Regenerative vs. Degenerative Agriculture


A wide-ranging conversation with Kevin Watt, strategic advisor at TomKat Ranch in Pescadero, California, about the hazards of degenerative agriculture around the world, and the evolution toward new ways of thinking about productivity, healthy food, and thriving on a crowded planet. 

Show Notes:

1’14 regenerative vs. degenerative agriculture
5’25 the example of degeneration in the nation of Malawi
6’14 turning from native crops to tobacco and cash crops
7’39 destruction of ancient forests to dry tobacco
7’51 eating traditional/local food became low status
9’17 civil unrest as a result of anger and frustration
13’06 comparison to the US
13’25 four phases of our relationship to the natural world
15’41 integrated environmentalism–the idea that humans are part of the natural world
16’35 taking responsibility as stewards of the planet
17’28 letting go of the idea of industrialism as a reliable default
18’18 visualizing topsoil loss
19’07 maximizing yield and other ways of thinking about productivity
19’31 setting positive goals
21’41 the question is not about feeding 9 billion people, but about how we all thrive
22’21 a lot of food currently raised only for calories without consideration of other issues, human and environmental
23’15 doing the work of accepting dynamic systems and being in a community
24’13 profit vs. revenue
24’35 the importance of diversification
25’52 thinking about profit per acre instead of yield
28’15 project of traveling through the West to talk to producers doing regenerative ag–and the diversity of results
28’58 Kevin lost a hundred pounds through regenerative ag.
29’22 hidden costs of the degenerative system
31’13 reconnecting to our individual needs for nourishment
33’06 California food program for school children
33’59 craving the foods we ate when we were young
34’46 watching healthy animals on pasture
35’20 Kevin’s children eat sauerkraut and cod liver oil
36’14 is regenerative agriculture only for the wealthy?
38’39 shelf price vs. real price of food
39’57 study of the real cost of regenerative vs. conventional beef
41’32 policy that would internalize heretofore externalized costs
43’05 focus on internalizing the benefits
45’02 the idea of disruption in agriculture
47’34 how do you deal with the harmful entities with the most power and political clout

How to Listen

iTunes • Sticher • I heart Radio  • Google Play • Spotify • RadioPublic

More Episodes

Episode 100 – Restoring the global water cycle

Episode 100 – Restoring the global water cycle

With the best of intentions and technological innovation, we have broken the world’s water cycle. Now, says water expert Sandra Postel, we need to work with nature in order to restore it—if we want to survive, thrive, and, well, eat.

read more
Episode 97 – The deep history of apples

Episode 97 – The deep history of apples

Orchardist Gordon Tooley knows apple trees–and has been cultivating rare and heirloom varieties for three decades. But for him it’s as much about the landscape and lifestyle as about the product. We talk about living slowly, observing closely, and promoting healthy land, water, wildlife, and human communities.

read more
Episode 92 – Busting myths about beef

Episode 92 – Busting myths about beef

Nicolette Hahn Niman was an environmental lawyer and vegetarian when she married a rancher—so she has a unique and broad-based perspective on agriculture. We discuss the new edition of her book, Defending Beef: The Ecological and Nutritional Case for Meat.

read more
Episode 90 – Welcome to Cowgirl Camp!

Episode 90 – Welcome to Cowgirl Camp!

Beth Robinette grew up on a ranch but didn’t expect to stay there. But then she got so interested in food system and regenerative practices that now she’s ranching, developing new business models, and teaching the ropes to the next generation of ranchers.

read more