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.
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
Camas Davis had what she calls an “early onset midlife crisis” when she was around 30–and it led her to study butchering in France. But when she came home she found that the market for good, local meat needed to be cultivated.
Jovan Sage carries on traditions passed down from African and Indigenous ancestors, and is a healer on many levels–herbalist, “food alchemist,” farmer, chef, and community organizer.
Sanjay Rawal‘s new film, Gather, explores how Native Americans across the U.S. are rediscovering their food traditions–and building on them in the context of present-day realities.
LaKisha Odom of The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is helping to fund the research behind healthy soil practices so that more farmers can make the transition to regenerative agriculture and long-term sustainability and resilience.
For millennia local and indigenous farmers have been producing healthy food worldwide. In less than a century that food system has been decimated, We talk to Dr. Vandana Shiva about restoring health, democracy, species, and local knowledge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.