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Amanda Starbuck Real Organic Podcast Epsiode 64

Anna Jones-Crabtree: Our Organic Supply Chain Needs A Makeover

The Real Organic Podcast, Episode #067
Anna Jones-Crabtree: Our Organic Supply Chain
Needs A Makeover

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:00:00):
I farm because, because it's like a responsibility it's like, I wanna do more with our conservation. I wanna be an agent of change. And I feel like if I want sustainability on the planet, this is a way that I can physically manifest that and show that to others and help others learn and maybe model some new ways. Like we don't have it figured out. You know, the land that we're farming way north on the border. We're on the very far Western edge of Prairie pothole migratory bird habitat. And I'm so excited about some of this transition ground that we just took in because now we're gonna have some more contiguous management of organic and I'm really excited to find other partners in conservation to say, what does that look like? How do we do agriculture integrated with nature? It's not like we're just setting it aside and we're gonna do agriculture over here and nature over here. Like she's part of it.

Linley Dixon (00:01:10):
Welcome to the Real Organic Podcast. I'm Linley Dixon, co-director of the Real Organic Project. We're a grassroots farmer-led movement with an ad-on organic food label to distinguish crops grown in healthy soils and organic livestock raised on pasture. You just heard from Anna Crabtree of Vilicus farm, a dryland grain farm in Northern Montana, they focus on biodiversity in the fields and an overall diversity in their income streams. I interviewed Anna and her husband Doug last summer and was really struck by their thoughts on how both farm subsidies and crop insurance affect their operation in a negative way. I'm so thrilled today to be speaking with Anna Jones, Crabtree of Vilicus farms in north central Montana. Hi Anna.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:01:55):
Hi Linley. How are you?

Linley Dixon (00:01:57):
Good. I was checking out where your farm is and you're all the way up next to the Canadian border. What, how did you end up there and what is it like farming? So far north?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:02:06):
Well, it's kind of funny. You think you're north and then you realize there's an entire nation north and we, we do actually farm land right on the border. So it's not a big wall. It's a, it's a barbed wire fence. And we landed here after a long, long search for farm land. Doug grew up in Ohio and was on an operation that didn't survive the crisis of the eighties. And so when I met him at Purdue, then we started looking for land and tried several land link opportunities in the Midwest that just totally did not work out for us. I already had a job and a career and long story short, we fast forwarded to being 40 with no debt other than our house, and went on a search for land in Montana and decided to stay in Montana.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:03:00):
Because Doug had been serving as the organic certification program manager for the state of Montana. So our network was here and thought, why not land is available? And that's how we ended up here. And we started with 1,280 acres in 2009 that we bought off the open market. And this season we are managing 12,600 acres. We had no idea land available availability was gonna be so great for us. And partly why we've scaled up is we've been taking on more acres to transition. So this year there was about 3000 acres that we've started the transition into organic production. We have a seven year crop rotation across most of the farm. There's a component of small grains. There's a component of legumes which tend to be lentils or peas and then a component of broad leaves and oil seeds, which are like flax and buck wheat and interspersed in between all of those is a year of cover cropping. So

Linley Dixon (00:04:00):
Wait, you didn't mention corn or soybeans what's the

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:04:03):
Matter with you? No, no, they don't. We don't grow them here. and our, our precipitation is usually our plus or minus 11. Okay. 12 than 12 inches. So it's pretty dry. No. Do you have irrigation? No irrigation. It's all dryland farming. So it's all about taking care of your soil and paying attention to your crop rotation. And our farm is laid out differently than a lot of other farms around us. We're not doing big blocks of monoculture. We're doing 240 foot wide crop strips with 20 to 30 feet of perennial buffers between every one of those crop strips. And those we've been seeding to native pollinator habitat. So if you look at our farm from the sky, it's, it's like a giant garden

Linley Dixon (00:04:53):
it's yeah, it sounds beautiful. How did you come up with that system and how is that profitable so much out of production?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:04:59):
Well, that was all Doug. So about 26% of our acres is in non crop conservation. So that includes our pollinator strips. We've extensive field buffers. You know, Doug did a lot of inspecting of other organic farms and just really diversity is something that really hit home for him. And that that's been key. And so, you know, across the landscape, then we can manage that diversity, both like spatially and temporally at a larger scale across the landscape, the field, the buffers. We knew we were farming in a place that could be prone to wind erosion and highly variable conditions. And so the, the original buffers between each of the crop strips were for soil erosion protection, because we have to, you just catch

Linley Dixon (00:05:51):
Your own soil if it blows. Huh?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:05:53):
Yeah. It's, it's terrifying when that happens. And the so because tillage is part of our system and then gradually over time we've realized that those field buffers really have this multiple stacking of benefits. So it's not just about soil erosion. It's like, oh wow, that's a way to add more diversity into your farm with perennial habitat for pollinator species. It provides snow catch in the winter. So we can see in our combine, the yields right on the west side of every one of those strips, cuz it's caught snow. Well, you wouldn't think so. There's more

Linley Dixon (00:06:25):
Moisture in the

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:06:26):
Soil. Yeah. There's more moisture in the soil. So anyway, and it's a great way to access all of our fields and see them. And as we do soil testing, et cetera,

Linley Dixon (00:06:38):
Could you explain a little bit more about what follows, what, and you talk about tillage and needing to till, and I know there's so much confusion around the sustainability of tillage. Could you maybe just talk about your system and how you feel it's sustainable because obviously that's important to you through the, you know, background that you all have in organic.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:06:56):
Yeah. I can certainly do that. This is really a good platform for Doug to do that. Great, I'll ask him the same question. Ask him the same question I will. Yeah. Because he's, you know, I'm the engineer and he's the agronomist. So he's, he's gonna talk more about the crop rotation because he's really the brains behind that. Okay. and it gets tweaked every year, depending on what happens. So generally there's like a light feeding grain, there's heavy feeding grains, and then there's cover cropping, which can be a single crop of chickling vetch. Or it could be a multi-species cover crop depending on what that strip needs and the soils and et cetera. And then after that well, and I'm not gonna have these in the right order Linley. So but lentils, legumes. So that's peas or lentils usually for harvest.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:07:51):
Although sometimes that can be another crop that's for non harvest. And then the broad leaves tend to be oil seeds or buck wheat. And then there's also another thing we've been adding around peas and oats. So oats are a lighter feeding grain and they take less from the soil. So and then the other thing that we've added over the last two years is we have a young gentleman working with us. Who's started a grazing enterprise. So we're actually bringing other people's cows to the farm. Paul's managing them and they're eating our cover crops. So instead of us terminating those, let's say a blade plow or a tillage pass. We've been experimenting with the cows doing it.

Linley Dixon (00:08:38):
Would you talk a little bit about why so much of grain farming is corn and soy and how you've been able to make it work financially to do all these other crops?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:08:51):
I don't know, corn and soy, it's more of a Midwest thing like in Montana, it's basically wheat. Is it? We're in a, we're in a place where it's wheat or not wheat.

Linley Dixon (00:09:01):
Okay, thank you. Yeah, just because you said it's dryer.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:09:03):
Huh? It's drier. And traditionally it's been wheat and then fallow and what's been happening is people have been moving away from black fallow, which is a tillage pass. So you'll in our ecosystem. The tradition is to seed a crop one year and then the next year seed nothing. So in instead of a black fallow tillage pass, which had been traditionally done now they're just leaving the residue from the previous grain crop and spraying. So there's a, so that, so it's basically a chemical fallow instead of other kind of fallow. So that's is

Linley Dixon (00:09:46):
This so that they can no-till so they're herbiciding it down and then they drill in the next crop.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:09:51):
Yeah. Okay. So it's basically, they're basically substituting herbicides

Linley Dixon (00:09:57):

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:09:57):
Tillage, for tillage and on our farm we have, I think six different tillage tools. So it's not like it's the same tillage tool all for the same thing you have to really think about. When do you use tillage? What's your reason for using tillage? Which tool do you use given the conditions that you have? I mean, a, a disc is really different than a blade plow. Like a blade plow is something it's an undercut or giant V blades that just slice off terminate our cover crops because it's about soil moisture management in our ecosystem. So we always wanna terminate those cover crops before they go to flower. So they've added the nitrogen and the benefits to the soil. And then the beauty of this year is we terminated them and everything just laid down on top of the soil, left all the biomas there and the soil covered. So it's really more of an art of really understanding what tool you use when and for what purpose you know, nature has disturbance in it. So, you know, think about what what's the reason for the disturbance. Well, you can't, you gotta feed something back to the soil and the way to do that is to incorporate the residue.

Linley Dixon (00:11:09):
See, I haven't heard about the, the blade that you're talking about. I've just heard about the roller crimper. So could you talk a little that, so for termination, that's how you do it. It's the, the kind of undercut

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:11:19):
With the blade. We use an undercut or we use a speed tiller which is, you know, not very deep, less than two inches terminates the crop inter mixes it in with that top layer of soil. So there's some protection, but then also, so the microbes can, can eat away and it can go back into the soil. The roller crimper, again, this is part of the challenge is there's not a one size fits all. You have to think about your ecosystem and for us you have to have something that has enough moisture in it to actually crimp . And we're in an ecosystem where there's not a lot of moisture, so you can crimp all day. You can try and crimp all day and things will just spring, back up

Linley Dixon (00:12:01):
. Oh, interesting. So I've heard another challenge is once you have all that organic matter on the top of the soil, it can lead to really cool soils. Is that something that you have to worry about or are, you know, is what you're planting, not bothered by that

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:12:15):
That has not been an issue, an issue for us, the cooler soil issue. And in fact, actually it's great because you can terminate, like we did that with our chickling vetch this year and the blade plow and it lays there on top. And when we had, you know, a hundred degree temperatures in July, that's actually a really positive thing for

Linley Dixon (00:12:36):
Us. Yeah. You're holding onto water.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:12:38):
Yeah. You're holding onto water. You're keeping cooler temp, your soils coolers, your microbes are happier.

Linley Dixon (00:12:46):
Have you been following any of the policies that are, are giving a lot of these climate carbon credits to no-till with herbicides? Oh

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:12:55):

Linley Dixon (00:12:56):
You know, how, how should organic farmers really be standing up? I'm sure. I imagine you've been maintaining soil organic matter for decades. And so, you know, how do you show kind of that maintenance over the, you know, farmers that have been degrading, their soils that are now going to increase and get these carbon credits? What are

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:13:13):
You concerns you have for that? That's, that's a trick. So I can't say I've done all of the climate policy stuff, because there's so much happening right now to follow it. But I, I think it's a good thing to be having the conversation. I think you know, for a farm like ours, I've been trying for years to say, where can we get payments for ecosystem services? Because in a year like this, where we had terrible drought, we had the best looking crops we've ever had early June. Doug was doing crop scouting and we were giving things eights on a scale of one to 10, which we've never done. And by the end of June, early July, we were giving things three. We literally watched the, the lentils just desiccate away because it became 90 degrees plus no moisture, 50 mile an hour winds, it was miserable.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:14:08):
So in a year like this, those ecosystem services payments, we still planted all the cover crop. We still did the things to take care of our soil. And the only way we have income is if we have a crop to sell. So, so the ecosystem service payments are a way to, I think, help make up that difference, make that recognition of farms that are actually doing the right thing. However, the way that I'm seeing them be implemented is not necessarily gonna be conducive for organic farmers. We worked with one of the carbon markets early on and were told that we're too complex to model. So, so that

Linley Dixon (00:14:52):

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:14:52):
So they dropped us. Right. So, and you know, that thing is, we've been doing this. It has, there's this issue of additionality, right? You have to adopt a new practice or a new thing. And this has been part of our farming system since 2009. So there's no credit for the work that we've already done investment of the long, the long haul. So

Linley Dixon (00:15:12):
And continue to

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:15:13):
Do and continue to do. Yeah. I mean this year is the prime example. We took on another 3000 acres that we're taking off of herbicides. Yeah. And feeding them some diversity, giving those microbes some diversity,

Linley Dixon (00:15:28):
You know, there are, let's talk a little bit about what your concerns are with herbicides, because this is becoming such a big thing. Now no-till with herbicides what are kind of those farmers missing out on when they use them, what's happening to their soils? Where are your concerns? Mm.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:15:44):
You know, a great questions Linley, and I don't know that I'm gonna be the best person to talk about that because I don't even pay attention to the herbicides. So, you know, that's just not anything that we use in our system. We're just not gonna use a method of killing. That's just not part of us. I, I will tell you though that, you know, for us the take, for example, the acreage we just took on this year new landowner, great lease were transitioning. The farm previously had been just wheat wheat, no wheat wheat, no wheat. Okay. So we, we wanted to do peas. We had a contract for non-GMO Peas because that transition period's really tough. Right? You're not getting organic prices and you're trying to move your soil to a healthier state. So your production might be different. And then we found out what herbicide had been sprayed and it's something that sticks around in the soil for 36 months and decimate anything, broadleaves. So there was absolutely no way that we could plant the peas then. So we have which herbicide

Linley Dixon (00:16:49):
Was it?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:16:50):
Oh, I'm trying to remember the name they all

Linley Dixon (00:16:52):
Have. Was it Aminopyralid?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:16:54):
I don't know. It was some other, I don't remember all the names there's

Linley Dixon (00:16:58):
I know there's newer chemistries that are actually fat soluble that kind of mimic hormones. So really small doses are effective. So they got the highest, like the best ratings from the EPA. But the reality is that those small doses mean they're effect, you know, first of all, they're fat soluble. Yeah. So they're not gonna wash away and they're effect lasts for years. Right. And in dry climates it's even worse. Well,

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:17:22):
Right. Cause you don't have the moisture movement. Yeah.

Linley Dixon (00:17:25):
Right. The, the, the life and the soil can't really break it down if it's so dry. So we've, we've had, you know, we farm in a plot that it's, it's been 10 years since it's sprayed and we still, they, it was spot sprayed, but we still see the places where those aminopyralids were, were sprayed. I think milestone is the common name for milestone, you know, what's, what's used a lot. And that's the aminopyralid chemistry, but there's others out

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:17:51):
There too. Yeah. I don't know. This might have been ally or the names are all just so fascinating to me. It's like we're at war. Right, right. it's like, well, I guess in some ways we are, which is so sad, but that really impacted our crop plan this year. Because we thought, wow, we're gonna have a pea contract. We can start some diversity with some legumes and the soil and it's a non GMO contract because it's not organic yet. Right. Great. And then we had to totally pivot. So you know what we, so

Linley Dixon (00:18:22):
It was the legumes that reacted the most. It must be that same chemistry. Is that, is that what you're saying?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:18:26):
I know,

Linley Dixon (00:18:27):
I know legumes are very sensitive to them.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:18:30):
Legumes, broadleaves. Like we couldn't pivot and do flax or anything else like that because it's, you know, it was 36 months that it can hang out in the soil

Linley Dixon (00:18:39):
We actually had, well, they say 36 months and it turns out to be like a decade. It

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:18:44):
Can be more like it's worse. I mean, it can be more like

Linley Dixon (00:18:46):
Right, depending on the rain and right. You know, if, if you get some tillage in there, that'll probably speed it up. But especially if you have moisture, but we brought in Dow is the one that produced the particular one that we're struggling with. And we brought in a representative and she said, you know, it's on you to test your soils and your compost. And if you get this bioassay so these plants don't react and these plants do and Peas was one of the ones that react all the legumes do. You know, and the cucurbits don't then you know that you've got herbicide carryover and it's up to you to plant accordingly. And it's like, well I I'm a tomato farmer. Right, right. You need to get tomatoes in the ground and then they're sensitive. And so how is this on me? I wanted to be like, you shouldn't be producing a product that lasts for decades in the soil, in an aired climate, you know? Yeah. That was the response I got.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:19:34):
Oh, that's too bad. I know like what Do we do of there's, you know, in Montana alone, there's 18 million acres of crop land and less than 1% of that is certified organic. So, and we've got a long way to go if we actually wanna scale up and have more acres under what Doug and I believe is a more sane production system that doesn't use those off-far inputs. And the chemicals that just stick around for a very long time. So

Linley Dixon (00:20:05):
Let's talk about that. There's only 1% in Montana and that's kind of the trend across

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:20:10):
The country in generally. Yeah. I haven't checked recently, but it was about 1%. Yeah.

Linley Dixon (00:20:15):
So I've heard you say it's just hard work and that's why there's not more organic acres, but what are all the things that are contributing to kind of the reasons why there isn't more?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:20:25):
Oh, well the other thing Doug and I are doing is we have an apprentice program. So we've been bringing in young individuals to be part of our operation with the idea that if we are, are mutually agreeable, we can then help them incubate an enterprise or incubate into managing one of our farm units and do that collectively together.

Linley Dixon (00:20:49):
So all that. So you'd say it's skills. That's

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:20:51):
A big one. Also that to say is I think it's skills. I think it's a mindset. Like we think it's gonna be easier to bring people with an organic mindset or bent to agriculture than trying to then trying to change what exists out there now is it's really about what's between your two years that that's the biggest change, the biggest transition that you have to make. And frankly, you know, there's less than one or 2% of us in the United States trying to make a living from production agriculture. So if we're gonna have farms like ours that are gonna be more complex and more diverse, that takes more people power. So we have to find ways to bring more people into this, if we're gonna, if we're gonna do it. That's I think, I think that's the biggest barrier. I don't know our neighbors I'm sure would say, wow, you guys work really hard, you know, cuz they it's easy to go harvest and do one thing. , it's a lot harder to do 21 things , you know? So I, I think that's the biggest barrier is the mindset

Linley Dixon (00:22:00):
I was talking with Amanda Starbuck with, at food and water watch. And she was talking about the reason why she does her work is because her mom left farming from North Dakota because she just, it, it seemed like an awful way of life. And so is it possible that what you're doing when you're using that thing between your two ears, you know, is a little bit more fun and interesting and like, oh we like a lot of people might wanna do it actually instead of, you know, the chemical farming. Yeah. That just where you're sitting on a tractor all day.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:22:29):
Yeah. I mean, we, we think so, but you know, I, let's not gloss over. It's not all roses and glory and unicorns and rainbows, right? Like there is a lot of talk about regenerative agriculture. There's supposedly a lot of money going into regenerative agriculture. I think the biggest thing we gotta get out of the mindset on is it's not gonna be one silver bullet. It's not gonna be one magic, fun. It's every single farm like ours needs some stability and some stable income cuz in a year like this, what is our backdrop? I don't what's our backdrop. Our backdrop is crop insurance, which is not that fabulous for a farm like ours. It's super diverse or Doug and I go get another disaster loan that is personally, we personally hold from USDA. So I think the gap between this discussion and talk about what kind of agriculture we all wanna see in the morning.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:23:27):
And then, then what it takes to actually do it on the ground. Like we need more people doing it and we need every single farm organism. That's doing it now to be in a place that's stable to keep doing that soil building cuz soil building doesn't happen on quarterly profit reporting cycles and, and the other system. It's not that it's just easier. It's not that those people are not smart doing it. It's that you're stuck in a system that you can't, you can't even fathom how you're gonna get out of it. Right? So like, oh, well maybe I stop using some herbicides that might save me some money, but then I got this weed problem. I don't know how to handle. And then, oh man, that messes up my crop insurance, which is my backstop. I mean crop insurance today, you can ensure 80% of your revenue, what business can't make.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:24:19):
It ensuring 80% of your revenue. I mean the most that we can ensure because we're on whole farm and we're trying to do diversity is maybe 60%. So there needs to be some other support mechanism to make up that gap in years like this. So, you know, frankly climate change, it's terrifying. It's terrifying to think about the variability. We've seen such variability and it's, we know we're farming in a challenging place. We know that it's variable to start with, but it is more variable than it has ever been. And you can't, you can't count on anything and it's it is, it's hard. Like it's mentally hard to watch this lentil crop. That's amazing. Just go to nothing like I don't know. And then you've done all

Linley Dixon (00:25:10):
The work. Yeah. You don't have that irrigation water to, you know, rely on like everybody does.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:25:14):
Right. Well in irrigation, is there

Linley Dixon (00:25:16):
Irrigation in your area or is everybody dry farming?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:25:18):
No, we're dry farming. It's all dry. Okay. You know, and I think we gotta think about irrigation too, right? Like it's not just about the carbon cycle on the planet. It's about the water cycle on the planet and that is gonna be as confused and variable as that that's what's, that's the system that's not gonna be functioning for us.

Linley Dixon (00:25:42):
Yeah. Part of, I mean there's so much there in what you just said, so I don't even know where to go because

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:25:45):
It's yeah, I know. Sorry.

Linley Dixon (00:25:47):
No, it's so good

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:25:48):
Heavy duty stuff.

Linley Dixon (00:25:49):
maybe, maybe let's talk first about, you know, some of these policies, you mentioned whole farm insurance and why you need to do that over a farm that's just growing wheat can, can get 80% of their crop and, and why you can't do that. Why can't you get 80%? Cause you have so many different crops. Why are you forced into whole farm?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:26:10):
Well, this is what's confusing is we can actually insure just the wheat that way, which we're doing, but the rest of the farm were not. I mean, how do you, and, and part of that is because it's a system we're trying to insure a system of production, not an individual crop. So we need to be incentivizing the systems, the holistic systems within integrated approach. And that's the theory behind whole farm. The implementation has been less than satisfactory for us because the agents don't know how to use it. RMA doesn't know how to use it. The adjusters don't know how to use it. It's super confusing when you're used to having a map that says here, go look at this field of wheat. And now you get a map that has 20 different things in the same size acreage as that field of wheat. And you have to parse out what's flax and what's lentils and what's cover crop. And when did you seed it? And it's a huge, additional burden on us for all the reporting.

Linley Dixon (00:27:08):
Okay. So the insurance is different and then the subsidies are different too, because I've heard. And now I don't know what's going on with wheat, but that a lot of corn and soy in the Midwest, they can get, they'll get a check that's below the cost of production when they sell their grain. But then they get a second check from the government that just subsidizes what they've done. So it incentivizes them to keep yeah. You know,

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:27:32):
And I

Linley Dixon (00:27:32):
Can't growing something when it's below the cost of

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:27:34):
Production, you know, I can't speak to all of those yeah. Subsidies, you know, we're, I mean, we're gonna do you get those checks if we, we get some checks, if we're, I mean, we're in the system, right. We're gonna take advantage of the system that we're in to help. Is it for wheat or which crops have them? It was for wheat. Yeah. Okay. At least the things I remember most from last year was all the COVID funding and it was for wheat production. It was kind of crazy the funds that came. But

Linley Dixon (00:28:04):
So I have to ask, you know, if wheat is what the government is saying, you know, they wanna subsidize, how are you making it work to grow all these other things?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:28:13):
Well, we're trying to do some really creative things with our buyers. So, you know, for us, it's not about always hitting the high, high sales, right? It's about what is that stable income that we need per acre to know? So we can be in business over the long run and how do we make that happen? So for example, we've been trying to negotiate contracts that the seed cost is we don't paid for up paid for upfront. So maybe we take a lower price on the actual production, but then we're not also having to cash flow, this giant amount of seed expense at the beginning of the year. Right. you know, this is how do we share risk and reward with the rest of the supply chain? That really, I think is what's going to shift more people to a better production system is if we can make it work better at the producer level we're doing things like longer term contracts.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:29:17):
We're doing things like, okay, if you don't take delivery, cuz it's a cash flow thing, right? So if you don't take delivery of your crop, then we're gonna charge you a storage fee or you're gonna pay for 80% of what our estimated amount is up front. So we have some cash flow to keep moving forward. It's, it's things like that. And I it's when we're trying to scale and how do you build a relationship with your buyers? Because what's happened is we have a food system that's built on transactions, not on relationships and those are two very different end up with two very different approaches. You actually care about the person on the other end of the relationship. Whereas if it's a transaction that that's, you, you don't have to care so much,

Linley Dixon (00:30:06):
I've always really struggled to figure out how grain production can take advantage of those direct relationships because it is a commodity in your product ends up getting mixed in. You can't sell it directly. Right. and, and so it makes it so difficult because you're growing on this acreage, that's probably too large for direct. But, but many of these kind of mid-scale farms are too small for wholesale too. And so they kind of just get squeezed out. So what are your thoughts in terms of making it work

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:30:38):
On midsize? Well it's yeah. I mean we're, we're experimenting, so, so it's super, it's a challenge, right? We wanna sell things in semi loads and if we want vast, more acres off, off the chemicals, I mean, we've gotta imagine what does that system look like? Right. We're gonna sell things in semi loads. So we're so we have that and we also recently got a value added producer grant. So we're going to try and figure out how we can clean and bag and sell grains direct in 50 pounds bags, more direct to Miller's distillers

Linley Dixon (00:31:17):
Breweries. And so you can bring that relationship back

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:31:20):
So we can bring that relationship back. Now that's definitely not gonna be our way to sell our entire amount of our production, but some that might also provide another stable income stream. The challenge inherent in all of that though, is that it's not enough to just farm right. It's it's not enough to just actually know what to do with your soils and set up the crop rotations and make sure you have all the storage space for your harvest. Like now we have to go add an entire other enterprise. That means we have to have more people and more infrastructure and equipment to do the cleaning and the bagging and the sales. And so that's, you know, we're excited about that project cuz we've also had several other companies call us and say, can you send me 2000 pounds of lentils? You know, it has significantly increased price in what we're selling under our other contract. We're like, wow, we'd love to do that, but we have to get the cleaning piece set up. So yeah, it's kind of a double edged sword. I, we need to do it. We feel like we've gotta do it, but we also are like, man, that's an entire other enterprise that now we're gonna have to manage

Linley Dixon (00:32:27):
Right. I told that sounds like when I told kind of a distant relative that I wanted to go into organic farming when I was young and he was just like, why would you ever wanna make things so difficult for yourself and swim upstream? You know, why not just do what everybody has.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:32:42):

Linley Dixon (00:32:43):
Doesn't just make it easier for yourself. So talk about some of the reasons why you're making your life so difficult,

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:32:49):

Linley Dixon (00:32:50):
Principles behind, you know, you believe in what you do clearly. So you know, just talk about why you're, you're willing to maybe make a little less because it's something that you, you believe is gonna save us in the future.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:33:03):
Well, it can't all be about money. Right. But you know, I'm still actually employed off the farm three days a week. So that's how Doug and I have our health insurance and some stability under us to pay for the mortgage on the house. I don't know. I've always been an agent of change and sustainability is core to who I am and I just, yeah, I think it's more fun to farm this way. It's definitely more complicated but and I think actually growing food, not a commodity is also something that drives us. And I just feel like we have a responsibility to steward the land that we've been lucky enough to be given the gift to manage. I mean that that's a responsibility. And if we, if we don't continue to believe mother, nature's a partner in this with us and show up in a way that, that exemplifies that man, I'm really wor I'm worried I, I don't want you to cut all this stuff into the video, but yeah.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:34:12):
Why do we do it? I don't know. It's, that's an interesting question, especially after a year, like this year, where we had, right. We have neighbors, they have organic neighbors. So the east of us that didn't even take their combine to the field this year. It was the drought and the grass hoppers and the smokey sky. And we're like, wow, there is a lot of other things we could do that are easier. But then I have lentils behind me and rye and I can bake bread and share that with other people. I don't know. That's not a very good answer to your question.

Linley Dixon (00:34:49):
Would you expand? You said I don't, I don't wanna grow commodity. I wanna grow food for people. Would you explain what you meant there?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:34:57):
Well, I, you know, okay. So this rye behind us, it goes to a processor here in Montana and I, and it goes into bags that at least people care about the organic label. I, I don't know. It's not, it's not like some faceless thing. Right. and it's not, this is food. This is things that people actually eat. Whereas like in the corn and soybean world, what is that going to, not actually food, like corn syrup, Malodextrin, corn syrup high fructose corn syrup. That's not food. Right. I, I don't know. Good

Linley Dixon (00:35:40):
Animals and confinement.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:35:42):
Yeah. Yeah. Right. Well, and I guess too, it's not just about the food. It's not like, okay, why do I, why do I farm? Well, Doug likes to drive Doug. I don't know. It'd be interesting what Doug says. I'm sure he likes to drive big equipment, but there's also like this stewardship component, right? Like why do I farm? Because it is really hard. I farm because, because it's like a responsibility it's like, I, I wanna do more with our conservation. I wanna be a agent of change. And I feel like if I want sustainability on the planet, this is a way that I can physically manifest that and show that to others and help others learn and maybe model some new ways. Like we don't have it figured out. You know, the land that we're farming way north on the border, we're on the very far Western edge of Prairie pothole migratory bird habitat. And I'm so excited about some of this transition ground that we just took in because now we're gonna have some more contiguous management of organic and I'm really excited to find other partners in conservation to say, what does that look like? How do we do agriculture integrated with nature? It's not like we're just setting it aside and we're gonna do agriculture over here and nature over here. Like she's part of it.

Linley Dixon (00:37:02):
Yeah. You, you talked about some of these ecosystem services and there was a Nature article that came out about a year ago. I remember that was saying that organic, because it's less productive per acre. It meant that you know, what they were saying and you know, and they wanna get more acreage re-wilded that organic was a problem because it required more acreage to get the same yields. And this was in nature.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:37:28):

Linley Dixon (00:37:28):
Yeah. So I'm, I'm just like, what are they, what are these scientists missing?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:37:32):
Well, they're not looking at it from a holistic system. Right? Okay. So maybe our yields are a little less, but maybe they're more nutrient dense. So maybe we need to eat a little less and maybe it's not about yields. Maybe it's about food waste and shipping and distribution. You know, I think we can all have a really wonderful life on this planet and have enough. I think we have to think about not scarcity and not abundance, but sufficiency. What is enough for all of us to thrive? And I think the other thing about organic is you're totally assuming maybe within that article, I remember reading a little bit of it that we're gonna farm in the same way that we're farming with this other chemical-based production system. And that's not how our farm is. Diversity is interspersed and on, I'd be really interested in understanding what they mean by wild. Like what is wild? There's no place on this planet that has not already been touched by human impact. And, and it's not like nature's out here and we're here, we're together in this journey until yeah.

Linley Dixon (00:38:52):
And so perhaps those buffer strips that you have on your farm are because, you know, you're looking at invasives or other things that, that is better rewilding cuz you're managing it. Would you say that, what are some of the things that you're looking at in those buffer strips?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:39:07):
Well, like what's the there's habitat there that wasn't before. You know, I know that we have to me and this is all qualitative, so, you know, it'd be awesome to do some more qual quantitative science on this, but I'm pretty sure we have many more pollinators than we, our other places there's bird habitat in there. What's happening with the soil microbes, right? Like I don't think we understand at all what goes on underground and are those perennial buffers connected in some way. You know, cuz they're little microcosms, this little snow catch piece in itself is like a little microcosm of more moisture with more broad leaves with more, you know, Prairie flowers. So what, what happens there? I, you know, qualitatively also in fields that we took over to transition to organic that had been monoculture big blocks of wheat versus our fields, the wildlife incidents where there's wildlife interactions with our equipment.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:40:23):
It's far less on our fields than it is on these big blocks, you know, and seeding operations, cuz the birds actually have a place to nest. There's a place to run to. And again, I don't have, I don't have firm scientific data on that. I just know my experience of being out and seeing the differences. And you can feel the differences in the equipment too with, with the soils like soils that have been fed a diverse diet and cared for it's feels different in the tractor than soils that have just been sprayed. Like you can tell that

Linley Dixon (00:41:04):
Yeah, I, I know that organic was supposed to be this kind of savior for these small diversified farms and you know, hope that they would really be able to expand because they would have markets and that hasn't been the case we've kind of been stagnant. Do we need different policies? What, what are some of the reasons that you think that we're, we're stuck here and organic hasn't been able to come through as, as you know, the savior for family scale farming because of all the consolidation that was happening in conventional farming, is that happening in organic as well?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:41:46):
We're we're concerned that the supply chain is just becoming commodified. I mean we're rep we're asking for a fundamentally different production system at the farm level under organic, but then what are we doing? We're replicating the way the supply distribution system works and we're just, we're replicating those contracting mechanisms. We're rep replicating the transactions and like we can't have companies saying, oh, I care about organic and here farmer, make sure you do the difference on the ground, but I'm not gonna do anything in terms of changing the economics or the way we interact on the supply chain. Yeah. We just, we can't, we gotta change the whole system and that's a really hard thing to think about. And so I think if we could change that system that brings resources in and out and makes farms more viable, because farms do so many good things for us as a society, right?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:42:47):
It's not just about growing food. It's about taking care of a habitat. It's about clean water. It's about clean air. It's about providing jobs. It's about buying things in your small community because you're now an economic entity and like for Doug and I we've imported people from other places to live in this rural place now. Right? So there's some, this nice circularity about it. And we have to figure out how we keep that like a farm in a way is a beating heart to me of a community and, and we need to keep those hearts alive. That's all kind of philosophical, but I think the vision's great, but we can't just ask the farm to change a production system. We have to change the system that's of support that's around that.

Linley Dixon (00:43:31):
And I think the consumers and the eaters they want to support you. I think they're really confused in the marketplace. There's a lot of greenwashing going on, you know, how, how can eaters find farms like yours and support them?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:43:46):
Yeah. And that's tricky because we are not able to sell direct to eaters. So what we have to do is find partners in our supply chain that are willing to keep our identity preserved products and help tell the story. And a little bit of me wants to go find an agent just does, does just says, okay, you can buy the, the rye off Vilicus. But if you want the farm story, that's this extra add on amount of money that you pay, no matter what, or you know, like how much more per box, if you wanna keep the farm story intact.

Linley Dixon (00:44:22):
Well, and what's been so confusing too, is that there is that farm story, that beautiful farm, that small farm that is on the picture of the cover of the product. And then what percentage of that product is that farm right. Gets lost. Right? It's totally, it becomes a tokenism.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:44:38):
Yeah. Right. So I think we need to figure out, yeah, what's a, what's a new mechanism to really keep that. I mean, organic is one of the, I think it's the only system we have where there's actually identity preservations possible. Like everything we sell off this farm has a lot number, every processor who does processing has a lot number associated with it. We can train, we can do this, we have technology and ability. We just need to figure out what does that look like? You know, because the company's selling it at the end. It, they, they don't own the story. The story of that farmer's not theirs.

Linley Dixon (00:45:17):
Yeah. So yeah. Figuring out how to, to get that transparency behind what the eaters are actually purchasing, I think is the key to all of this because I, I do believe they will. If they, if they feel they know the truth behind the product, I think they will support us and they'll pay more for it because they'll know it's a better product and they believe in the values behind it. And so that's, that's where we have to figure out how to maintain that transparency. Right. You probably haven't been affected as much by, I know the new Yorker just covered the Constant fraud and that was domestic fraud on a large scale. And then there's also been the Washington post covered the imported fraud, mostly corn and soy and the same thing for Constant. So it might not be in your markets, but what effect do you think that has had on the growth of organic in this country? Like, you know, on prices and things like that?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:46:04):
Oh, well I, I don't know. I'm probably not the best person to answer some of those questions. Linley. I think it, I think it's unfortunate because it really brings the question of the organic label. You know, what is it, what does it mean when I buy this? How do people, I think you're right. Your piece about consumers being confused. That's, that's very true.I'm sure they're confused.

Linley Dixon (00:46:30):
Yeah. I think we have to balance those kind of harsh stories with the stories of the organic movement. You know, how many farmers are out here doing the right thing and why? Right. So that the consumers don't just say, well, forget at all. I'm gonna go back to chemical because I can't trust this. We have to be really loud about who we are. You know, there's so many farms across

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:46:51):
The country and I think it's really important that farmers themselves need to stand up. And I mean, not just be loud about who we are, but be smart about it too. So, you know, with all do respect, I just continue to scratch my head about how many ag service providers exist in the world. Well, why is that? Because it's easier to go get a job with an ag service provider where, you know, you're gonna get paid every two weeks and have health insurance than it is to actually farm. Like what's up with that system. that's that is not right. Like, it is not that we haven't had some good technical service providers, but you know, I'm an engineer by training. So I took four years of school and then I had to take, you know, a big test. And then I had to work under another engineer for two years and take another big test before I could be, you know, certified with my license to go design things that could fall down and kill people.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:47:52):
and, and in agriculture, we're not asking for that same amount of rigor we're in the other system you can go to the local co-op and they're gonna do your soil test and they're gonna pay, or they're gonna do your soil test. And then they're gonna tell you what things to put down. I mean, that's, that's conflict of interest. Like I would never have the provider that's providing concrete for this foundation also do their own testing. Right. so I dunno that, that, that all to say, I feel like it's, you know, farm, there's not enough of us farming and it is such hard work and it's so intense. It's really hard to get your head up above to be able to advocate for better policies or participate, or, and we've created this system that's reliant on service providers versus actually maybe if we paid the farms themselves to do the good, hard work and be smart about it and learn about it, we might have some different outcomes.

Linley Dixon (00:49:12):
Yeah. It sounds like one of the solutions that you mentioned was just having shorter supply chains

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:49:18):
So that,

Linley Dixon (00:49:19):
You know, people can actually, you know, purchase what they, what they believe in and, and know what, what they're purchasing, right? Yeah. What are some,uthings that give you hope in terms of creating those shorter supply chains? Are there cooperatives and regionality in all this? Oh,

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:49:35):
Well, one thing that just happened here in our little neck of the woods is we've been working with farmers union and Paul, our young agrarian who's incubating this grazing enterprise worked with farmers union, a group of other people. And now we have a meat processing cooperative that just started this year. So, and there's gonna be organic slots in that. And so, you know, the processing piece, that's one piece of the puzzle. So I, I think if we can find ways to work together on very specific implementable things, we can start building this. I, I building the parts and pieces that we need to a different system and explore that and bring other people in. I think it's really easy sometimes to get overwhelmed by all the change that needs to happen. And you think every one of us sits, where are we do what you can with what you have, where you're at is I think the most important lesson I've learned, that's what gives me hope is that there's there's opportunities now, I think, especially with the pandemic and people's change towards their food system, that we haven't had that in the past.

Linley Dixon (00:50:46):
Yeah. Why did you sign up for the real organic project?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:50:51):
Oh, Doug and I signed up for the real organic project because we believe things need to be grown in soil and real organic project was working on that.

Linley Dixon (00:51:04):
Yeah. Among, among many other things,

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:51:07):
Among many other things that, that was

Linley Dixon (00:51:08):
Sort of fighting that corporate takeover in the organic, that was the impetus, you know, a huge discussion, you know, came out of it from all the farmers that lost that battle about, you know, trying to keep organic in the soil. And so there was a big proposal that a bunch of farmers showed up to the national organic standards board meetings, which never happens. Right. Right. But soil is something that gets 'em there. And when they lost that, the big question was, well, should we just start over? Yeah. And you know, some of the farmers were like, rah. Yeah. You know, we can do it better. And then, you know, a lot of the other farmers were saying, well, what's gonna keep us from ending up right back where we are now in 20 years, you know, why, why shouldn't we just start over in your opinion, why is organic worth fighting for,

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:51:51):
Oh, I think cuz we've got, we've got a rule, we've got a standard, like it's on us. Let's work together to make it better like continuous improvement. Right. That's what mother nature does. She evolves every, year's a little different, you get better at things like we should do the same thing with our policies and we're learning a lot more about what good organic systems are, the soils, et cetera, how we do it. Like let's make sure that piece of continuous improvement is embedded in, in our rules, in our production systems.

Linley Dixon (00:52:23):
Yeah. And it is such a good rule too. It's it's just the enforcement that needs a little bit more backing. Right.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:52:29):
Yeah. Right.

Linley Dixon (00:52:32):
Well, I appreciate so much you taking the time Anna to talk to me. And I hope that in spite of all the troubles, first of all, you're able to come back and farm that's the goal right? Every year. Well, even if it was hard, you can come back and do

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:52:46):
It. We totally pivoted this year, which is, we've been bailing, we've been bailing and bailing and bailing. So we had like acres of failed crop, wheat, grain, Durham crops, oats, and we've bailed them. And while we don't wanna be in a system where we're exporting biomass in a year like this, where there's no hay, we've been able to sell hay. So I think, you know, that, that speaks, the diversity also allows us to have some resiliency in a way that other farms may not. So, yeah. Thanks.

Linley Dixon (00:53:18):
I love that. So you, I remember saying, hearing you say that biodiversity can free the Midwest from this chemical treadmill, that's one example that you just came up with, is it the organic matter in your soil and all these, these conservation strips that kept enough water for you to actually bail something off of your land here where other people haven't been able to do that. Right.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:53:42):
Yeah. I mean, I think, I think you, can't also draw straight lines on some of these things, right. But if you have a system that you're working to keep whole and intact and it's integrated, then there's going to be some more resiliency in ways that we might not otherwise have.

Linley Dixon (00:54:05):
Talk a little bit about the, in spite of all the hard work that it's a way of life that I'm assuming that you've chosen to stick it out. Oh yeah. Why, what is, what is so great about it? There

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:54:18):
Are days when you're like, what am I doing? Well, I guess what's great too is, you know, the end of every week we have a crew dinner and you know, so every, at one point in time, I think we had 20 people this summer is between interns and apprentices and some other farm visitors. And I all, and we have a local chef. She's also her family farms and ranches organically. And so Sarah comes up and cooks for us and I always make her stop. Everybody has to stand around and Sarah tells the story of the food. Like what are we having? A lot of times it's things, you know, off of our farm or from other organic producers. And so we get a story and then we always go around, we also have to say, you know, what our win for the week was. And, and I think it's really important that we take time to be grateful for all the abundance that we do have. And so what, what gives me hope or why do I do it is like crew dinners are pretty fun. here because we all take a time to reflect in things that I would think, not think of as wins. It's amazing how often that sense of community comes up with our crew when we do that. Oh,

Linley Dixon (00:55:32):
Wow. Yeah. So I didn't even ask how many people are you working with?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:55:37):
So let's see, we have four full-time employees and then we traditionally have two eight month apprentices and then we, it depends on the year can be like three interns plus our minus that are here for shorter timeframe. But yeah, we would be happy to talk to anybody if they're interested in apprenticing. You know, I have this value added rye project going on. So we need someone that wants to market rye and figure out all the cleaning around that. You know, we just there's some, well I

Linley Dixon (00:56:11):
Know what label can help you market your Ry.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:56:13):
Yeah, definitely. Cause

Linley Dixon (00:56:14):
That's gonna be direct,

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:56:15):
Right? We, yeah. Because that could be direct. Right. So I need someone. Yeah. Anybody wants to come work with us, let us know we're building two tiny

Linley Dixon (00:56:23):
. Okay.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:56:24):
So we can have some more staff housing cuz you know, we're really up here in the middle of nowhere. So housing and infrastructure are kind of a need thing. What else gives me hope? We we have a small nonprofit Lucas training Institute. That's been stood up to help figure out how we can change systems on the Northern great Plains to have more agrarian thrive and expand organic agriculture. And so Vilicus training Institute was one of the founding members of the agrarian Montana agrarian commons. So we're trying to work on an agrarian commons project which, which that gives me hope too, because that's a, you know, that's a Montana growing commons, but is connected to the larger agrarian commons. And there's some amazing projects going on across the entire us around

Linley Dixon (00:57:09):
That. That means that if you're a beginning farmer and you don't have land, you have a spot to farm and learn. Yes. That's what these commons are.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:57:16):

Linley Dixon (00:57:16):
Yeah. And I always, for me, I always saw it as such a, a short term thing because owning land, because you're gonna give so much care to, it was so much a part of why I wanted to be the farmer. Right. You know, in my life. So how, how would that, all that work and, and is there a pathway to success out of that program?

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:57:35):
Oh yeah.

Linley Dixon (00:57:36):
Or is it just like, there's too many obstacles, like the cost of land, all these things, it's gonna be one in 20, make it or something.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:57:43):
Well, for us, I think, I think a lot of people come and they realize like, man, this is not what I thought it was. And I don't know if I can commit myself that for our apprentice program, but I, I think it's just gonna take a few unique individuals that wanna make that commitment. And, and Doug and I are committed to saying, you know, we have access to land, we have equipment. We want to work with people. So we are, you know, as much as we all love the family farm concept. I think we have to think differently about what that business model is like, we're talking, is there an umbrella where we can host enterprises underneath of that? So like collectively we can all do the accounting and the payroll and not have to, we can spend the time doing the enterprise, you know, if you're a 20 something individual and you wanna farm, but you know, where do you have the resources to do that? You don't, you're, we've learned too, the level of risk. What they're interested in is much different than Doug and I, you know, this, many of them don't necessarily want that independence is not as a big a thing. It's more about being able to work with people on a common goal. So we're really rethinking our whole business structure that can have some sort of employee ownership, collaborative cooperative, something that gives space for new entrants. That's our succession plan anyway.

Linley Dixon (00:59:09):
well, especially if you say, because very few of us got into this cuz we wanna do payroll or the books.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:59:15):

Linley Dixon (00:59:15):
So if you're saying we're taking all that off the table and we can do this more communally, then I

Anna Jones-Crabtree (00:59:20):
Bets we out how to do it together. Yeah, exactly. Right. So we can do it. That's a together strong because like Doug and I, you know, people are not gonna do what Doug and I did, which is a mess, whatever resources you can. And then when you become 40, go buy farmland and start like people thought we were nuts. Like the banking system thought we were nuts. And and I don't think we have to own all your land. I think that's also a different model. Like we only own outright 328 acres of the 12,600 we're farming. And we've found some really amazing land owners with long term leases who want good stewards. So,

Linley Dixon (01:00:00):
And the care for that acreage that you don't own, it feels the same to you because it feels the same value.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (01:00:07):
You have the same to us because we have, we have mutually beneficial relationships with our landowners. So when you talk about risk sharing, right? Like there's the farm. And then what's the, what's the land. The leasing is kind of our next piece. And then it's our crop contracting. How do we share risk better that way? Like, you know, someday we won't pay anybody unless there's a crop. You know, if, if we don't get paid, then nobody else should get paid, but we're still in a system where we pay for everything no matter what happens. And we have to, we have to change that if we really care about climate,

Linley Dixon (01:00:42):
You're talking about the inputs that go into the system in the first place. If you don't get the crop, you've already put all this in. Right.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (01:00:48):
Yeah. Right. Whereas like a lot of our landowners we have share leases. So you know, their amount that they get is based on what the production was.

Linley Dixon (01:00:57):

Hmm. I see. Well, it's so interesting talking to you, Anna. I don't want get more of your time, but like I've, I it's, there's so much here and I can't wait to talk to Doug and I appreciate your time today.

Anna Jones-Crabtree (01:01:07):
Thank you so much. Yeah. Thanks a lot Linley. Well, I appreciate the work that you guys are doing and just helping to get the word out and create a larger community around organic because that's what's gonna help make a difference.

Linley Dixon (01:01:20):
Thank you for listening to the real organic podcast. We hope that you'll subscribe. Tell your friends and leave us a rating and review a video version of this interview as well as the full transcript with links related to our conversation is found@realorganicproject.org slash episode 67. Please join us next time. When our favorite guest Alan Lewis joins us again from natural grocers to support this podcast and our certified farms become a recurring donor@realorganicproject.org and get the benefits of being a real friend, including our book club, where you can ask some of our favorite authors, your questions, see you next time.

Amanda Starbuck Real Organic Podcast Epsiode 64

Bernward Geier, Pt 2: Asia- Where Organic Is Winning

The Real Organic Podcast, Episode #066
Bernward Geier: Part Two
Asia – Where Organic Is Winning

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Amanda Starbuck Real Organic Podcast Epsiode 64

Bernward Geier, Pt 1: Europe – Where Organic Is Winning

The Real Organic Podcast, Episode #065
Bernward Geier: Part One
Europe – Where Organic Is Winning

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Amanda Starbuck Real Organic Podcast Epsiode 64

Amanda Starbuck: Corporate Consolidation + Our Food System

The Real Organic Podcast, Episode #064
Amanda Starbuck: Corporate Consolidation +
Our Food System

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organic dairy farmer earl ransom on satrfford farm in Vernont for his Real Organic Podcast interview

Earl Ransom: Big Dairy Always Intended To Exploit Small Farms

The Real Organic Podcast, Episode #063
Earl Ransom: Big Dairy Always Intended
To Exploit Small Farms

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paul muller real organic podcast episode 62

Paul Muller: Farmers Need Consumers To Help Rebuild Our Food System

The Real Organic Podcast, Episode #062
Paul Muller: Farmers Need Consumers
To Help Rebuild Our Food System

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severine von tscharner fleming real organic podcast episode 61

Severine Von Tscharner Fleming: Who Controls Seaweed Farming?

The Real Organic Podcast, Episode #061
Severine Von Tscharner Fleming:
Who Controls Seaweed Farming?

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Paul Hawken Bonus Episode Two Full Transcript

Real Organic Podcast | Bonus Episode:
Project Drawdown and Regeneration with Paul Hawken

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Paul Hawken: “To put it simply, no one is coming to help. There is not a brain trust that’s going to figure it out, work out the problems while we ponder and wait. The most complex, radical climate technology on Earth, is the human heart and mind, not a solar panel.”

Dave Chapman: Hello, I’m Dave Chapman. I am the Executive Director of the Real Organic Project. Real Organic Project is a grassroots movement started by farmers and it really grew out of the ashes of defeat as we attempted to reform the National Organic Program.

We were unsuccessful in our efforts, so many farmers got together and said: “We need to find a way to communicate to people what is being lost (under the USDA Organic label) and why it’s important.”

And I would say that if you looked at what makes organic farming important, it’s about soil health. It’s become part of a national conversation now, as people start to understand.

You know, if we look back at the beginning thinking of organic farming, it was that healthy soil produces healthy plants, healthy animals, and healthy people. And I think as that has become a movement, it’s come to include healthy communities and even most importantly, healthy climate.

We’ve come to realize that agriculture is one of the great destroyers of our climate and perhaps the most critical path to reversing the climate crisis that we’re all in.

One of the great thinkers about how to do that is our guest today, Paul Hawken. Paul has written many books that have been important for me; the most-recent one was called “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed To Reverse Global Warming.”

Paul is working right now on his next book, which is called “Regeneration: How to Reverse Climate Change In One Generation.”

These are critical ideas and Paul is enormously eloquent in challenging us to face these issues that are overwhelming, and terrifying – and in fact, to have the courage to act on them.

So, I’m very excited to have Paul come today. He’s also going to be the Keynote Speaker at our Symposium at Dartmouth College on April 3rd and 4th, to which you’re all invited. And I really hope that you’ll come.

It’s an important event – we will have a number of farmers and academics and journalists speaking. Eliot Coleman will be giving a keynote address, JM Fortier will be speaking, David Grinspoon, (Dr.) Tyrone Hayes, (Maine Congresswoman) Chellie Pingree – many great champions of the organic movement.

So, please join us on April 3 and 4, and now, let’s get on to our conversation with Paul.

Dave Chapman: So, Paul, welcome.

Paul Hawken: Oh, thank you so much. I'm happy to be here.

Dave Chapman: Well, let's take the next step then from Natural Capitalism to Drawdown. What was that evolution for you?

Paul Hawken: That evolution, it started in 2001. And I was always an environmental writer and grew up in the Sierra Club and around, you know. So I kind of thought everybody was an environmentalist. You know, until I moved out of Berkeley.

And I knew I didn't know much about climate. And so I was really so impressed by Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance And Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature and Jim Hansen’s work. And I thought we had some really bright, smart people. We do, and they are and were.

And so I just felt like that wasn't my province, you know. That was an area where I would never catch up with these guys. And I always mentioned it and referred to it in my environmental writing but never really dug deep until 2001.

And that's when the third assessment came out on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And it was more pessimistic than the second, which is more pessimistic than the first, and the fourth and fifth successively have been the same.

And that's because they're based on consensus science and consensus science is actually BS. There is no such thing as consensus science. Consensus science – it means that the Saudi Arabians and the Venezuelans and the Chinese and the Russians and God knows what else the US could actually tamp down science.

It was a consensus all right, but there wasn't a science consensus.

It was a political consensus too, you know.

And so because science is evidentiary, it has nothing to do with consensus. If science was consensus it wouldn't be science.

Then, well as an English major, I became confused about the language that was being used by science. Petagrams and gigatons and 152C. And I mean how many Americans understand Celsius really, you know? And just the whole language was very arcane and removed from people's everyday understanding.

And it was also emphasizing future existential threat; “By 2050 this will happen” “By this, by this…” But mostly the language and the verbiage of the verbs themselves – with mitigating, combating, fighting, tackling climate change.

And I felt like those verbs aren't goals. And I wanted to name the goal.

And so that's when I started to say “Can we name the goal Drawdown?”

If you’re going the wrong way and you know it and it’s heading to a cliff or whatever, you stop, and you turn around.

So that’s Drawdown.

Next, I began to talk to NGOs and institutions, colleges and universities, friends, and say “Can we just map, measure, and model the most-substantive, impactful solutions to reversing global warming?”

Two thinkings there – measure it, and the reverse. That [one] can lead us to reversal, that [one] has to stop.

And begin to draw down, you know CO2 that we have put in the air. And everybody that I talked to actually was interested in that, but not interested in doing it. They thought it was a good idea. And I thought it was a good idea, too. And they would ask me “Well why don't you do it?” I said, “If I knew how to do it I wouldn't be asking you.”

So nothing happened for several years. And I forgot about it until 2013 and that's when Bill McKibben wrote Global Warming's Terrifying New Math.

And what he had done, is basically set a match to all the unburnable carbon in the balance sheets of the coal gas and oil companies all over the world. And the research that Mark Campanale had done Carbon Tracker in London, and then just burned it.

And of course, it was so horrific what would happen. And so, it was terrifying.

But I had friends come to me then and just say “Wow it's game over. We tried we failed. We did our best. I’m going to try to see if I can move to the Squamish Valley in British Columbia or move north.” All that sorta stuff.

And I had the opposite experience. I felt like when people give up sometimes there's an opening actually because it's like surrender. Like, “I don't know.” Neither did I by the way.

And so that's when I started Project Drawdown to figure that out.

And you know I mean Climate Change to that point had been in the public sphere for 40,45 years. So it wasn't news and nobody had made a list of the top 10, 20, 30,40, 50, you-name-it solutions.

It did not exist. Nobody had done the math.

Which I find anthropologically fascinating to this day. I mean you could Google the top Asian badminton players and it in less than a millisecond it will be there on your screen right?

Dave Chapman: Yeah right.

Paul Hawken: The arcane things that you can list the top ten of are extraordinary. But top ten solutions to global warming? And it's just hysterically funny. I mean you know “concerned scientists” have put a power strip in your home entertainment center. I'm not kidding. It's like “What?”

This is the Union of Concerned Scientists you know. And every one was different. And there was no math. It was like “Oh well, use cold water you know when you're using washing machines.” It's like I mean…

And the thing is, for people who cared and were concerned unless you had an IQ lower than room temperature if you looked at this list you'd know we're screwed.

This? This is what I can do?

It's so inadequate to the task and the enormity at hand that no wonder people were giving up.

And so I felt like we should do draw down. And so that's how it came about.

Dave Chapman: Yeah, yeah. I think that that overwhelm that so many of us confront when we deal especially with this problem is – it is kind of the question that we somehow have to answer or find the language for or find the way of getting together to talk about it.

Just as an example, I have a good friend who is a professor of labor history and she's a fighter and she's an activist and she's out all the time working for me.

Paul Hawken: Who’s that? Is that Julia?

Dave Chapman: Her name is Annelise Orleck and she's a professor at Dartmouth, and she just wrote a book called We're All Fast Food Workers Now. And that line actually came from an adjunct professor down in Florida who made the same amount of money as he would have made as a greeter at Walmart. And you know with all the same problems in his life of making that money.

So, she wrote a book about the global labor movement and the ways in which it is finding connection in this new economy, this new wired-up economy and agriculture incidentally is in there – there's a whole thing on the Driscoll's boycott all that – quite interesting.

When I talk with her about Climate Change she gets it and she cares, but I see that she gets that kind of unfocused haziness that we all get because we go “Yeah, but what can I do about this?”

I see that this is the thing Drawdown is beautiful at – it lists, if we just did these things then it is game over. Game over, we won. We have reversed it, we have drawn down enough and created a green-enough, verdant planet to cool itself.

So, it is the human motivation and belief system and ability to act that is the real challenge here.

Paul Hawken: I agree with her. I mean listen, I created, imagined, and executed – with a great team of people, by the way. I mean, my God, Drawdown.

But it was limited by choice. I actually kept it very limited.

And because I always knew I was going to do Regeneration, the sequel. And the reason for that is that the research that was done, the methodology that we used was very conservative.

We only did solutions that were scaling, Number One. Number Two, they had to have extensive peer-reviewed science. Number Three they had to have robust economic data from internationally respected institutions i.e; World Bank, Bloomberg Energy, IPCC, whatever.

Only when those three occurred could we actually model a solution.

And then when we modeled it, we chose the median the low median if there was a range in terms of its impact – it either led to sequestration or avoided emission.

And then we chose a very low learning rate. A learning rate is how fast something goes down in terms of cost to the buyer. As it scales up the cost goes down.

We chose almost flatlining rates. I mean we just didn't speculate that “Oh it's going to be half as much in five years, and those are the numbers ok?”

And my purpose in doing so was that nobody, particularly the science community, could do a ‘gotcha’ – which is.. The science community is a ‘gotcha’ community and if you do something that misses a decimal point or whatever, they're right there you know? Kind of like dogs in the bushes you know, and they're gonna bite your ankle.

And I wanted to make sure that, that nobody could go after it and say “yeah, but” – you know a “yeah but.” You know, all these guys and these people and.. And we never did get a gotcha.

In fact, it's taught from not only fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth – every grade school in the United States, it's taught in MIT Graduate School and Stanford Graduate School and many others. And 14 languages. Because it kind of, it was sort of impeccable that way.

But what's missing? What's missing is all sorts of things and I'm acutely aware of it.

And that's what Regeneration really addresses.

And that is society and poverty and social justice. I mean they're not there. Because I thought if I tried to do too much in one book, it would be rejected, discarded, or people weren't ready for it in a way to see the connections.

And really Regeneration is about stitching together the broken strands that connect us to each other, connect us to nature, and connect nature to nature. We’ve have been doing nothing for the last 200 years but severing and breaking and smashing them, you know.

And I kind of want to say, I don't write it but, I say “Generation? How’s generation working for you all?” You know it's not.

And so it's the same thing, which is we have to stop doing that and turn around and go the other way.

And Regeneration, I mean it was in the broadest sense – not just soil, you know, which is extraordinary, not just in terms of wetlands, coastlines, peatlands, not just in terms of
grasslands – but actually in terms of our cities, our schools, our society.

You know in all ways because they are coevolved, they affect each other. Our ill health in the world comes in no small part from the fact that our soil turned to dirt.

That connection, that conceptual connection has been broken, as the physical connections have been broken. Both. Like most people don't even realize you know, that food is only one third as nutritious as it was 30, 40 years ago.

And so Regeneration is really just a pleasure to do because it's so much about creation and innovation and beauty but it's also very much about.. It encompasses oceans for sure, but [also] equity. And forests, but also favelas you know? Grasslands and ghettos, mountains and migrants.

Not to make a complicated but to make it connected and beautiful and to show that basically we have ghettoized climate we've ghettoized the solutions. We've siloed them.

We think it belongs to the environmental minister in a country that it’s their problem. [We think] my problem is housing or fisheries or transport or health or education defense and finance – and no. It's the solutions to reversing global warming [that] impact beneficially every single aspect of human, well of human endeavor.

And it's in everybody's portfolio – if you're a minister of a government, and it's everybody's business and virtually except for oligarchs everybody benefits. Everybody.

Dave Chapman: So beautiful. I just want to tell people who might be listening, Regeneration is the name of Paul’s next book.

Paul Hawken: Yeah it's the next book. Its subtitle is “Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation” and so there's our challenge right there.

Dave Chapman: There’s the goal.

Paul Hawken: It's a high bar.

Dave Chapman: And can you, can you give a little coming preview of how we might do that? How do we approach that?

Paul Hawken: Well yeah. Well, I mean looking from the back forward the back of the book is do this – it’s what to do.

It is basically reversal by the numbers, and it goes by every type of agency from a student all the way to a governor or prime minister and everyone and everybody in between; you can be a student, you can be single, you can be a couple, or you can be married with children.

You can be a renter, you can be a homeowner, you can be a village, a community, a city, an urban megalopolis, you can be a province, a state.

It outlines really the top – and it doesn't go beyond that in terms of emphasis – it emphasizes the top seven, eight things you can do, each of those in order to reduce impact by 50 % by 2030.

And it's very clear, very clean. It certainly talks about “these are all the other things you can do” too it's not avoiding them. But there's surprises there.

You know if an individual is like to stop buying clothes?

Buy six garments a year that's your limit. Fast fashion is 10% of global emissions.

But that's not true for a mayor. His or her, basically agency is different. You know for a school teacher or principal, or somebody who does buildings and grounds at the school. Well, their agency is different, you know. So that's where it ends up.

But where it starts is the number one solution to reversing global warming is, you know and drum roll please especially talking to your audience, is soil.

It's soil by far. By 2, 3x!

I mean what I'm talking about is that we emphasize energy and we shouldn't.

If we don't stop putting it up there we're going to hardly solve it of course. And so that’s an absolutely important imperative. No question about it. I don't gainsay that one bit.

But we can turn off our energy today for example or we could snap our finger, it could all go to renewable – we would still be going over the cliff.

Because we lost climatic stabilization quite some time ago.

We're at 496 parts per million not 415ppm, or 413. I mean it varies right now. But because we don't count the other greenhouse gases of methane and nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons and SF6. Those are and there and with their global warming potential and CO equivalents we’re at 496 ppm.

This is beyond anything in the last 25, 30 million years. And so we're in Terra Nova.

We have no idea what this means or what's gonna go on. So, unless we're talking about bringing carbon back home, we're not serious about stabilizing and reversing global warming.

And the most powerful way to do it is in grasslands and farmlands.

No question about it. Which means regenerative organic agriculture.

And then next comes forests. And then next comes oceans, wetlands, seagrass, marshes and things like that. And then comes food and it's hard to de-aggregate food and agriculture!

So we delineate it, but actually you could put food and ag together. And then it’s even much bigger I mean it’s number one by – even more so than it already is.

And then in Regeneration, in Soil Dave, we have 23 regenerative practices. And what I say in that is that this is not a return to an idealized past you know repetitive echoes.

This is a booming emergent technology that has more moving parts than any shiny object ever to come out of Silicon Valley.

But those shiny objects are actually parts, are actually alike. I mean they're not parts, they're part of a system in that as [Dorn Cox?] said you know regenerative agriculture is not rocket science. It's more complex you know.

And so for people to understand that what's going on right now is this extraordinary amount of observational science that's aggregating into an understanding that we did not have in the climate science world [when carbon-soil-sequestration was first mentioned].

The climate scientists referred to people who talked about soil as being a basis for sequestration – they said “Oh those are the ‘soil’ people” you know they really dismissed it. IPCC? The fourth assessment didn’t mention it except [to] stop putting it up there [as a discussion point] and cutting trees you know.

But that didn't talk about it [soil] as the solution. Now they are.

And now people are saying “nature-based solution” – how cute. The whole thing is nature-based everybody!

Every aspect of what we do is nature-based, we just don't see the connection between it. Or it’s nature-destructive of course in many cases.

And so what I'm saying in the book is if it happens it's possible. And that's science too.

And we have farmers who’ve been at this for 10, 20, 30 years and their soil organic carbon levels are 7%, 8% you know instead of .5% say over 1%. And those are beyond what the traditional soil science establishment the paradigmatic establishment thinks is possible.

Well then go to the farm and stick your own probe in there for God's sake. But you don't have to question it. You should do what the farmer does which is stand on the ground…and..

And you know there's a wonderful story, in I think David Montgomery's book, about a farmer who was sort of being mow-mowed and you know, patronized by these soil agronomists you know, about the amount of carbon he had in the soils.

And the farmer he kind of listened to it. I think it was, I think I know who it is if my memory might be correct. It doesn’t matter, the story holds.

And he listened to them telling him how complicated it was “You don't really know how much carbon is in there, and there's occluded carbon.” You know, like as if he was a dummy.

And then he said, “You see that auger over there?” He said “See that tape there?” And he said “So, I just auger that and I take those last three inches and I give it to the woman and she puts it in a meatloaf pan and weighs it. And then she bakes it and bakes it again.”

“And she knows exactly how much carbon is in that soil.”

And he's right. He’s absolutely right, you know. And so there's a kind of emerging science coming out right now that that can lead to a trillion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in carbon being sequestered over the next years.

Dave Chapman: So I agree with everything that you said. And I also know that, let's say time is of the essence here in this conversation in terms of changing what's happening.

And I also know that there are enormously powerful interests that do not want to see that thing change. Because they’re making a great deal of money off the system just as it is.

Michael Pollan has said, he might have been quoting Obama, but he said “Until you can light up the switchboard you don't have a food movement.”

Paul Hawken: Yeah.

Dave Chapman: And I think of that a lot. I was at a meeting with some congressional people and we were talking about the Green New Deal. And I said “Yeah but the truth is you're all not going to be able to do this unless you have a lot of us at your back. You just can't do it. It'll be suicide. We have to be there demanding this.”

So if that is – if we have the science, if we have the knowledge base to do this and I think we do – in a better agriculture, what we lack is the ability to change the economic and the political system to allow it to happen.

Do you have any thoughts about how we can do that?

Paul Hawken. Well yeah.

First of all, we have a different governing system than say again Denmark or many other countries. You know it's dysfunctional to the max. And therefore, I mean my own feeling about all that is that we’ve sort of been looking for love in all the wrong places.

It doesn't mean we shouldn't try to change the system – I'm not saying give up and ignore. No, not at all.

But in our country, the most powerful agent for change is the individual.

And the reason I say that – I mean that sounds like nonsense you know, people feel powerless, you know. But you know, I mean, look at the commerce/ congress?</mark of the parties has meant, well it was the Kyoto Protocol, but since there's been global meetings of world leaders connected annually and the atmosphere hasn't noticed a thing. Not one thing.

And we're worse off today than when they began.

Because there is no agency at that level of confluence.

Congresses begin and end. You know governments come and go committees – commitments are just words. They don't mean anything. And so then we can look at things like the Berlin Wall or Greta Thunberg and so forth.

Why dig Greta Thunberg become so effective?

She became effective not just because she held a little cardboard sign in front of her school saying she was striking you know due to Climate. She was effective because Climate Change and the science of it was being taught all over the world to our children. And it never was when you and I went to school.

They knew what she was talking about.

And so within a year of her sign there was the largest Climate March in history. From that little sign.

And what I'm getting to hear is when conditions are right and you don't even know necessarily that they're right – Greta Thunberg did not know the conditions were there every student did not know that conditions were there.

The students at Parkland High School the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida who started basically what was it? They started the March for Our Lives.

Those students, that is what inspired Greta Thunberg.

So you go back and say this little – I mean this shooting is horrific – but I mean the students getting together and organizing it's an extraordinary school actually.

But then how did Greta hear about that? How did that inspire her?

Why did she say “Well I'm just going to strike and sit-in front of the steps” you know and do that in the cold? It was August when she started but.. It's cold in Sweden in August.

But conditions like that are rising right now.

I really, really believe without doubt that that's what's happening in the world. I see it anecdotally. I have CEOs coming to me with tears in their eyes. They're doing their quote-quote right thing
commitments and this and that and going to net zero by 2050. And blah blah blah. And they mean it they’re sincere and that's good.

And they have tears in their eyes because they know it's not sufficient.

And they have children and grandchildren in some cases and they're like, they’re like their
heart is breaking. That is happening. I mean so something is shifting.

And I have no doubt in my mind that in a way that will be precipitated in a way that nobody could predict right now that this is the – we are at the crest of the largest movement in the history of humankind.

And it's forming it's forming like a mycelium under – you know you're going to walk through it all day long and not seeing the mycelium is there you know.

And in the spring then fungi come up mushrooms you know. Well where were they? [They were] there. I'm not a kind of you know fantasizing guy or I'm not into hope.

I don't believe in hope. I think that is the mask of fear.

I believe in action and courage.

But I do think just looking at it, and I'm going “You watch this thing is going to break wide open all over the planet.”

And because it's becoming experiential instead of conceptual. The languaging and the talk about future existential threat was all conceptual. It's like OK but I got a job to do I have a mortgage to pay I have children to take care of I have a mother who's sick with Alzheimer's. I can't handle all that, excuse me.

And it wasn't germane and pertinent to people's lives. And it's going to be. And they're going to see.

And that's why I want to talk about a generation; we have to make sure that people see the benefit. And if we want to get the attention of humanity to this then we have to – humanity has to feel it is getting attention.

And that attention means that we have a climate movement that actually serves the poor, the excluded, the disenfranchised, the children, that we're meeting basic needs here. We're not trying to meet the needs years from now for upper middle class white people. We’re trying – we're about meeting human needs now everywhere.

And if we don't do that we'll be ignored and we’ll fail there's no question about that.
And that's what I feel that's emerging in the climate movement a much different movement than the top-down, Al Gore etc., you know Citizens Climate Lobby. You know all this stuff
is great, great stuff.

But I feel like something’s moving. And so I do have a sense of how this will emerge.In the United States, it's a very peculiar country that's…

Dave Chapman: Sometimes I talk with people and say you know “what we do in Vermont is so important because for whatever reason we have a tremendously outsized influence on the country.”

And the country has a tremendously outsized influence on the world.

And so maybe what we do on some farm in Vermont might impact the world.

Paul Hawken: I believe that. I do, too. In eastern Chinese – it’s not mythology, it's just sort of wisdom. The great ideas, the great changes, always come from the Northeast. I mean like in a kind of geomancy way.

That's where, you know, where did the transcendentalists come from?I mean look what came from New England. Frank Lloyd Wright said “If you shook America everything loose would end up in LA,” you know? But this idea could end up in Vermont.

You know and I'm not saying there's not great things going on there but really it does come from places that may be overlooked. But that's where the great ideas can come and have – Harvard and Yale in the northeast. Yeah not that they're perfect. But..

Dave Chapman: Well maybe we should end on that although we're not done.

But let's invite everybody to come to the Northeast to the Symposium, the Real Organic Project Symposium on April 3rd and 4th and hear Paul talking more about this.

I think it's going to be an enormously important event, I do. For that coming-together, and building enough critical mass to then spread ideas like a virus back across the country.

So I'm very excited to have Paul coming along with many other people from all over the country. In fact all over the world. We have somebody coming from magical Denmark to talk about how they have gotten the government of Denmark to commit $ 160million to taking the country organic which would be the equivalent of about I think $19 billion in US dollars.

So there are changes happening and they're possible. I look to any place thatis creating a model that we can be encouraged by.
So, Paul thank you very much.

Paul Hawken: It’s been a pleasure talking to you. And I hope I didn't rant too much. But..

Obviously I'm thinking about this and not to say that I'm right but definitely engaged. And caring, as you are. And as I am sure all the fantastic people I’ll get to meet at the conference.

And I love conferences like that because most of the time my mouth is shut and I get to learn something new. So I know I’ll learn a lot being there.

Dave Chapman: Thank you, Paul.

Continuing the Conversation

Dave Chapman: After Paul and I finished our formal interview our conversation continued, and we got into such important issues that I included them in today’s Podcast.

I find that Paul’s thinking about how we go beyond fear, how we go beyond shame, how we go beyond blame in order to actually find the courage to take action – how do we actually build coalitions that are capable of creating change rather than just talking about change? So, please stay tuned and dive into that with me.

Dave Chapman: So, we'll end the show there.I have a question, though, It's so interesting to me, your approach:

“No fear no shame, no blame.” And “As soon as you're right, you make somebody else wrong and you're divided again.”

These are things that you said.

And, “It's not my job to change somebody else's mind. It's my job to change my mind; that's hard enough.”

And I think that, I'm trying to really understand in my bones what you're talking about because I see something enormously important there. I'm often out talking in situations in which the things I say make some people in the room fearful and I really work not to be accusing because I know that then, we just get the division. We don't get change.

Do you have any thoughts about that?

You know, you're taking a something about, here you're saying, “you know we're
facing species extinction – but no fear, no shame, no blame.” You know that's ‘a narrow ridge to walk’ as Martin Buber would say.

Paul Hawken: Well, I think it's the other way around.I think it's the widest, best road of all instead of a narrow ridge.

The fear thing, and the fact thing is, you know, like Wendell Berry, you know – be joyful though you know all the facts. It doesn't mean, you don't get it.

I have an RSS feed here that would make most people take Prozac you know. I mean, the news I get every day?

I have to stay up to date on science and the science is like “Ahhh!” and I take it seriously. And I do go into a mourning. You know, I mean, I do mourn and grieve. So, it's not like I'm not perky. That's a private act, you know, for me.

When I'm speaking to people like I want, I'll speak facts, but I'm presenting it as facts. And so knowing all the facts and so forth is the starting place for action, not denying the facts or for putting a lipstick on a pig.

You know I mean, you're going to go the wrong direction or you're not going to do anything at all.

And so to me, the scope and breadth and depth of the problem is then, is the amplifier of the depth and scope and breadth of the solutions. In other words, they have to match otherwise…?
And so, when you have what I call unreasonable goals, like – can't be done but thank you for sharing – [then] you're probably right.

But it's a forcing function just like in calculus, which is a forcing function, then creates outcomes and breakthroughs in innovation that would not have happened otherwise.

[You would] not have that unreasonable goal. So an unreasonable goal depends on a reasoned assessment of where we are. Otherwise, it's deluded (diluted?) it's like to me mitigating in such a word, what’s a mitagant (?). I ask people, do you know mitigating means even, can somebody raise their hand?

You know, no really? I say that it means reducing the pain of something. Is that what we want to do? Is “we want to reduce the pain of the Climate Crisis – is that our goal? Right? And so that's the kind of language where you've tempered the problem.

And then the thing about blame/shame is that by acting out and acting as a victim then you put yourself in a really bad position, because then you're the object of the sentence or the object of the problem and you're always looking at others as what they did wrong or what they think wrong or what they say wrong, what they believe wrong or whatever – and there you are.

You see? Instead of thinking what is, not “right” but “what is beautiful?” “What is the magic of?” “What is extraordinary?” “What is beguiling?” “What is helpful?” “What is connecting?” “What
brings people together, what would solve this person's problem?”

This is a poor person with this [type of] problem. I mean, what would solve that?

And now that's where your mind is. Every day, you know. It's where –
when I do a book like this, I mean, I wake up with it and I go to sleep with it.

I mean, even though in meditation, you're supposed to identify your thoughts and let them go. And that's what I do [to each thought]. “You're blame, judgement, you know, fantasy.” Thought, thought, thought, and then all of the sudden “This is a really good idea for the book.”It’s like, “thank you!” My meditation teacher goes “argh…”

Dave Chapman: I'm amazed that all corporations don't have their top executives required to meditate an hour a day for that 10 second thought. That was a pretty good one.

Paul Hawken: I mean, that's what happens when you aren’t looking at yourself as a victim, and Fear, like you know, frankly, fear is a mind killer. It kills the problem solving. It shuts down, you know, the prefrontal cortex you just shut it down.

Yeah, it's no fun to live in amigdala.

And so we're only here a short time. You and I shorter than some other people because you know, we've been around for a while. But I can't, I don't want to live my life in that sense of “we screwed up” and [we didn’t]. You didn't – and I didn't. We did our best.

Yeah, we've tried to help all our life. We tried to help, and we. And we absolutely did the best we can. And can we look back and say, “I could've done better”? Sure, that's what the mind does. But at the time we did the best we could. And we still are. And there's no more that could be asked of us by ourselves or by others than that. So, there is no shame in that sense.

And if we can help bring other people about in terms of realizing their own sense of agency. I think somewhere, I don’t know if I can find it in the new book – Let’s see if I can find it. I should know this sentence cold, I probably do.

It segues from a previous paragraph, so the first sentence won’t make sense. But it says

“This requires a worldwide collective committed effort. Collectives do not emerge in the top of institutions they begin with one person. And then another. That invisible social space where commitment and action join and come together to become a dyad; then a group, a team, a movement.

“To put it simply, no one is coming to help. There is not a brain trust that’s going to figure it out, work out the problems while we ponder and wait.

“The most complex, radical climate technology on earth is the human heart and mind, not a solar panel.”

Dave Chapman: Yes, beautifully said.

I say in my talk that the helicopters are not going to come for us. It’s like, where are helicopters? They're not coming. They are not coming. It's just us.

But that's beautiful, what you wrote there. I know you're not interested in hope, but you give me you give me some hope.

Paul Hawken: I understand. I use it sometimes. But it just… for a lot of people, hope is a crutch.

Yeah, it's like, “oh,I feel so hopeful.”

Don't. Do something.

It's you know, the people I often encounter feel so hopeless they can't do anything. And you know that's, you know, careening between terror and depression and you know, it's finding
the place where you can take that and do something. And even do it with a good heart.

I'm saying “yeah, you know, there’s a pretty good chance this won't work, but let's do it anyway.”

Paul Hawken: I don't know if you know Jack Kornfield, he’s a Buddhist teacher.

Dave Chapman: Yeah, sure, sure.

Paul Hawken: At Spirit Rock, and he's a friend. And he’s asked me – he did a beautiful talk on Climate Change, really beautiful, Dharma Talks, a podcast – but he asked me to come out March 2nd because he gives a Monday night class, and to be with him.

And I've been thinking about that (in my meditation!) like okay. And then I realized I have
a question for Jack which Is “why is it that there is not one single anecdote description or story narrative about the Buddha smiling or laughing?”

I doubt it [that could be true], you know. He's a human being. And if we don't think we can dance smile and laugh about taking care of each other and this place we live on, and in every way we know how, and I just don't think that's true.

And why would people want to work with us anyway? Well, you're going to work with people that are having the most fun and not the least. And so I wonder about that.

You know, because… I mean, the earth doesn't care if your Buddhist, Hindu, or voted for Trump. You know and we're all one. In that sense. And so what's really common to us, which is, what really connects us, you know?

And those are the qualities that are the cross boundaries you know, and I don’t mean a joke that's making fun of a certain belief system or politician that's – you can you can laugh at it, but that's not what I'm talking about in terms of laughter and joy. Music. Celebration.

I saw that thing of – The documentary last night on Taylor Swift.

And it was interesting how, you know, she was told by her dad and everybody to never make a political statement. That country music avoided it absolutely, so that people can project onto you whatever they wanted to project, you know.

And then finally she came out on how much you know how she felt like she had cleansed her soul when she finally came out and was herself instead of trying to please others you know.

And she did it in a beautiful way. And she didn’t lose her fan base.

And I feel like you know, the Quaker thing of speaking – there's a way to speak truth to power that is not inflammatory.

Dave Chapman: Yeah,Yeah. I hunt for that too.

And when you find that place what’s fascinating to me is people really respond actually. like people are drawn to ‘Yes.’

You know, it's and even the people you're speaking truth to who maybe don't like it, if at the very least they're confused, you know they go [hmmm..].

I say [about] the truth – “if you can just get a grain of sand into that person you know figuratively
speaking, of truth, that can grow and grow and grow it starts somewhere. And yeah, right, become a pearl.

From a terra bottom? point of view, there is in everyone, they call it “the one who knows.”

And every person knows the truth. It just got covered up. Conditioned. Programmed. Deceived. All that stuff. We all know.

Dave Chapman: Yeah Yeah. Thank you so much.

Paul Hawken: All right.

Dave Chapman: Paul, thank you very much.

Paul Hawken: It's a great pleasure.

Last Thoughts From Dave

Dave Chapman: So thank you Paul, and thank you all for listening to this podcast. Paul Hawken, who is on the Board of Advisors for the Real Organic Project will be giving the keynote address at the Dartmouth Symposium on [Saturday] April 4th, in the evening.

I hope that you can come to that. To get more information about the Symposium, go to our website, realorganicproject.org and you’ll come right up to lots of information about our 30 speakers.

We have gathered an amazing group of people from around the country – farmers, journalists, scientists, authors, eaters, advocates – to come together to share their thinking about “what are we facing?” as the food system is changing so quickly – to really being almost unrecognizable.

For many of us, these changes are invisible. For farmers they’re not invisible and we’re very much aware of them. And I hope you will come and participate in this conversation, so that we can create the world that we want to create. Create the agriculture that we want to create, eat the food that we know will help us and recreate the climate that can sustain our children and grandchildren.

Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

dairy farmer francis thicke

Francis Thicke: The Importance Of A Farmer Led System

The Real Organic Podcast, Episode #060
Francis Thicke: The Importance Of
A Farmer Led System

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Project Drawdown and Regeneration with Paul Hawken

Real Organic Podcast | Bonus Episode:
Project Drawdown and Regeneration with Paul Hawken

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Paul Hawken: “To put it simply, no one is coming to help. There is not a brain trust that’s going to figure it out, work out the problems while we ponder and wait. The most complex, radical climate technology on Earth, is the human heart and mind, not a solar panel.”

Dave Chapman: So, Paul, welcome.

Paul Hawken: Oh, thank you so much. I'm happy to be here.

Dave Chapman: Well, let's take the next step then from Natural Capitalism to Drawdown. What was that evolution for you?

Paul Hawken: That evolution, it started in 2001. And I was always an environmental writer and grew up in the Sierra Club and around, you know. So I kind of thought everybody was an environmentalist. You know, until I moved out of Berkeley.

And I knew I didn't know much about climate. And so I was really so impressed by Al Gore's book Earth in the Balance And Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature and Jim Hansen’s work. And I thought we had some really bright, smart people. We do, and they are and were.

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