labor. About  80 percent of the chinampas are abandoned, and water pollution has deteriorated the soil’s fertility. The few agricultural producers that remain face steep competition and low profits, because the intensive agricultural model, mostly subsidized, has forced these producers to lower the prices.

Despite the negative impact of urbanization, Xochimilco’s wetlands remain vital for Mexico City. They provide multiple environmental benefits, such as microclimate regulation, water catchment and recharge of the groundwater reserves, oxygen and food production, nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration. In a city where air pollution levels usually exceed healthy standards, carbon sequestration is fundamental for the city’s resilience. Wetlands sequester large amounts of carbon (0.4-32 Mg ha-1 year-1) in their sediments because of their anaerobic conditions, which slow the rate of decay of organic matter, facilitating carbon accumulation. In turn, carbon sequestration can be optimized by using traditional farming techniques (sustainable) in the chinampas in combination with new organic farming techniques, such as the biointensive method. 

This project seeks to increase carbon sequestration through a water-soil systemic approach. By restoring canals and rehabilitating hectares of idle land, the quality of the water available for watering will improve, and the chinampas’ soil will be regenerated, leading to an increase in the amount of the ecosystem’s carbon sequestration.

The project also will contribute to the local endemic flora and fauna’s habitat protection, such as the axolotl Ambystoma mexicanum, a type of salamander known as the Mexican walking fish. Protecting local flora and fauna will help restore the cultural identity linked to ancestral agriculture that survives in the hands of traditional farmers.

This project for regenerating the chinampas soil (rehabilitation, growing and maintenance) will provide the local community opportunities to increase family income and engage multiple generations, creating a space for the exchange of knowledge and experiences about ancestral farming techniques. Women and children who typically don’t participate directly in food production can become involved in marketing, sales and processing. 

In turn, regenerated chinampas will produce healthier foods. 

As part of the Regeneration International partner network, and applying for the 4 per 1000 initiative, Humedalia project helps improve socio-ecological conditions of Xochimilco’s wetland. Carbon sequestration will have a positive direct impact on the air quality of one of the most polluted cities in the world. But the project will also focus on the social aspect, improving the wellbeing of the community by generating self-employment at the chinampas, and creating the right conditions for social participation through collaborative networks that strengthen the community. 

Mayra Rubio Lozano is director of scientific research and sustainable development for Humedalia A.C. To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

 

How Colombia’s Small Farmers Contribute to Resilience and Food Sovereignty in Post-Conflict and COVID-19 Pandemic Times

By Ana Prada

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA – In his book, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed“, Jared Diamond analyzes why certain societies prevail and others collapse, and explains how the decline of some, such as the Mayan and the Easter Island civilizations, resulted from the  mismanagement of nature. 

Indeed, the way societies manage their natural resources largely defines their future, according to Diamond.  The abundance of resources and successful adaptation to climate change, together with the correct decision-making by a society’s leaders, are some of the factors that determine a society’s ability to survive over time.

Conversely, the abuse of environmental resources and exploitative agricultural production systems can lead a society to collapse.

Socio-environmental conflicts are not foreign to the Colombian reality. The unequal distribution of land and territory has given rise to Colombian armed conflict. The socio-environmental confrontations in Colombia date back to the time of the Spanish conquest.  However, the trigger for the armed conflict occurred in 1948, with the assassination of political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. 

In 1948, the country was ruled by conservatives and landowners, and was totally polarized between extreme poverty and wealth. Thus, one of the longest-running armed conflicts in recent world history was born. It was not until 2016 that the Peace Agreements were signed between the National Government and the extinct guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Initially, the guerrillas were driven by political ideals. But later, toward the end of the 1970s, with the arrival and subsequent consolidation of drug trafficking, the conflict became a business matter. The search for concentration of land by the various sides left the Colombian small farmers in the middle, and on the losing end. 

Yet despite being politically marginalized, culturally undervalued and economically excluded, and despite experiencing greater difficulty accessing land than any other social group in the country, small farmers, who represent 30 percent of the country’s total population, produce 70 percent of the food consumed in the country. 

In addition, this disadvantaged but industrious population reminds those of us who live in cities of the value of having roots in our land and territory, and cherishing our identity.

Small-scale agriculture has taught Colombians about resilience and innovation. On less than one hectare, small farmers manage to feed themselves, create surpluses to sell and learn about the diverse Colombian soils and ecosystems through trial and error.  And despite being displaced because of the armed conflict, it has been small farmers who have opened the agricultural border in the country, and started their lives from scratch, in the country with the greatest internal displacement in the world—worse even than Syria.

In the value chains of the drug trafficking industry, small farmers have become the first link. Indeed, it is the most vulnerable link in a chain characterized by the predominance of activities that leave Colombia with nothing but social burdens: land concentration, idle lands ownership, diminished productivity and at-risk national food sovereignty and autonomy.

In the Peace Agreements, small farmers are recognized as victims of the armed conflict. A political framework to reduce the gaps between the countryside and the city was designed, guaranteeing the small farmers the right to political and economic participation and decision-making regarding the future of their territories. 

In points 1 and 4 of the Peace Agreements, Comprehensive Rural Reform and Comprehensive Solution to the Drug Problem respectively, multiple political and legal instruments were created. These include the land fund for Comprehensive Rural Reform, the multipurpose cadaster; Development Plans with a Territorial Approach; and Comprehensive Nations Plans for Substitution, among others. 

Although the implementation of these political and legal instruments has been slow, they have become novel tools to rethink small farmers as a strategic actor in the territorial planning to restore peace, the conservation of the territories and the guarantee of security, sovereignty and food autonomy.

In 2013, there was a national agrarian strike in Colombia, supported by the main farmers’ organizations, as well as workers from other areas, which over time managed to get the recognition of the citizens. Since then, Colombians who live in cities have shown growing empathy towards the small farmers’ movement, appreciating the producers of the food they have on their plates daily, as well as the need to rethink and re-territorialize cities to stop the growing trend of food deserts, which put at risk the right to food, especially for the most vulnerable. These transformations have become more necessary than ever in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

This is a country whose rulers have lacked the gallantry to guarantee its citizens the right to food, and to preserve the country’s rich biocultural diversity. They have succumbed to globalization and progress in the short term, at the expense of resources that give us life. 

In these days of covid-19, we ​​have witnessed two trends that are two sides of the same coin.

On the one hand, we see citizens who increasingly demand healthy, local and sustainable food, and who are more willing to consume food from small farmers, family and community agriculture. 

On the other hand, small farmers continue to face the traditional challenges of the agricultural Colombia: the appalling road and telecommunications infrastructure, the persistence of the armed conflict, the murder of social leaders, insufficient healthcare system that increases the risk of infection and death due to the epidemic, price speculation and misinformation, among many other challenges.

Despite these challenges, there are reasons to be hopeful. For instance, the creation and strengthening of collaborative networks between the territories, the building of close relationships between producers and consumers, the possibility of resuming peace dialogues between the National Government and the guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the use of information and communication technologies to facilitate food distribution and the consolidation of small farmers and/or agro-ecological markets as viable and secure supply alternatives, even in times of epidemic.

The reader may be wondering, how can I put my grain of sand? It is very simple, buy local! Buy from small farmers, family and community agriculture! Go back to the farmers markets, go to meet the producer so you give him your vote of confidence to stay in the territory feeding hope to the country.

In Colombia, The National Network of Family Farming (RENAF) leads the national campaign “Yo llevo el campo Colombiano (I carry the Colombian countryside) that seeks to make visible the farmers markets that exist throughout the country.

By eating local and seasonal food lime the uchuva or the curuba, and supporting the small farmers, Colombians can put their grain of sand in the construction of peace in Colombia.

About 3Colibrís

We are an organization that contributes to the strengthening of marketing and logistics of products from small farmers, family and community and/or agroecological agriculture in Latin America. We work for the construction of sustainable farming that’s connected to the cities in Colombia and Latin America. We seek out and involve producers of healthy food and agro-ecological products so consumers have easier access to these foods. We visit and guide food producers to improve their marketing channels and ensure that we work with ethical and responsible organizations.

Ana Prada is the founder of 3Colibrís and a business administrator and sociologist from the Javeriana University of Bogotá, apprentice for the International Training in Dialogue and Mediation at the University of Uppsala and the International Course on Food Systems at the University of Wageningen. She has worked for Colombian Caritas in the implementation of “Article One” of the Peace Agreements, and on projects for UNDP, UNFAO, EU and the Suyusama Foundation. 

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Trails of Regeneration: Stemple Creek Ranch Survives COVID-19 by Selling Direct to Consumers

“Trails of Regeneration” is covering the effects of COVID-19 and gathering stories from regenerative farmers, ranchers and ecosystem experts on how the world is rapidly changing and what it means for biodiversity and regenerative food, farming and land use.

 TOMALES, California — Spread of the coronavirus is causing major disruptions in the U.S. food supply chain, as several major meat processing plants have closed their doors and farmers are being forced to dump milk, break eggs and plow under perfectly good produce.

 With the closing of schools, restaurants and businesses, farmers have had to find new and creative ways to connect their products to consumers. The latest episode in our “Trails of Regeneration” video series features a rancher on the frontline of COVID-19 and his journey in adapting to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Husband and wife, Loren and Lisa Poncia, own Stemple Creek Ranch, a 1,000-acre regenerative farm located in the coastal hills of Northern California. At the ranch, purposeful rotational grazing is key to producing high-quality pastured and humanely raised animal products. It also works to promote biodiversity by preserving sensitive wildlife habitat and restoring natural watersheds.

Like many farmers around the world, the Poncias have been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. In an exclusive interview with Regeneration International, Loren explains how his farm lost 95 percent of its restaurant business seemingly overnight. 

The farm’s direct-to-consumer sales, on the other hand, have increased significantly. “Our online sales are skyrocketing,” Loren told Regeneration International in a Zoom interview. He and his 15 employees—while practicing social distancing and wearing protective gear—are working around the clock to cut and package products to be shipped direct to customers. 

The couple has also seen an increase in sales at their local farmer’s markets.

 “We sell at two farmers markets in northern San Francisco that are going strong. People are coming out to buy directly from us,” said Loren. “What we noticed is that people are buying more than usual because they are no longer eating out and are forced to prepare 21 homecooked meals a week and that requires a lot of food.”

For decades, the organic regenerative food movement has advocated for more direct-to-consumer sales and better access to local food. That vision is gaining momentum amid the pandemic.  As the industrial food supply chain breaks down amid COVID-19, demand for locally produced food has surged.

 “In my local community people are united in helping and watching out for their neighbors, so we’re actually seeing a surge in solidarity,” said Loren. 

 Stemple Creek Ranch practices purposeful grazing to improve soil health

 In 2013, Stemple Creek Ranch was asked to participate in a 10-year study with the Marin Carbon Project, a consortium of independent agricultural institutions in Marin County, California. The project’s mission is to increase carbon sequestration in rangeland, agricultural and forest soils to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Marin Carbon Project required the ranch to complete a soil assessment before applying organic compost to a portion of pastureland in an effort to increase soil carbon. The benefits were enhanced by purposefully grazing livestock, which help stomp the compost into the ground and leave behind natural fertilizer. 

On its website, the ranch says it’s “excited to be on the forefront of this ground-breaking research that is showing how best agriculture practices can harness atmospheric carbon to improve soil content on farms, and mitigate the effects of global warming.”

The regenerative practices not only build resilience on the ranch, but they also help educate consumers and get them excited about where their food comes from, said Loren, adding that it’s a win-win for food and farming, human health and the environment. 

“Smallhold regenerative farmers are a resilient bunch and we can get through this because we have all the fertility we need on our farm,” Loren said.

“With COVID-19, we are seeing provisions for inputs such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides getting tighter, and their distribution becoming more complicated. Hopefully, it will push some to look at using compost, worm teas and the greatness of soil health, adopting things like they were before World War II when we didn’t need to use chemicals.”

Despite the challenges, farming in a pandemic has presented the ranch with new opportunities to evolve its business model. The internet has been especially helpful, giving farmers and ranchers around the world the ability to share their successes and failures with one another. 

“We’ve been able to learn from each other by sharing ideas and learning from one another’s mistakes,” said Loren. “I think there’s a lot of really good things that could take off for small-scale agriculturists around the world.”

As far as the quarantine goes, Loren said there’s no other place he would rather be than confined to his ranch with his family. 

“I am really enjoying the fact that I am confined with my family and that I am eating three meals a day with my family and appreciating the bounty we are able to partake on a daily basis,” Loren said. 

“We are adapting and changing to the challenges, trials and tribulations that keep heading in our direction, with things we can’t even predict. So work is very hard, long and stressful but we are making more time to break bread as a family and eat together, which is really awesome.”

Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s media producer and coordinator for Asia and Europe. To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

Murder Most Foul: The Perps Behind COVID-19

“I am not saying that China deliberately released this, shooting itself in the foot. But it was clear they were developing an extremely dangerous unknown biological weapon that had never been seen before, and it leaked out of the lab… I personally believe that until our political leaders come clean with the American people, both at the White House and in Congress and our state government, and publicly admit that this is an extremely dangerous offensive biological warfare weapon that we are dealing with, I do not see that we will be able to confront it and to stop it, let alone defeat it.”—Dr. Francis Boyle, International Bioweapons Expert, April 15, 2020

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of today, COVID-19 has infected more than 3 million people and killed at least 210,000 worldwide.

Those are big numbers, considering the fact that six short months ago, few members of the general public had ever heard of the coronavirus. And almost no one was harboring fears of a looming and deadly global pandemic.

But here we are. As our new reality sinks in, as we adjust to lockdowns and home schooling and long lines at grocery stores, as we look for ways to protect ourselves and our families—and as some grieve for lost loved ones—most of us are also seeking answers.

Why does this virus cause so many mysterious symptoms? Why are some cases mild, others deadly? How can we protect ourselves? Whose advice should we follow?

But the biggest questions of all are these: Where did COVID-19 come from? And how can we prevent this from ever happening again?

The answers to these questions may be too disturbing to ponder, especially while we’re still grappling with the impact of the virus on nearly every aspect of our lives.

But our failure to investigate, and directly address, the origins of COVID-19 almost certainly guarantees our failure to protect ourselves from future, possibly even more deadly, pandemics.

Science most foul

Thousands of dangerous viruses and other pathogens, such as the bat coronavirus and the avian flu, are being collected in the wild by Chinese, U.S. and international researchers. These viruses are then analyzed and weaponized (i.e. genetically engineered, manipulated, recombined) in secretive, accident-prone, labs like the Wuhan Virology Lab in China or the U.S. Army Lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Coronaviruses typically have a narrow host range, infecting one or just a few species, such as bats. However, using targeted RNA recombination, gene engineers can manipulate viruses such as COVID-19 for “gain of function” to enable them to infect other species (i.e. human cells), interfere with immune system response and readily spread through the air.

A growing arsenal of synthetic viruses have been lab-engineered, despite U.S. and international laws banning biowarfare weapons and experimentation. A disturbing number of these so-called “dual use” Biowarfare/Biodefense labs have experienced leaks, accidents and thefts over the past three decades.

As the well-respected Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently warned:

“A safety breach at a Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab is believed to have caused four suspected SARS cases, including one death, in Beijing in 2004. A similar accident caused 65 lab workers of Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute to be infected with brucellosis in December 2019 . . . In January 2020, a renowned Chinese scientist, Li Ning, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for selling experimental animals to local markets.”

China is hardly the only place to experience such accidents. A USA Today investigation in 2016, for instance, revealed an incident involving cascading equipment failures in a decontamination chamber as U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers tried to leave a biosafety level 4 lab. The lab likely stored samples of the viruses causing Ebola and smallpox, according to the report.

In 2014, the CDC revealed that staff had accidently sent live anthrax between laboratories, exposing 84 workers. In an investigation, officials found other mishaps that had occurred in the preceding decade.

In 2019, the U.S. Army Fort Detrick, Maryland Biological Weapons Lab was temporarily shut down for improper disposal of dangerous pathogens, according to a New York Times report. Officials refused to provide details about the pathogens or the leak, citing “national security” concerns.

As Sam Husseini recently reported in Salon magazine, biowarfare engineers in labs such as Wuhan or Fort Detrick are deliberately and recklessly evading international law:

“Governments that participate in such biological weapon research generally distinguish between ‘biowarfare’ and ‘biodefense,’ as if to paint such ‘defense’ programs as necessary. But this is rhetorical sleight-of-hand; the two concepts are largely indistinguishable. ‘Biodefense’ implies tacit biowarfare, breeding more dangerous pathogens for the alleged purpose of finding a way to fight them. While this work appears to have succeeded in creating deadly and infectious agents, including deadlier flu strains, such ‘defense’ research is impotent in its ability to defend us from this pandemic.”

Activist critics of genetic engineering and biological warfare experiments, including myself, Dr. Mercola and GM Watch, joined now by independent voices in the mass media, are reporting, albeit in some cases reluctantly, that mounting evidence indicates that the deadly COVID-19 virus may have accidentally leaked out of one of the supposedly high-security biowarfare labs (the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Chinese Center for Disease Control) that were analyzing and manipulating bat coronaviruses in Wuhan, China.

In order to conceal their scientific malpractice and criminal negligence, to protect their “right” to carry out dangerous, unregulated research, and to safeguard billions of dollars in annual Biopharm and GMO industry profits (Monsanto/Bayer, among others, is now conducting its own biowarfare research), Chinese and U.S. officials, Big Pharma, Facebook, Google and an arrogant and unscrupulous network of global scientists are frantically trying to cover up the lab origins and diabolical machinations of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A widely-cited paper, published in the journal Nature on February 3, 2020, claims to establish that SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus of bat origin that naturally jumped the species barrier between bats and humans and was not synthetically constructed in a lab. However, as Mercola.com reports one of the Chinese authors of this article, Dr. Shi Zhengli from the Wuhan Virology Lab, actually worked previously on weaponizing the SARS virus (the progenitor of COVID-19) and has published peer-reviewed articles on the procedures involved in this genetic manipulation.

Another oft-cited but problematic article in Nature Medicine (March 17, 2020), co-authored by a bio-entrepreneur industry scientist, has been repeatedly cited by the mass media as offering “proof” that the COVID-19 virus arose “naturally” as opposed to being lab-derived.

But recent critiques offered by independent scientists, including the London-based molecular geneticist Dr. Michael Antoniou, a long-time critic of genetic engineering, argue convincingly that the computer-modeling “proof” cited by Nature Medicine offers no proof at all. As GM Watch reports:

“Dr. Antoniou told us that while the authors [of the March 17 Nature Medicine article] did indeed show that SARS-CoV-2 was unlikely to have been built by deliberate genetic engineering from a previously used virus backbone, that’s not the only way of constructing a virus. There is another method by which an enhanced-infectivity virus can be engineered in the lab. . .”

Antoniou told GM Watch that this method, called “directed iterative evolutionary selection process,” involves using genetic engineering to generate “a large number of randomly mutated versions of the SARS-CoV spike protein receptor,” and then to select those protein receptors most effective at infecting human cells.

As Antoniou points out, the inventors of this technique received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2018, a fact the authors of the Nature Medicine article surely knew. Did the authors of the Nature Medicine article deliberately leave this more plausible hypothesis out, in order to bolster their questionable thesis that COVID-19 arose naturally—even though biowarfare labs in Wuhan were engineering bat viruses years before the fatal outbreak?

If lab technicians in the Wuhan lab did use the directed iterative evolutionary selection process to engineer a “gain of function” (weaponized) bat coronavirus, and the virus subsequently leaked, infected one or more lab technicians, then spread to people outside the lab, including people from the Wuhan Seafood Market, there would be no trace of the virus having been genetically engineered or manipulated.

Peer-reviewed, published articles, going back more than a decade, indicate that researchers at the Wuhan Labs (Dr. Shi Zhengli and others) have been carrying out experiments to manipulate and weaponize deadly bat coronavirus so that they can readily infect human cells. In a 2008 article in the Journal of Virology, Zengli and other scientists report on how they have genetically engineered SARS-like viruses from horseshoe bats to enable the viruses to gain entry into human cells.

The powers that be, in Beijing and Washington, like to reassure us that researchers in places like the Wuhan Virology Lab, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control, or the U.S. Army Biological Weapons Lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland are only “studying” (not manipulating or weaponizing) dangerous pathogens like bat coronaviruses, and that security in these government/WHO/NIH-monitored labs is so strict that accidents could never happen.

But a number of well-respected scientific critics of genetic engineering and biological warfare have been sounding the alarm for decades.

Critics including Francis Boyle (author of the 1989 U.S. Bioterrorism law banning bioweapons research) and Dr. Richard Ebright of Rutgers University’s Waksman Institute of Microbiology, have warned that experiments and manipulations of viruses and pathogens are inherently extremely dangerous, (not to mention that they violate international law), given human error and the fact that security has been dangerously lax in the world’s biowarfare/biodefense laboratories.

Almost too incredible to believe, funding for the reckless germ war experiments in Wuhan have included more than $3 million from Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), with apparent collaboration, according to Boyle, from scientists at the universities of North Carolina, Wisconsin, Harvard and other institutions.

In 2014, the Obama White House Office of Science and Technology Policy put a hold or “funding pause” on “gain of function” experimentation on dangerous viruses in U.S. labs due to “biosafety and biosecurity risks.”

Yet experimentation apparently continued uninterrupted (with U.S. funding) in China at the Wuhan lab. Then in 2017, the Trump Administration reversed this “funding pause,” essentially allowing illegal germ warfare research to continue.

Longtime anti-GMO activists at GM Watch in the UK recently published an article entitled “COVID-19 Could Be a Wake-Up Call for Biosafety.” The article explains how, below the public radar, secretive and reckless research on genetically engineering and weaponizing coronaviruses has been going on for decades:

“Stuart Newman, professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, editor-in-chief of the journal Biological Theory, and co-author of Biotech Juggernaut, adds crucial historical context that shows exploring whether COVID-19 could have been genetically engineered should not be dismissed as a subject fit only for conspiracy theorists.

“[Newman] points out that the genetic engineering of coronaviruses has been going on for a long time. According to Newman, ‘Even most biologists are not aware that virologists have been experimentally recombining and genetically modifying coronaviruses for more than a decade to study their mechanisms of pathogenicity.’ Indeed, Newman points to papers on engineering coronaviruses that go back a full 20 years.”

Dr. Peter Breggin points out that in 2015, researchers from the U.S. and China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborated to transform an animal coronavirus into one that can attack humans. Breggin’s provocative essay includes a direct link to the original study  which was published in the British journal, Nature.

Recent investigative reporting, including an explosive April 14 Washington Post article by Josh Rogin, followed by more muted coverage by CBS News, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and others, have alerted millions of people to the fact that the official Chinese/Big Pharma/WHO/NIH “bat in the market” story about the origins of COVID-19 may no longer be credible.

As Rogin’s article points out, officials from the U.S. embassy in Beijing visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology numerous times in early 2018, and tried to warn the Trump Administration that there were serious safety violations in the lab’s handling of bat coronaviruses. The officials were especially concerned that inadequately trained staff and lax security procedures at lab, jointly funded by the Chinese and U.S., posed a serious risk of unleashing a “new SARS-like pandemic.”

In fact, in 2004, foreshadowing the current disaster, there were two serious accidents at the high-security Beijing Virology lab, infecting two researchers with the dangerous SARS virus.

Ebright, who has been speaking out on lab safety since the early 2000s, said this about the dangerous security procedures at the Wuhan labs:

“ . . . bat coronaviruses at Wuhan [Center for Disease Control] and Wuhan Institute of Virology routinely were collected and studied at BSL-2 {Biosecurity Level 2), which provides only minimal protections against infection of lab workers. Virus collection, culture, isolation, or animal infection at BSL-2 with a virus having the transmission characteristics of the outbreak virus would pose substantial risk of infection of a lab worker, and from the lab worker, the public.”

Politics most foul

The Trump Administration did nothing about the repeated warnings from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing in 2018, concerning the dangerous practices at the at the Wuhan Lab. Nor scientists at the NIH and the World Health Organization (WHO) who were supposedly monitoring the lab’s coronavirus experiments. After the outbreak happened, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) silenced or “disappeared” scientists and journalists who had earlier published research or news articles indicating that the COVID-19 virus leaked from a government lab and infected researchers.

As the Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk wrote:

“Faced with the coronavirus threat, Chinese authorities, according to comprehensive reports by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, suppressed whistleblowers, ignored critical evidence and responded so tardily to the outbreak that they moved to compensate for their failures with a draconian lockdown . . .”.

Frantically covering their tracks, the CCP removed every scientific article and news report from the internet and public record which contradicted their official story. Aiding and abetting the CCP/Biopharm cover-up were the gatekeepers at Facebook (now heavily invested in Big Pharma), who censored and removed an article by Steve Mosher, published by the NY Post on Feb. 22, which called the official story into question. Facebook finally unblocked the NY Post article after it was revealed that Facebook’s objective “fact checker,” Danielle E. Anderson, was in fact previously a paid researcher at the same Wuhan lab whose lax security so alarmed State Department officials.

Trying hard to cover up the fact that they ignored the repeated warnings of the State Department and intelligence officials, the Trump Administration and the entire U.S. Biopharm and Vaccine Establishment are doing their utmost to uphold the official Chinese-scripted story. Especially troubling to the powers that be is the fact that the criminally negligent Wuhan Lab bat experiments were being funded, at least in part, by Dr. Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, along with the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch—even after these types of germ warfare experiments had been banned in the U.S.

Commander-in-Chief Trump himself, in between suggesting people might want to ingest or inject some disinfectants for COVID-19 protection, goes back and forth on the “bat in the market” theory, torn between rousing his populist base by denouncing the “Chinese Virus,” and siding with his good friend, and Corporate America’s most important business partner, Xi Jinping, the Chinese Dictator, who just happens to control not only trillions of dollars in U.S. Treasury Bonds and exports, but the medical equipment, Pharma drugs and lab chemicals that are in such short supply in the U.S.

Trump also has millions of dollars in real estate loans coming due from Chinese banks next year.

In an Instagram post, Robert Kennedy Jr. exposes the complicity of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the supposed “rational voice” of the Trump Administration on COVID-19, in the Wuhan disaster:

“The Daily Mail today reports that it has uncovered documents showing that Anthony Fauci’s NIAID gave $3.7 million to scientists at the Wuhan Lab at the center of Coronavirus leak scrutiny. According to the British paper, ‘the federal grant funded experiments on bats from the caves where the virus is believed to have originated.’ Background: following the 2002-2003 SARS coronavirus outbreak, NIH funded a collaboration by Chinese scientists, U.S. military virologists from the bioweapons lab at Ft. Detrick & NIH scientists from NIAID to prevent future coronavirus outbreaks by studying the evolution of virulent strains from bats in human tissues. Those efforts included ‘gain of function’ research that used a process called ‘accelerated evolution’ to create COVID Pandemic superbugs: enhanced bat borne COVID mutants more lethal and more transmissible than wild COVID. Fauci’s studies alarmed scientists around the globe who complained, according a Dec. 2017 NY Times article that ‘these researchers risk creating a monster germ that could escape the lab and seed a pandemic.’ Dr. Mark Lipsitch of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Communicable Disease Center told the Times that Dr. Fauci’s NIAID experiments ‘have given us some modest scientific knowledge and done almost nothing to improve our preparedness for pandemic, and yet risked creating an accidental pandemic.’ In October 2014, following a series of federal laboratory mishaps that narrowly missed releasing these deadly engineered viruses, President Obama ordered the halt to all federal funding for Fauci’s dangerous experiments. It now appears that Dr. Fauci may have dodged the federal restrictions by shifting the research to the military lab in Wuhan. Congress needs to launch an investigation of NIAD’s mischief in China.”

Kennedy also calls out two of the other supposed “health experts” on the Trump team, Robert Redfield and Deborah Birx:

“Redfield, Birx & Fauci lead the White House #coronavirus task force. In 1992, two military investigators charged Redfield & Birx with engaging in ‘a systematic pattern of data manipulation, inappropriate statistical analyses & misleading data presentation in an apparent attempt to promote the usefulness of the GP160 AIDS vaccine.’ A subsequent Air Force tribunal on Scientific Fraud and Misconduct agreed that Redfield’s ‘misleading or, possibly, deceptive’ information ‘seriously threatens his credibility as a researcher and has the potential to negatively impact AIDS research funding for military institutions as a whole. His allegedly unethical behavior creates false hope and could result in premature deployment of the vaccine.’ The tribunal recommended investigation by a ‘fully independent outside investigative body.’ Dr. Redfield confessed to D.O.D. interrogators and to the tribunal, that his analyses were faulty and deceptive. He agreed to publicly correct them. Afterward, he continued making his false claims at 3 subsequent international HIV conferences, & perjured himself in testimony before Congress, swearing that his vaccine cured HIV. Their gambit worked. Based upon his testimony, Congress appropriated $20 million to the military to support Redfield/Birx’s research project.  Public Citizen complained in a 1994 letter to the Congressional Committee’s Henry Waxman that the money caused the Army to kill the investigation & ‘whitewash’ Redfield’s crimes. The fraud propelled Birx & Redfield into stellar careers as health officials. Docs obtained via Tom Paine.”

Although the Chinese government and most of the U.S. political establishment continue to support the official “bat in the market” story, the majority of Americans, do not. As reported in the UK’s Sunday Times:

“According to a Pew Research poll, only 43 percent think the virus came about naturally, while a sizeable 29 percent  believe it was made in a laboratory.”

Journalism most foul

It is frustrating, and indeed alarming, that so few independent journalists, scientists, activists, and public officials have thus far been willing to question the “official story.”

For 30 years now, myself and others have warned about the dangers of genetically engineered foods and crops and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in general, including gene-altered bioweapons, gene drives, and the new CRISPR gene-editing technologies.

Now it appears that our worst fears have materialized.

We need a global public inquiry, led by independent scientists, to gather the evidence on what really happened with COVID-19, followed by an International Biowarfare Crimes Tribunal, so that we can bring the Chinese, U.S. and other perpetrators of this pandemic to justice, and prevent this type of disaster from ever happening again.

It’s time to shut down every Biosafety/Biowar lab in the world (including Bayer and Monsanto’s lab) and implement a true global ban on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), including all atomic, chemical and biological weapons and WMD experimentation.

Until we do this, none of us will ever be safe again.

The so-called progressive media in America, with a few exceptions, have up until now failed to investigate the real causes of the COVID-19 pandemic, partly out of ignorance of the machinations and arrogant recklessness of the gene engineers and bio-warfare scientists, partly out of fear of appearing to agree with Trump’s racist rantings, or even worse, being branded a “conspiracy theorist” by Establishment Democrats and mass media outlets.

And speaking of conspiracies and murder most foul, almost everyone seems to have forgotten about the nationwide panic surrounding the post-9/11 2001 anthrax bioterrorist attacks—used to help justify the invasion of Iraq—against liberal members of the media and the U.S. Congress. Then and now, it was clear that these attacks were carried out not by Arab terrorists, nor a single crazed individual, but by a yet unidentified cabal who engineered and deployed weaponized spores from the U.S. military biowarfare lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

But perhaps you think we shouldn’t worry so much, since a blockbuster lineup of anti-COVID vaccines are on the way, funded by the Chinese government, Big Pharma and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, likely including some of the same gene engineers who weaponized COVID-19?

Never mind that Bill Gates, Monsanto, the Gene Giants and Big Pharma appear quite willing to join up with Facebook and Google to implement a 24/7 totalitarian medical surveillance state, with everyone injected with a mandatory and expensive COVID-19 vaccine, while the world’s dictators, corporate criminals and billionaires hunker down in their underground mansions and bunkers.

Never mind that most flu vaccines up until now don’t work that well, especially against constantly mutating viruses like COVID-19, or that they’re routinely laced with aluminum adjuvants and mercury preservatives.

Never mind that perhaps our only real defense against biowarfare is to stop eating Big Ag and Big Food’s poison products, and instead strengthen our health and our immune systems, clean up the world’s air, water and environment, shut down factory farms, stop destroying wildlife habitat and pray that herd immunity eventually stops the spread of COVID-19, since so many of us have already been infected, but are asymptomatic.

In the meantime, please don’t believe everything you read in the corporate mass media, Facebook or even the progressive press. Stay in touch with and support those of us determined to seek and defend the truth, fight for freedom and justice, and organize for a regenerative future and climate.

Don’t forget to eat healthy, organic, regenerative foods, take your immune-boosting supplements, get as much exercise, fresh air and sunshine as possible, wash your hands frequently, stay safe, and stay out of the way of those most vulnerable.

Venceremos. We shall overcome.

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International, and the author of “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Food, Farming, Climate and a Green New Deal.” To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.

Interview with Will Harris of White Oak Pastures

Watch the video interview, or read the transcript below:

Robb: Will we did it right on time. How are you doing?

Will: I’m doing great, how are you?

Robb: Good. Luckily Nikki was here to walk me through the setup. They figured out this thing we have to Daisy chain things through zoom to YouTube to the Healthy Rebellion. And so a little bit of technical stuff to get it set up, but Will, it’s an incredible honor to have you on the Healthy Rebellion. White Oak Pastures has been in your family for over a hundred years? Could you talk a little bit about kind of the genesis story of how your family started doing what you continue to do today?

Will: I sure will. Thank you for having me as a guest today. The genesis of this farm is really my favorite topic. My great grandfather came here in 1866. He was a farmer, he had 50 miles from here. He was an officer in Confederate cavalry. He lost his farm in the war effort. He was very fortunate he had an uncle, who was medical doctor here in Bluffton, Georgia where we are right now, he started my great grandpa over here in 1866. He farmed throughout his life. His son, my grandfather, Will Carter Harris farmland. His son, my father Will bill Harris farmland, now is under my watch. I have two daughters and their spouses who were here very integrated into the management of the farm. And they’ve had three babies in the last three years. So we now have six generation here, although the sixth generation has not contributed.

Robb: Not yet.

Will: Not yet. But what I do enjoy most is how in that five or six generations, 150 years, the farm came full cycle from a way, my great grandfather and grandfather did the farm for all these years, which is very focused on the animals, the land, the local community. And my father, post world war II industrialized commoditized, centralized production, again, a monoculture of only cattle and now we moved back to production system over the last 45 years. That’s remarkably similar to what my great grandpa and grandpa.

Robb: Right, which is so fascinating. And Will, it’s interesting because there’s a zillion questions I want to ask you. Just the topic of animal inclusive agriculture is a really hot button thing these days. Like part of the reason why the Healthy Rebellion was formed is that Google took a very askance view of the things that we talk about and they’re not real big fans of kind of ancestral eating and the notion that regenerative food systems should and in fact must potentially include animals, and that it needs to look much more akin to what we were doing a hundred years ago, than 50 years ago. And it’s interesting to me. How did your family shift, what was kind of the impetus initially to adopt more of this industrial agriculture type system? And then what was the impetus for shifting back to this regenerative process?

Will: Good. So world war II was a game changer, in almost every aspect of production. Ammonia to fertilize was actually invented in the 1880, late 1800s, but nobody could afford it. It was not until the repurposing of the world war II munitions plants, that Ammonium fertilizer became cheap. So, that was a real game changer. I’m doing a lot of stories about that. If people farm knew, it’s because again internal combustion equipment was slow to be accepted, it was expensive. The guys left the news in Georgia with the European theater and drove trunks. They came back with only trucks, the first pesticides was Triple V, came from the nerve gas effort. And I would just go on and on there because it was the only hybridized seed became a thing during that period.

Will: And Europe was starving. There was a desperate need for cheap, abundant, safe food. So all these tools that world war II had provided and that desperate need, it was like a perfect storm. And my father’s generation took advantage of that. And it was wildly successful. It made food obscenely cheap and wastefully abundant and boring with consistent. And it came with unintended consequences that fell on the backs of a wildfire, the animals and the degradation of the land and the water and the impoverished rural America. So let me give the consequences of [inaudible 00:26:03], something we talk about a lot. My father was dead, I never asked him how he felt about making those changes. I suspect he was excited about it, and I suspect that all of the benefits were so obvious and the unintended consequences that were undesirable consequences were not obvious. So it was something to do and almost everyone did it. It wasn’t one or two guys industrialized, the whole generation industrialized, commoditized.

Robb: Will, so you’ve kind of alluded to this already. There were unintended consequences and this is where good ideas always go sideways. People are always trying to innovate, people are always trying to help folks. Even if the bottom, people can be cynical and say, “Well, it’s all profit driven and really at the end of the day, if you don’t figure out something that’s worth selling, then it’s kind of hard to make anything work.” But I mean, to your point, like people taking enormous pride in the work that they do and I think within farming and ranching communities, like that work ethic and ethos is kind of like, it is the soul of these folks, and taking pride in the fact that they feed the rest of the world, like that’s amazing stuff. Like that’s really incredible. Where did the industrial system go wrong? Like what are the cracks in that facade that looked amazing and maybe carried us through for a certain period of time. And then what are the failure points in it?

Will: That is a great question and it’s so obvious to me in the rear view mirror, at the time you couldn’t know but now-

Robb: Which I just want to pause on that real quick and we’ll come back to this because we’re facing a bunch of decisions that people are wanting to do today and having no discussion about unintended consequences. So I just kind of want to bookmark that so we can come back to it. Sorry to interrupt. Yeah.

Will: No, no, no problem. I so clearly see now in retrospect having been here generationally through this, I clearly see what went wrong and here it is. So we talked a lot about the difference in a complex system and a complicated system. This computer is complicated, there’s a lot of things going on in there to make it work. Your body is complex, there’s a lot of things making it work. In a complicated system, if one component ceases to operate, it’s game over, it just stops. In a complex system like your body or the federal government or whatever, when one component ceases to operate, to operate properly, everything else moves, and the system continues to operate after fashion. Now, reductionist science works beautifully in complex systems. That’s how we built computers, and put people on the moon, and there and there, very linear.

Will: It is hardly flogged in complex cyclical systems which is why we have drugs that we think are going to save humanity, and then we pull them off the market. It’s applying a reductionist science to accomplish. Well my father’s generation and mine, I’m not going to leave anything on my father, I was more industrial than he was when I came out of University of Georgia in 1976, but my father’s generation and my generation applied reductionist science to one of the most complex systems in the world, which is operating a farm mold of a very complex farm, and it just resulted in incredible unintended and undesirable consequences. And it took 75 years for them to start to surface. And then when they did start to surface, it was real obvious why that happened.

Robb: And I imagine also the inertia of shifting to a different system. And then as these problems come up, you probably could try to double down on what you’ve always done, try to re intensify that application of technology to try to solve that problem. And it is that kind of the route that you folks took initially just trying to figure out ways within that kind of linear thinking a reductionist model to try to solve the issues that were popping up. And what were some of the specific issues I would guess like soil erosion and loss of kind of peripheral biodiversity, but what were some of the issues that popped up and what were some of the strategies that you tried initially before possibly shifting to a more regenerative approach?

Will: Well, that doubling down is still occurring. Not only is there this momentum of moving into more and more and more technology that comes from reductionist science. Not only we use stay, have that just basic momentum, but also even more importantly, don’t forget there are a lot of huge, powerful multinational companies making a lot of money in perpetuating the system. Whether it’s the pharmaceutical companies, the patrol companies, insurance companies, equipment manufacturing companies, big food, commodity companies, on and on and on. They just so many people making so much money that has all kinds of reasons to ignore these independent gospels and keep doing what we do. And that’s where we are with that.

Robb: Right, right. Will, what was then the impetus? I mean some folks are making a go of it still in the industrial food system. Clearly like you’ve alluded like some of the biggest entities in the world, good corporations that really wield more influence and power arguably than like national governments are in control of our food system. Those folks are still making a go of it. We both are probably on the same page that there’s an expiration date on that. But what was the impetus for you folks to shift in… It seems like not just swimming upstream, but it seems like being a tiny leaf trying to swim up upstream in this story. Like what was the kind of genesis for you folks shifting gears and really doing something that seems crazy from the outside compared to the way that things are typically done?

Will: Well, for me it was a very personal decision. It started out, and it’s evolved over the last 25 years. As I alluded to earlier, I was a very industrial cattleman. As much as anybody I know, maybe more than those, probably more than those. Probably because I was so extreme, it made me notice the unintended consequences that were occurring? If you drank a fifth of whiskey every night, you’ll fix [inaudible] alcohol more if you drink-

Robb: A shot.

Will: A shot, sorry. I was the guy who was really very, very heavy handed. So I started noticing the things, and unintended consequences and it started out purely an animal welfare issue. I focused on the fact that really my animal welfare, which I would vehemently defended to you, is not very good because I was not allowing the animals to express instinctive behavior. Confined with animal production does not allow the expression in instictive behavior and that’s poor animal welfare. So started I moving in that direction with my animal. And that led me to focus in on the way and the fact that I ceased to put steroids and antibiotics and unnatural feedstuffs in my animals, but I was still putting chemical fertilizer and pesticides because of ablation on my life. So I started moving away from that and that led me to this real focus on the locally wounded economy, this is what I’m passionate about. So it’s an evolution.

Robb: Interesting. So it’s interesting though, like you saw a need to address the needs of the animals first, and then I would assume that you started seeing some improvements, but then started seeing limitations with the way the land itself and the grass and that interface was occurring still under more of the industrial model.

Will: Yes, that’s exactly right. One thing led to the next. It was all connected, it’s all cyclical, so all that together. And while that evolution’s going on over a 40-year period, there was a business evolution that was required. So when we changed the way that we produced our animals allowing them to express the sticky behavior cows is far less stress on the animals and animals do better. I needed to, but it really costs me more to do it because I was giving him space and time and labor. So I needed to extract more value from them than I could by dumping them into the commodity market. So we started marketing our own beef and by that time it was a monocultural cattle only. And that led me to feel processing because I couldn’t get to be processed, and that led me to a marketing effort so I could get it moved.

Will: So that was a whole another set of reactions that were sort of out changes. And I need to say this right now, because I’m very proud of it. From an economic perspective for the community, I moved from having three middle wage employees, having 160 something employees and our employees made twice the County average last year. So that’s when we talked about the re enrichment of rural America, that’s what we call them. And that by the way, that was an unintended consequence. I never ever said, “I sure would like to try to bring some black package down.” That didn’t happen. The fact that we have moved our, what we actually call them sink in terms of… That was an unintended consequence costly, but I never say it. I believe I can help litigate climate change, I know how. So in the same way that Harlem was doing with unintended consequences, now good things are happening with unintended consequences.

Robb: So our world is a wash with unintended consequences. We’ve seen some examples of where it’s gone unfavorably for us and favorably for us. Do you have any sense of what is a way that we can make decisions so that we can at least hope that the likelihood of the knock on consequences are liable to be more favorable than unfavorable? Like I would go out on a limb and say trying to think about the way that nature works and things like that, or maybe a leg up in that regard, but what is a way that we could just do decision making at large that would better inform our ability to get the desired result that we’re gunning for? And then all the peripheral things maybe being supportive or at least not negative the way that we’ve seen with like a reductionist approach to medicine as well as the food production system?

Will: The only solution I could offer is white Oak Pastures on farm is a savory hub. I usually say risky. So we practice, teach and a study holistic management. And I don’t profess to be a teacher of the that, I’m a student of that. But for us all decisions, we’re very imperfect, let me be clear on this. We try to be inclusive of all the ramifications of our decisions rather than be in so very linear Western [inaudible] straight line in the way that we operated for two generations follows an [inaudible]

Robb: Interesting. Interesting. You know as we started this thing in, I kind of alluded to the fact that there are like just the topic of animal inclusive agriculture is a controversial one these days. Like on social media outlets, folks are finding that they’re being shadow banned, folks will post pictures of processing animals or even finished meals and they find that their posts are taken down or their beaches mitigated. And this is largely falling upon folks like you that are in… And whenever I say a small scale operation, it’s so ridiculous because running a farm of any size, it’s such a huge job. So I wish we had a different term versus small scale, but at the end of the day, they’re not the huge conglomerates and so it’s considered to be a small scale operation.

Robb: But I kind of feel like these folks are kind of getting picked off one by one, and kind of marginalized. And how do we do a better job of, couple of questions on that. How do we help support these folks in a better way? And then, what would the implications be for just rural communities at large and the kind of economic infrastructure, if we could figure out a way of making this, for lack of a better term, more mainstream, making this alternative more the mainstream to fault mode?

Will: Now a couple of great questions, kind of wrap it up I’m going to have them separately. So first of all I do not profess to be an expert on anything except the area, but I will claim expertise to speak with authority in three areas. Those areas are humane animal welfare, regenerative land management, and the re enrichment of rural America. When we start talking about nutrition and nutrient density and food health and food safety, and flavor, I’m neophyte. But I’m going to just talk just a minute because you brought up about the regenerative land management. And I tell you with authority there is no cost effective way to regenerate the land large scale without animal agriculture. That is so misunderstood, yet so clear to me. If the naysayers about animal aren’t going to just stop and look and listen and see how the great ecosystems of the world evolve. It’s with healthy soil full of microbes feeding plants.

Will: It’s herbivores moved by carnivores, what we’re talking about, they re feed the microbes in the soil there, extra money. It’s a beautiful cycle and it’s how we got all that oil on the ground and all that coal in the ground, all that natural gas in the ground came from this system. We’re going back to dinosaur, trinasaur tricks chase moving hellacious dinosaurs or buffalo via moved by timber wolves or caribou being moved by polar bales or gazelles being moved by lions. The great ecosystems of the world evolve with animal architecture. All that karma, they’ve been greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, they’ve been pulled down and sequestered through photosynthesis and the herbivores are an essential part of that photosynthesis thing that those plants need to be clipped off, excellent drop back down. So they continued to pull carbon into the reach of the soil. That’s how all that problem got down there. And for uninvolved people to think that they can get that effect without a central component of the system that put it by on, it’s just so wrong. So herbivores are not destroying the earth, herbivores are part of the solution. That’s been scientifically proven by Quantas on White Oak Pastures.

Robb: Right. Did you talk about that a little bit, please. That lifecycle analysis that occurred and let folks know what a life cycle analysis is.

Will: Okay. So I am an expert in dealing with soil. I am not an expert in measuring soil, but I’ve learned a little bit about it and a customer of ours… So product to epic is more by General Mills, general Mills was concerned about some of the claims that was being made by the ethic people about regenerative land management. So they agreed to pay for an $80,000 study to be doing on all our farm, third party environmental engineering company from Minneapolis Minnesota called Quantas. And that’s important Quantas. So the people from Quantas came to white Oak pastures via all kinds of scientific testing to loosen the time, we had provided the data on how much hue we use, how much electricity, how much… to get the equation right.

Will: And they determined that for every pound of beef I produce at White Oak Pasture, we sequester three and a half pounds of carbon dioxide in the pasture. We are a carbon sink that is helping to mitigate climate change. So that’s what the LCA is coming, that’s the name of the study it’s called a life cycle assessment, being peer reviewed right now. All right, now here’s where it gets, you can’t make this crap. Possibility Impossible Burger has been super critical about Dr. Brown, who’s the CEO and is super critical about regenerative farming practices, he was literally attacked. So you’ve used a coach like me that practice this kind of argument, literally very personally attacked.

Will: Also had Quantas do a lifecycle assessment for them, and in the same time for me. And it shows scientifically that for every pound of Impossible Burger that they create, they generate 3.5 pounds, for [inaudible]. It’s incredible like we’ve the same environmental engineering firm, and it’s exactly the same amount, was in mine. If you want to be breakeven with your carbon footprint, every pound Impossible Burger you eat, you got to eat a pound of ours, but not just one, the actual pound properly raised from me or Gay Brown or Spencer Smith or Greg Gunthal or somebody in this field, so you can’t make that up. So we’re very proud of that. And we had that study doing it did not, nothing in it is surprised me, I’m not. I certainly couldn’t quantify it or validate it, but I mean it was an unintended consequence of improving the land, I can see that improving the land.

Robb: Right. And I guess also peripheral to that you would figure it out a way of having a decent economic situation both for yourself and your employees and your local community. So talk a little bit about that. Like I’m not a farmer, I’ve raised some goats and sheep before, I’m a novice at that stuff. Even the little bit of work I did with that though, the area that we lived in, Reno had been horribly mistreated, the two acre pasture there that we had. And with a knuckle heads application of holistic management with some goats, it was transformed in three years. I mean like shockingly. So if I actually knew what I was doing, it would have probably been that much better.

Robb: My understanding of farming in general is that it tends to be a very debt driven process, there’s a lot of weird subsidies that kind of keep the current system afloat. Like how do you exist in almost like a soap bubble in this story and operate in such a different way. And what does it mean for you kind of economically and yeah.

Will: Thank you for asking that question. That may be the most important question of the day because from the perspective of all of those other farmers that I listed, they leave for me to pay you this as far as saying that my timing, which was purely accidental and those are beyond perfect. No skillful reduction on my part happened to be just right. And I was also blessed that I am here to the bios makers of [inaudible 00:51:31] fall land, because I didn’t have any money, but I had assets that I could leverage and I did. How? Open with volume, some half a million dollars and bill processing facilities and a big infrastructure support what I did and it worked for me financially. I say worked for me for financially, our return on investment, and my account of friends think is horrible and they’re right. But it’s for me, and it’s fun and I’m happy with it. But had I that today instead of 20 years ago I would have gone broke.

Robb: Oh really?

Will: Yes. That’s the important takeaway here. Please listen to me. My company is still profitable, but it’s very, very certainly profitable. We went through a period of time two years ago, which we had a very reasonable return on assets. It was a pretty good business. The company today is a butter company, one of the company I meant to fall. The company today is a better company than it was 10 years today, our product is better, our people are better, our systems are better, the land is better, everything is better, except our margins. Our margins are what we’ve sold or sell, and our volumes about the same, I should say that, but our margins have crunched. And the reason the margins have crunched is over the last five or 10 years, five years, like big multinational companies have focused on the fact that this niche as profit, so they have green washed their product. And the best example of that is, if you know you can bring grass fed beef into this country that was born, raised and slaughtered in Australia, and sell it as product of the USA in the grocery store, legally.

Robb: Because like pork and beef are kind of the only things that don’t have a country of origin stamp on it. Right?

Will: They don’t [inaudible], they don’t. And not only do they not have stamp on them, the rule is horribly misleading. It can literally say, and it does, product of the USA, when the animal never drew a breath of air in the United States, came over here in chilled cargo container from Australia. And the reason is there’s a USDA rule, a rockaway, fraudulent flies in the face of what the consumers think they’re getting. Because USDA rule says that if value is added in this country, it’s a product of USA. So that Australian or New Zealand or Uruguayan cow or heard can be brought here, and if they cut it or grind it or repackage it is a product of USA.

Will: So those and there are other activities, like the multinational companies disclaiming, you know they’re buying little grass fed companies en masse so they can use that label. [Inadible]. But they are cheapening the product and the consumer never knows. And that is called… I transitioned from being the guy that feels young follows you all to consumer moving to your farm from the industrial commodity practice to more at what we do, which is like in five years, to me now saying, “You know Kyle, I really don’t know if you can afford to make that transition or not because the economics change.”

Robb: That’s crazy. This is something that I really wasn’t aware of. Like I’ve stayed on top of a lot of this stuff as a reasonably well informed consumer and somebody that’s interested in all this. And the crazy thing is any time you typically see improvements in technology and production and efficiency, we see a better product and typically some better margins for the producer. But in this scenario we’ve just managed to get the fact that this is a valuable item on the radar of the big players and then they’ve found kind of an end run around this process. Why is it that we can bring meat from out of country and ship it on a container ship and it’s still cheaper than what can be done here. Is this like a reflection of some of the labor laws and things like that, that we have in the United States that makes kind of the backend production of this more expensive to offset all of that other infrastructure that we see that doesn’t exist in other countries?

Will: I really cannot tell you why a grass fed beef can be raised cheaper in Australia or in Hawaii or New Zealand than it is in United States. I can’t tell you that, I have not been there and I’ve never visited those countries, never studied those systems, I don’t know. But I do know that the fraudulent rules that we have for example, allows big multinational companies like JVS or Tyson or Perdue or Smithfield to shop for product anywhere in the world where they provide it the cheapest, and bring it into the best market in the world and fraudulent labor live out of the USA. And the only, this is so inconvenient and so hard and why I’m not real optimistic. The only way the consumer can protect themselves from supporting that system or prevent themselves from supporting that system is to know who they’re buying the product from on a more like personal basis.

Will: And the personal basis don’t mean you come to White Oak Pastures and meet us, that could do, when we build cabins and build a restaurant or a store to accommodate people coming here. But the good news is with the social media, you can know, you can see what’s on social media. If I could go there and look and dozens of people do go there per day, then you can have the confidence that the product produced by again Gay Brown, Spencer Smith, Greg Goofball, Alexandra farms in California, White oak Pastures here, is probably what is supportive to you.

Robb: Right. Will, I’m guessing that trying to change that law would be a pretty uphill battle to get that transparency. I’ve heard folks kind of wax eloquent about things like blockchain where you could have a impromptu terrible history of where products come from, and there’s some interesting facets to that. Like, how can we change this? Like what can we do to affect change on this front? Again, I don’t know. Like is it even in the realm of possibility to try to get this FDA rule changed, and if not what are some other options? Like the only thing that kind of occurs to me is the possibility of blockchain getting plugged into this food production system so that we know precisely where everything comes from. But I still don’t know how that would ultimately, it wouldn’t change the economics that are undercutting this process. Like we would know, okay, it’s coming from somewhere else, even though the FDA says something different, but I don’t know that it would really change the economics in a favorable way for folks like you and Spencer, the other folks doing what you’re doing.

Will: But blockchain will be my favorite, I’ve heard that word, I don’t know about it. You are right, your assertion that getting those rules changed. American Grass Fed Association, AGA they have tried extensively and for years to get that rule changed, officials on the network register all those things, there’s no amount of [inaudible], so anyway, in the short run, long run, something like blockchain, whatever that is may be great. But in the short term, you just got to know your farm. It’s a shame, and sadly I thought that the farm certifications would be the answer for us. My farms, the first farm, we got all the certifications on the lands, sort of out organic certified Humane American Fed Association approved, it was all non GMO and animal welfare approved. I can’t even keep up with them. We got all those checks.

Will: Global Animal Partnership, which I’m not a fan anymore, none of those are affected, I thought they would be. Well what happened is again the ability of corporate America to morph, we reached a point that you can get a certification or any program from any shade of gray from snow white to smart white the certification for you. And the consumer understand understandably, is hopelessly confused because they say, “Oh I mean, you’re certified. That’s fine.” And it’s really about that. There’s some certification are fine, some of them are not, and you have studied all of that if you go to the consumer.

Robb: Right, and the consumer doesn’t have time to do that at all.

Will: If all was already mapped out, the consumer certainly don’t.

Robb: Will, so it’s not crazy to suggest that the current industrial ag system has an expiration date on it. Like we would agree with that, right? Like there’ve been some numbers thrown out there that there’s like 60 harvests left and it’s kind of hard to figure out if that’s accurate, but we could definitely make a case that there’s all this unintended consequence that’s happening. All kinds of knock on problems that seem to be accelerating like destroying waterways, pumping up aquifers, like it’s just everything that went into the last 50 years of like kind of a blip in what seemed to be really efficient production is actually it was taking out a high interest loan and that interest has been accruing for 50 plus years and that compound interest does what it does, it starts growing exponentially in the problems are growing exponentially. The big players have got to know this, right? I mean the Cargills and Tysons, I mean they can’t be ignorant of the fact that we’re driving this thing at high speed towards a brick wall. Like even just out of informed self interest, are these folks going to have to pivot at some point or is it just drive the train into a brick wall and we’re going to eat Impossible Burgers on the way there like does that make sense?

Will: Yeah. I mean, if it does and there’s no doubt there is an expiration date, I mean you can’t borrow yourself out of debt so there is an expiration date. To answer your question about how long will big multinational stock companies, first of all, we need to call them efficient that or multinational stock company is no soul. It operates quota report. And the answer is we’ll continue to go with the direction it’s going and as long as the quota report looks good, and if it crashes and burns, it crashes and burns. How long did big tobacco tell people that cigarettes are fine, they’re fine. So there’s an expiration date. I frequently hear people say, “Oh, I’m so worried about what we’re to the earth, we’re destroying the earth.” Don’t you worry about the earth.

Robb: The earth will be here.

Will: She’ll be fine.

Robb: We may not be, but the earth will be fine.

Will: Exactly. So I’m not storing up cartridges and canned goods, but I spend all of my working hours making White Oak Pastures more stable so that whenever what happens, happens that will be in as good a shape as we can be. I really don’t like talking like that. I’m a little unusual in that I am one of the good old boys. They came to this for that. Most of the people in leadership in this kinder, gentler on the food production or not graduates of the old school farm. And I actually have talked to my friends and relatives who were involved in industrial commodity production and the constellation will go something like, “Well, what you do is fine, it’s fine, but you can’t feed the world like that.” I don’t know.

Will: I’ll have that discussion with you, but before we have the discussion, let first stipulate that the earth has a carrying capacity and we can’t continue to have more population, more consumption, more degradation and it’d be fine, and they don’t do that. They won’t say, “well no, this technology no, we stay the hell out of that.” If you push them you can say, “Okay. All right. You can’t go so many people in a phone booth. That’s okay, good, good. We agree on that. I would go here, and can say to you right now that if the limiting factor is laying. How many eggs are laid and we got confused, you have a boat production system right there. You and I will be more efficient, more productive.

Will: Because I can’t produce as much or way of using all of these outside input. But if the first thing we’re going to run out of is petroleum energy, I win, I don’t use as much as you. And if we’re going to run out of water, I wind, I don’t use as much you do. If we’re going to run out of antibiotics that the pathogens are not immune to, I win because I don’t do that. If we’re going to attempt to kill the ocean with plastic and phosphate and nitrogen that runs off, I win. And I can go through dozens of scenarios in which my production system is exponentially more resilient than the current industrial commodity centralized. But if it’s just land, they win. So I’m convinced that the system we operate in denial does not have resiliency and will end poorly.

Robb: I agree. I mean, I see a lot of parallels with the way that a Fiat currency economic system has been driven since early 1970s and it’s looked like we’ve had all kinds of economic growth, but maybe all of that type of stuff is borrowed time. But that all gets doomsday bunker and like you said, we’re not stashing cartridges and canned goods quite yet, although I’ve got a few of those around just in case. So we had the discussion in the Healthy Rebellion. Like Diana Rogers and I are working on this book and film project, Sacred Cow. And it’s been a really interesting process because there are some things that pop up, like if we had a little discussion about this via email exchange, when we really dug into the nutritional characteristics of pastured meat versus conventional meat, there wasn’t as big a difference as what we would like for telling a story.

Robb: Like if we kind of ignored what I feel like is some of the best information available, then we could tell a really nice cohesive story much the way that the folks kind of in the vegan camp, it’s like they’ve got a beautiful story. Meat gives you cancer, meat gives you diabetes, meat gives you heart disease, it destroys the planet, you’re unethical to eat it, mystery examples. Like it’s an elevator pitch on kind of a gut level, it’s like, Oh, that kind of makes sense. And then every one of these topics for us to unpack that is virtually a PhD dissertation to try to get in and give it some type of a nuance. And one of the frustrations that folks in the regenerative agriculture scene have had with folks like us is that when we highlight the fact that it’s better for the environment, pastured dairy is far more nutritious poultry is, like eggs are better.

Robb: It’s the only way that we could have a sustainable system that if we came back 5,000 years from now it would still be here and would still be moving forward. But for the small scale producer, that topic of kind of the nutrient benefits of pastured meat, that’s something that they really have to kind of hang their hat on and it’s not as strong a position as I think any of us would have liked to have. Like how do we navigate that? Like I almost feel like in some ways, I don’t know if at the end of the day the work that Diana and I are doing is helping us or hurting us. Like if we could just leave all that stuff somewhat oblique and in the background and we can kind of wink, wink, nod, nod and just kind of move forward. But I mean Will, how do we navigate that so that I’m not actually undercutting the ability for folks to do something similar to what you’re doing?

Will: Well the work that you have done is essential and we need it. And the reason is we need it, well you did it, we can’t do it by ourselves. When I first started in this business first I started trying to market my product to extract more, to get more for it so I can extract the increased costs production, I made all the claims that I thought you could reasonably make. Your option is healthier, safer, more nutrient dense, tastes better, whatever. And after a year or so in trying to sell my product, I realized that I was giving up all authenticity on doing that. So I literally had my daughter go through all our material and remove any reference to those things. Safety, health, density, flavor, all those things. There’s not of thing, we have a superior product I think we do. But what I know is we’ve all must look stupid in saying that.

Will: I can speak as a subsidiary, I can speak with authority, on land management, animal welfare and impoverished local community. If I have that look don’t see any in and discuss those things with Dr Pat Brown of Impossible Burger, the CEO of Cargill, Smithfield or JVs or whoever. But when I stand up, the 65 year old farmer with an animal science degree, a 50 year old animal science degree from University of Georgia and start talking about conjugated linolenic acid, Omega threes, Omega sixes, I’m excused, and I need you people to do that.

Robb: Well we’re doing what we can, but some days it’s interesting.

Will: Let me interrupt you [inaudible].

Robb: Yeah.

Will: So because I have had no experience in marketing or sales or advertise more of those consequence, I have found it very interesting on this journey to hear about how so many times, different things motivate different people who make a purchasing decision. And when we first started, as I told you, it was all about animal welfare. And I think that most of the people that bought my product in the late nineties, early two thousands did so because I could show them, I could demonstrate clearly to them that my animals had a better life and death than industrial products, and that, that sold us enough product that we successfully grew. And then this whole environmental aspect became a focus of many people. And I would say probably, maybe even more people. I think that movement is probably bigger than the animal welfare.

Will: There was this overlap to it and we were fortunate in that we could without question demonstrate that our system’s better for the land and the water and air and that sold some product, and now I hope that people will, you mentioned the economic monetary of all that you’ve been in. I hope that people will start to realize that when you buy from people like White Oak Pastures, Gay Brown, Spencer, Greg, these guys, you’re enriching rural America. When you buy from Impossible Burger or Tyson or Smithfield, JBS, you’re enriching Wall Street and Silicon Valley and multinational corporations that operate on a quarterly report, those of us operate generational.

Robb: I mean this should be a topic that if we could figure out how to spin it properly should kind of be a across the political spectrum, we should be able to get some buy in regardless of where folks play out on that. Like there should be something in this for virtually everybody, unless they’re just kind of a super dyed in the wool ethical vegan, that you’re never really going to have a meeting of the minds, but virtually anybody else and even thinking about things like national security and stuff like that. Like we’re facing this interesting situation with the expansion of technology and all these predictions that we’re not going to have any jobs. Like doctoring and lawyering looks like it’s going to be some of the first things to go away due to AI. I have a sneaky suspicion that the creativity and the kind of labor intensive elements of holistically managed food production, maybe one of the holdouts that in which this is where people work because it’s going to require a degree of creativity and the type of information processing that artificial intelligence is either never going to get or it’s going to be very far down the road.

Robb: But this like the revitalization of rural America and decentralizing our food production and our economic base seems like a massive, like a national security position. Like what do we do to get this on more folks radars and you know, people like Dan Crenshaw and some people that really get in and champion some topics like this.

Will: Well, this is a case study for me, to plow over the ground again, in the last 25 years, we have that’s like quadruple on almost triple, almost quadruple the amount of land that we control. But our labor force’s gone from three to 160. I mean, what do you mean? This is the law, White oak Pastures make the largest private employer in this County. Early County is the poorest County in the state of Georgia, and Georgia is not a big state. 159 counties,] this is the poorest. White Oak Pastures writes payroll checks over a hundred thousand dollars every Friday. So from the perspective, I really do hope that the next focus is own this re enrichment of rural America because A, it’s so bad and then B, it’s doing, and then this is not a North, South East West thing, this is a rural America.

Robb: Which is virtually all of America

Will: Yeah, because it is or should be so nonpartisan. I don’t think I’m a Republican or Democrat, I don’t like Republicans or Democrats. But this shouldn’t be partisan. I mean, who does not want to see rural America made a vibrant all of the economy again. Who’s against that? Other than the big multinational vegan. That’s what that would be.

Robb: Right, we’ve got our work cut out first. Like we will not run out of a job trying to crack this nut over the next 20 years.

Will: Yeah, Leave a little bit of difference in me and you in all that. You’re trying to save the world, I’m trying to save White Oak Pasture. So your job’s a lot better than my job but, but we’re on the same team going in the same direction.

Robb: Absolutely. And you know I would have very little of a leg to stand on were not for folks like you, Joel Salatin, Allan savory. It’s funny, like this idea of ancestral eating got on my radar in 1998. I was super sick, had some serious GI problems and this idea of kind of like a low carb paleo type diet got on my radar and I did it and researched it and it made a ton of sense. And then as I started thinking about it, like what are the kind of sustainability implications of this story? And just kind of in the back of my head, I was thinking this is the only way that you could have a food system that could last 5,000 or 10,000 years. Like it is the only way that you could do this. And but this again was an in 1998 and I’m not a farmer.

Robb: It was just an intuitive thing because I’m a little bit of a student of economics and stuff like that. So I had a gut level that this was really the way to go. But it’s only been the work of folks like you and the other people in this regenerative scene that now we have the beginnings of kind of, I guess a front to be able to push this narrative back and have a counterpoint to the industrial food kind of narrative. That is crazy that things like Impossible Burger, kind of the ultimate manifestation of like that this is supposed to be the savior of us all and I think the life cycle analysis for Impossible Burger, there was a caveat on it that was basically, if you wanted to make that process sustainable, you had to plug animals back in on the grain and legume production to be able to make that thing work which you alluded to that already. Well, Will, it’s been incredible having you on the Healthy Rebellion. Let me, I think I might have an outside question here.

Robb: Okay. Yeah. It looks like somebody is telling me you have to jump here to another appointment. Nope. Okay.

Will: I’m good.

Robb: Okay. You’re good. You’re good. Well, I do want to be respectful of your time, but what are some things that we can do to move this discussion forward? So clearly this ft to where we should have a burgeoning and expanding local decentralized food production system. It’s being stymied because of artificially cheap imports that are bypassing this country of origin stamp. Like what do we do to affect change like today and then whether it’s some things that we could have for goals, maybe like three to five years down the road to really start changing this?

Will: Well I know this is more frustrating or less frustrating. But I’ll tell you that the decision of whether or not there will be more of these farm is purely absolutely in the hands of the consumer. So I don’t know, this is not a sales pitch for White Oak Pastures. White Oak Pastures model is not super scalable. We’re probably about as big as we ever intend to be, believe me they’re [inaudible], but it’s highly scalable. It can be a White Oak Pastures or two or three in every ag County information. But it won’t happen, this is important, it won’t happen because of government regulation. It won’t happen because farmers just think, “Wow, I think I’ll go with that rich.” It won’t happen because big multinational companies won’t see it go there. If it happens, it’s going to be because consumers choose to support a White Oak Pastures. I wish I could tell you that there are tens of thousands across the country, there’s not, there’s dozens.

Will: But if consumers will support these kinds of farm, there’ll be another one, and another one, and another one. Farmers are entrepreneur, it wasn’t to survive and Billy will respond to the market demand. Today the market demand is for cheap commodity production. You’ve consumed the shift that demand in the model of window bear, you vote with your dollars, then consumers will drive this whole production to the forefront, or they can keep stumbling into big box stores and supporting a stock company that’s driven by quota report, which [inaudible] get to decide. When you decide which [inaudible] you got any consumables. I’m not real proud of that.

Robb: Well, Will thank you so much for the work you’re doing. And the sort of support that you’ve put into this whole regenerative ag scene. Remind folks where they can track you down on the internet and any other things that you can provide for folks to learn more about what you’re doing.

Will: Our website is whiteoakpastures.com. Oak single, pastures plural. Or my email address is willharris, my name Will Harris, @whiteoakpastures.com and yeah, I appreciate you having me on today, and I appreciate it the people who listen to us today.

Robb: Huge honor to have you on the show and I can’t wait to see you in real life here at some point.

Will: Please come to visit.

Robb: We’ll do it.

Will: We got cabins in our farm. We cook three meals a day, seven days a week. We have some employees, I love if you and your family… So you’ve got two little girls?

Robb: Yeah.

Will: Oh, I got, I got grown daughters that work in the farm. Hope you’ll come see us.

Robb: We’ll do it. I have a strong back and a weak mind so you can put me to work too, so.

Will: I will.

Robb: Okay, awesome Will thank you. Take care.

Will: Thank you.

Robb: Okay, bye bye.

Will: Bye.

Robb: Holy cat.

Nicki: Holy cats. That was good stuff.

Robb: I might need a smoke and a cup of coffee and maybe even a hug.

Nicki: That was really good stuff. Thanks everyone. I hope you enjoyed that interview. Please share this one. This one is one that needs to be shared far and wide. This message needs to get out there. As always, please subscribe to the podcast.

Robb: If you find some value. Let folks know about it.

Nicki: Remember to check out our show sponsor. Perfect Keto go to perfectketo.com/rebellion10 and use code rebellion 10 for $10 off your orders or $40 or more. You can go there and grab your salted caramel MCT oil powder, and then finally join us in the Healthy Rebellion. Go to join.thehealthyrebellion.com and now’s the perfect time to join in advance of the cars reset that we mentioned earlier, and we’ve got a lot of great stuff lined out for the rest of this year. So join.thehealthyrebellion.com. And that’s a wrap.

Robb: Thank you, wife.

Nicki: Thanks hubs.

Robb: We’ll see you soon.

Nicki: All right, see you.

Robb: Bye.

Published with permission of Robbwolf.com

Activists Share Powerful Stories at Bangkok Climate Meeting

BANGKOK, Thailand – Days before the United Nations COP25 Climate Summit, Regeneration International took part in “The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change,” held at the UN building in Bangkok.

The event, organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women and the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association, gathered young environmental activists from five continents. The activists came together with one common message: “If we want to reverse the current climate catastrophe, we must reconnect with nature.”

“The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change” kicked off without the usual science and policy experts who typically dominate the conversation at climate change conferences. Instead, it ceded the floor to youth activists working on a range of issues, including biodiversity, indigenous rights, gender equality, regenerative agriculture and deep ecology.

“Many of these activists often work alone and we think it’s important to bring these young people together to build a global trustworthy community where they can build on each and others’ knowledge and inspiration,” said Marianne Marstrand of the Global Peace Initiative of Women.

I attended the conference with my partner, Hsu Zin Maung, to share Regeneration International’s work around developing agricultural projects in Myanmar, and around promoting regenerative organic development worldwide.

We met with people of different faiths, cultures and realities—activists who are working in areas of the world where ideologies on environment and social justice are often new, and sometimes misunderstood, concepts.

All of these individuals shared powerful stories about what brought them to the role they embrace today. Here are just a few of the youth activists who inspired us that day:

Riddhi Shah (India)

Shah is 28 years old. She works in rural areas of southern India plagued with severe water scarcity. She launched a program across an entire region to build swales and channels to increase ground water seepage. After four years, her work lead to the replenishment of a dry lake that is now supporting a local community all year round.

Riddhi Shah, Activist Education in India

“To address the climate crisis, we just need to see how beautifully nature is being a facilitator and fall into its process,” Shah said.

But Shah doesn’t stop at land. Her passion for education and for linking social and environmental justice has led her to become one of India’s top philanthropical consultants. She has become an empowerment catalyst for regenerative projects all over India.

Ramphai Noikaew (Thailand)

Noikaew lives in a community at her Pun Pun Organic Farm located in Northern Thailand where she enjoys sharing her knowledge on seed saving and indigenous herbal medicines from the Mekong region.

She and her husband volunteer their time to educate people about organic farming, deep ecology, place-based living and community development. She recently launched an organic farmers market in Bangkok, where the Pun Pun farm community is expanding its knowledge.

“Climate change is happening and we have to change with it, so we grow diversity to ensure that whatever the climate ,we have something to fall back on when one crop fails,” Noikaew said. “And we teach people seed saving so that they know to use the seeds, and how to grow and share them.”

Ying Liang (China)

Ying Lian runs the Schumi Learning Garden (SLG) and Organic Farm, in Zhongshan, a traditional village at the foot of Wugui Mountain, in southern China. SLG is a transformative learning center for adults based on three pillars of education: Community living, Connection with self, others and nature, and Right Livelihood.

The center also serves as an incubator for community livelihood projects, such as a Weekend Farmers’ Market to revitalize the local economy.

“I am most inspired by forest eco-systems, where life flourishes and all elements nourish each other, where life and death are circular processes,” Liang said. “I am working to re-create this kind of system and to manifest it in human society to help enhance socio-ecological resilience.”

Gao Heran (China)

Heran is the founder of Citan Village Nature School in Hainan Province, China. This initiative, is designed to teach environmental and nature education programs and games to village children and urban families mainly coming from Beijing.

The focus of the curriculum is environmental stewardship, local biodiversity, nature conservation, permaculture practice in the field and village team building.

The school also organizes weekend village trips for city-based families to encourage rural-urban environmental educational exchanges and partnerships.

“We are nature but being in the city we often live like caged animals,” Heran said. “My work is to get city families out into the countryside, especially the younger generations.”

Crystal Foreman (USA)

Foreman is a certified permaculture designer and certified Baltimore City Gardener. She works to improve food justice, food sovereignty and organic food access.

Crystal Foreman, a certified permaculture designer and certified Baltimore City Gardener

Foreman teaches people how to cook healthy meals and how to use food they might not be familiar with, while working hand-in-hand with local organic growers and teaching people how to forage in both urban and rural areas.

Foreman recognizes we have the power to make environmental and societal changes by carefully choosing what we put on our plate.

“Food inequity, poor food quality and inhumane labor can be traced to conventional farming that causes extreme environmental harm,” Foreman said. “I want to teach people how to be self-sufficient with food choices. Teaching people how to live with the land and how the land can nurture us is very important to my mission.”

Inner Dimensions of Climate Change

Regeneration International took part in the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change, a global gathering of young climate leaders at the United Nations in Bangkok. Their message? If we want to avoid climate catastrophe, we must reconnect with nature.Video via Oliver Gardiner

Posted by Regeneration International on Friday, 10 January 2020

Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s media producer and coordinator for Asia and Europe. (With thanks to the Global Peace Initiative of Women). To keep up with Regeneration International news, sign up for our newsletter.

 

Grassroots Rising — A Call to Change the World

In this interview, Ronnie Cummins, founder of the Organic Consumers Association, discusses his new book “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food and a Green New Deal.”

“Much of the book talks about how we need to transform our food and farming system, not only in the United States but worldwide, if we’re going to solve a lot of these problems that we’re seeing — environmental pollution, health problems, the climate crisis and the fact that we have so much poverty in rural areas …” Cummins says.

Regenerative Organic Farming Is the Answer to Many Problems

The transformation Cummins calls for is a transition to regenerative organic farming, which has the ability to solve many if not most of these problems simultaneously.

For example, one of the primary arguments for genetically engineered (GE) crops and foods was that it was going to solve world hunger. Reality, however, has demonstrated the massive flaws in this argument.

GE agriculture actually does the complete opposite, by destroying our soils and making food more toxic and less nutritious. Regenerative farming, on the other hand, has demonstrated its superiority with regard to yield and nutrition, all without the use of toxic chemicals. As noted by Cummins:

“The way we have traditionally grown food for the last 10,000 years and the way we’ve raised animals the last 20,000 or 30,000 years is really organic and pasture-based.

This wild experiment that industry unleashed on us since the second world war, using toxic chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, genetically engineered seeds and animal factory farms has proven to be a disaster, not just for the farmers, the animals and the land, but our public health has also suffered considerably.

Part of our long-term call to take charge of your health, take charge of your diet [is to] take charge of our environment and really our whole economic system [and] transform this degenerative food, farming and land use system into one that is organic and regenerative.”

Four Drivers of Change

In his book, Cummins details four major drivers of any given system, be it, as in this case, the degenerative system we currently have, or the regenerative system we would like to have:

  1. Education and awareness raising — This also includes putting the information into practice, meaning, every time you pull out your wallet, you’re considering whether your money is going to support a degenerative or regenerative system. True change comes when people act out their beliefs in the marketplace
  2. Innovation — This includes innovation of farmers, ranchers, people who take care of our forests and wetlands and people who are innovative in terms of educating the public
  3. Policy changes — This includes policy changes all the way from local school boards and park districts to the White House. At present, our policies favor corporate special interests like Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Big Pharma and Wall Street. Once we get policies that support organics, regenerative agriculture and natural health, scaling these areas up will be much easier and faster
  4. Funding and investment — This includes both private investors and public monies

As noted by Cummins, “Education, innovation, policy [changes] and investment are the four things that drive this change of paradigm.” Change, however, is often slow, and one of the reasons Cummins wrote “Grassroots Rising” was to inspire optimism and hope.

“Obviously, we are still in a degenerative phase, but we can move out of this,” he says. “I think this year, 2020, is going to be the beginning of a pretty enormous global awakening.”

Scaling Best Practices 

Cummins is co-director of an organic research farm and conference center outside of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he coordinates a regenerative agricultural system that integrates organic vegetable, seed and forage production with regenerative holistic management of poultry, sheep, goats and pigs. He and others are constantly on the lookout for best practices that can be successfully scaled up and implemented on millions of farms. Cummins explains:

“We have been, for 10 years, running a research and teaching farm [Via Organica] outside of San Miguel de Allende, right smack in the middle of Mexico. It’s the high desert area …

If you look at the statistics, 40% of the world’s surface is characterized as semi-arid or arid, and that’s the type of area we’re in here, so it’s not unusual for the global landscape …

What’s difficult as a farmer or rancher, if you live in the semi-arid or arid parts of the world, is that not only is rainfall seasonal and you don’t get a whole lot of it, but that it is almost impossible to raise crops on a lot of this terrain.

What people have done for hundreds of years is graze livestock on these degraded semi-arid, arid lands. The problem is that they have overgrazed much of this 40% of the world’s surface.”

Simple Innovations Can Solve Serious Problems

During one of Cummins’ workshops on organic compost, two local farmers approached him saying they’d developed a remarkably simple technique using the agave plant and mesquite trees to produce incredibly inexpensive yet nutritious animal fodder.

These two plants, which are naturally found clustered together in arid and semi-arid areas, do not require any irrigation, and the photosynthesis of the agave is among the highest in the entire world. It grows rapidly, producing massive amounts of biomass, and sequesters and stores enormous amounts of carbon, both above ground and below ground, while producing inexpensive, nutritious animal feed or forage and restoring the earth.

As noted by Cummins, the fact that agave plants and mesquite (or other nitrogen-fixing trees) grow together naturally is nature’s way to repair eroded landscapes. The roots of the mesquite tree can reach down to 125 feet, fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, and absorbing minerals from deep in the ground.

Agave, meanwhile, adds huge amounts of biomass to the land every year, drawing down excess CO2 from the atmosphere. It pulls nitrogen and other minerals from the ground in order to support its rapid growth, but when grown next to a nitrogen-fixing tree, you’ve got a biodiverse system that will continue to grow and thrive on a continuous basis..

Fermented Agave Is an Inexpensive Animal Feed

The fermented agave animal feed produced in this system costs only 5 cents per kilo (2.2 pounds) to make. The key is fermentation. Raw agave leaves are unpalatable and hard to digest for animals because of their levels of saponins and lectins, but once fermented, they become digestible and attractive to the animals.

The fermentation also boosts the nutrition. I was so impressed with Cummins’ story that I harvested about 10 gallons of aloe plants and applied the process to see if it will convert to great food for my six chickens. A summary of the process is as follows:

  • Cut some of the lower agave leaves off the tree and crudely chop them up with a machete. One of the farmers, Juan Frias, invented a simple machine that grinds the leaf into what looks like coleslaw.
  • Place the cut-up agave leaf into a large bucket, tamping it down once filled half-way to remove oxygen. Continue filling the bucket to the top. Tamp down again and put a lid on it. (As explained further below, adding mesquite pods at an optimum rate of 20% will approximately double the protein content of the final product.)
  • Let it set for 30 days. The fermentation process turns the saponins and lectins into natural sugars and carbs. The final mash will stay fresh for up to two years.

Cummins and other Mexican organic farmers have tested the agave forgage on a variety of animals, including sheep, goats, chickens and pigs, all of which love it.

“The importance of this is, first of all, if you’re a small farmer, you can’t afford alfalfa, and you can’t afford hay during the dry season. It’s too expensive … It makes eggs and meat too expensive in the marketplace for people to buy.

When you start looking at … reducing feed costs by 50%, or even three quarters with this stuff that costs a nickel or a dime, then I don’t need to overgraze my animals. They’d still graze because it’s good for them … but you wouldn’t have to have them outdoors every day, overgrazing on pastures that are not in good shape.

This is pretty amazing stuff … Lab analysis of just the fermented agave [shows] it’s about 5% to 9% protein, which is pretty good. Alfalfa is more like 16% to 18%.

What these farmers, who are also retired scientists, figured out is if you put 20% mesquite in your fermentation, the pods of the mesquite trees, it’ll shoot the protein level up to about 18% — about the same as alfalfa.

There’s a lot of other things too that make it better than alfalfa. One of the things about alfalfa is it takes a lot of water … The agave plant uses one-twenty-sixth the amount of water to produce a gram of biomass as alfalfa.

These desert plants have evolved over millions of years to utilize water and moisture in a really efficient way … The opening in the leaves, called the stomata … only opens at night, after sunset.

These plants literally suck the moisture out of the air all night long, and then when daybreak comes, the stomata closes up … They can go years with no rain, and they can survive pretty harsh temperatures … [and] there’s not one chemical required in this whole process. This whole process is inherently organic.”

Added Benefits

An organic certifier is now evaluating one of the operations using this agave feed process, which may go a long way toward creating less expensive organics. For example, rather than spending 45 cents per kilo for organic chicken feed, chicken farmers can cut that down to between 5 and 10 cents per kilo.

In the end, that will make organic free-range chicken and eggs far more affordable for the average consumer. Ditto for pork, sheep and goat products.

Additional benefits include improved immune function in the animals — similar to that seen in humans eating a lot of fermented foods. What’s more, about 50% of the fermented agave feed is water, which means the animals don’t need to be watered as much.

Cummins and other organic farm advocates are now trying to convince the Mexican reforestation program to get involved as well. This would solve several problems. First, it’s difficult to reforest in arid climates, which includes 60% of Mexico, as even mesquite trees need water in their first stage of development until they’re established. Growing agave in locations in areas that already have mesquite or other nitrogen-fixing trees would speed the process and lower the water demands.

Secondly, growing agave and mesquite together for reforestation purposes, while incorporating facilities to create fermented agave feed for sale, farmers who aren’t willing to grow their own can still benefit from this inexpensive feed alternative. Thirdly, such a project would also help reduce rural poverty, which is what’s driving immigration into the U.S.

“If people weren’t so darn poor, which leads back to if they didn’t live in such dry, degraded landscapes, they wouldn’t be seeking to come to the U.S. except for a visit,” Cummins says.

“We can solve this immigration problem. We can solve this problem of rural poverty. Many of these small farmers, they can’t even afford to eat their own animal, like the lamb, on a regular basis.

They have it for celebrations, but they should be able to eat lamb burgers on a regular basis in the rural countryside. Now, they will be able to. In the long run, if we restore the landscape, things like corn, beans and squash will grow again …”

Yet another little cottage industry is also starting to grow around agave. Its fibers are very strong, so people are now starting to make lightweight construction blocks or bricks from it.

Lastly, Cummins estimates that with 2.5 million agave plants planted on 30,000 acres over the next decade, they’ll be able to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions created by San Miguel county right now.

More Information

To learn more about how regenerative agriculture can help solve many of the problems facing the world right now, be sure to pick up a copy of “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Climate, Farming, Food and a Green New Deal.”

“This regenerative practice in dry lands is a game changer,” Cummins says. “There are practices in wetlands and in the global North, [where] we’re already seeing things like a holistic management of livestock and biointensive organic practices.

It’s all these practices together — the best practices from the different parts of the world, different ecosystems — that are going to make a difference.

It’s you the consumer, it’s you the reader, that needs to spread these good news messages, and I hope you’ll consider buying a copy of my new book, ‘Grassroots Rising,’ where I try to paint a roadmap of how we can regenerate the world’s landscapes as quickly as possible so that we can get back to enjoying life.”

Reposted with permission from Mercola.com