Down to Earth is a podcast about hope. As climate change collides with our industrial food system, we focus not on doom but instead on people who are developing practical, innovative solutions. We invite you to meet farmers, ranchers, scientists, land managers, writers, and many others on a mission to create a world in which the food we eat is healthy—for us, for the land and water from which it springs, for the lives and livelihoods of the producers, and for the planet.
Episode 78 – From art to agriculture: Emerald Gardens
Roberto Meza was an artist and MIT graduate student who took some time off to deal with health concerns—and found that fresh greens made such a difference in his life that he started growing them. Now he runs a thriving business and focuses on food sovereignty and equity.
Episode 77 – First nations food–rebuilding resilience across the land
Part of the experience of colonization for Native people has been the denial of their long-standing practices of agriculture. Now indigenous voices are becoming part of the conversation about how to think in a healthy and holistic manner about food.
Episode 76 – Making ag finance work for farmers, not just bankers
Many food producers spend so much on interest to banks that they can’t pay for improvements to make their farms more resilient and regenerative. Zach Ducheneaux talks about an alternative that’s already having some success in Indian country.
Episode 75 – The Reindeer Chronicles: Stories of restoration from around the planet
In her new book, Judith Schwartz takes us to five continents and tell us stories of people restoring devastated landscapes–and overcoming deep conflicts that stem from degraded ecosystems. The results are phenomenal.
Episode 74 – For the birds: Audubon’s conservation ranching work
“What’s good for the bird is good for the herd”–that’s the basis of a win-win initiative to preserve bird habitat on ranches and grasslands. We speak with Audubon Society VP Marshall Johnson about grassland ecology and their successful conservation collaborations.
Episode 73 – The risks and rewards facing young farmers
Vanessa García Polanco is from a farming family that emigrated to the US when she was a teenager. She explores the challenges that young and beginning farmers, and farmers of color, are dealing with–especially during the global pandemic.
Episode 72 – Bringing Buffalo back home
The Eastern Shoshone people traditionally survived with the buffalo, and their way of life suffered when tens of millions of buffalo were killed by the US government. But now they’re returning to the land–and starting to renew a culture.
Episode 71 – The Rodale Institute: Pioneers in regenerative/organic farming
When the “green revolution” offered the promise of better agriculture through chemical-intensive farming, J.I. Rodale was skeptical. He started an organic farm and then an institute to study how farming could improve the land and human health. Now they’re doing great work from coast to coast.
Episode 70 -Hopi farming: a 2000-year-long agriculture experiment
Hopi farmers must be doing something right: they have survived and grown their own food for hundreds of generations. We talk to Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson about their regenerative farming and cultural practices––and the challenges to maintaining them.
Episode 69 – American Zion: Religion and rebellion on Western public lands
Betsy Gaines Quammen has been researching the history of Mormonism and its relationship to Western landscapes for years. We talk about her new book, American Zion: Cliven Bundy, God and Public Lands in the West.
Episode 68 – Why the biggest reservoirs in the west are running low–and what to do about it
Water expert Brian Richter walks us through the history of these great man-made lakes, and how we can ensure that they will continue to provide water through man-made crises like climate change.
Episode 67 – Food, farmers, and the virus–navigating the difficulties and disconnects
There’s plenty of food, but with Covid-19 it’s not getting where it needs to go, and everyone–especially farmers–is paying the price. Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons walks us through the problems–and some solutions–to the many dilemmas facing the food system.
Episode 66 – Restoring Public Lands Through Grazing
Grazing on public lands is controversial–for good reason. But when it’s done right, adaptive grazing can greatly improve land health–from overgrazed land, to former oil fields, to bombing ranges. Gregory Horner tells the stories.
Episode 65 – Health, profit, and beauty on the farm in Minnesota
Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz didn’t know they were cultivating soil health when they started doing Holistic Management of their livestock. But as they learned to work with nature rather than fighting it their soil–and their farm–began to thrive in ways they’d never dreamed of.
Episode 64 – A small New Mexico garlic farmer takes on a Chinese ag giant
Farmer and writer Stanley Crawford got involved in a legal action that challenged a huge firm that wasn’t paying duties, and was “dumping” garlic onto the US market. What was supposed to take one year turned into a multi-year drama that is still ongoing.
Episode 63 – Grassroots Rising: A holistic vision for a healthy food system and climate
Ronnie Cummins analyzes what’s not working about our food system and lays out a blueprint for change — while reminding us that regenerative agriculture is ultimately a necessity.
Episode 62 – Growing food for healthy communities in Indian Country
Kelsey Ducheneaux is a fourth generation regenerative beef cattle rancher, and she works with the Intertribal Agriculture Council helping producers to work within the current system–and reinvigorate native foods and practices.
Episode 61 – Organic and sustainable agriculture in the Southern US
Brennan Washington is an agriculture Renaissance man. He farms, promotes farmers markets, provides resources to limited-resource producers, and produces the Sustainable Ag Rider podcast.
Episode 60 – Farming and fire in Australia today
Farmers in Australia work as fire fighters–but they don’t always do effective fire prevention. We talk to farm planner Darren Doherty talks about the devastation, causes, and opportunities arising from the bush fires.
Episode 59 – Regenerative vs. Degenerative Agriculture
We talk to Kevin Watt from TomKat Ranch about the practice and benefits of regenerative agriculture, how to incentivize it, and the dire long-term consequences of the degenerative practices of industrial agriculture.
Episode 58 – The Science of Water
Kate Zeigler is a geologist who works with farmers and ranchers in the arid Southwest to monitor their wells and the water table that keeps them flowing–and helps them to come up with water conservation strategies.
Episode 57 – Know the law…save the farm
Jillian Hishaw works with farmers to protect themselves, their families, and their land–legally and financially. Attorney and food systems strategist, she provides free or low-cost services, particularly to African American farmers.
Episode 56 -Hemp: Growing into the future
The hemp plant is amazingly versatile and resilient, and it can be used to produce innumerable healthy products and services. So why was it made illegal, and what does the future hold? We talk to hemp farmers Ed Berg and Scott Perez.
Episode 55 – Paul Neubauer – From apprentice to foreman—building a career in farming
What does it take to be an apprentice on a farm or ranch? What does it take to mentor the apprentices? Paul Neubauer knows both sides, and talks about learning–and teaching–both practical and personal skills on the land.
Episode 54 – Diana Rodgers – Red meat, where does it fit into a healthy diet/healthy planet?
Diana Rodgers is the author of several books and is working on a new book and documentary film project, Sacred Cow. She hosts the Sustainable Dish podcast, and she lives and works on an organic farm in Massachusetts.
Episode 53 – Robert Fetsch – How to deal with mental and physical challenges–on the farm and beyond
Dr. Robert Fetsch has for decades been helping farmers and ranchers deal with disabilities — from injuries brought on by hard work, to mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and anger.
Episode 52 – Nicole Masters – For the Love of Soil
Nicole Masters is an agro-ecologist and educator in regenerative agriculture. She’s founder of Integrity Soils, and author of the new book, For the Love of Soil.
Episode 51 – Meriwether Hardie: Making the Business Case for Regenerative Agriculture
The food business is beginning to realize that they’re unsustainable — but don’t really know how to transition. Bio-Logical Capital provides demonstrations and research that point to possible paths forward.
Episode 50 – Graeme Hand: How to regenerate land with livestock and still make a steady profit
Graeme Hand teaches Holistic Management, and how to restore grasslands with cattle–and his techniques might surprise you!
Episode 49 – Joel Benson Holistic Management: It’s Not Just for Land
Joel Benson applied his training in holistic management to his business, and then to the government of his small town where he was mayor for eight years. The results are inspiring — and remind us of the power of systems thinking.