My name is Gabe Brown, I am a Bismarck Rancher in North Dakota, my wife and I have lived in this land since 1983 and as a farmer, we practice regenerative agriculture in it. We bought it from her parents in 1991. Because I was born and raised in the city. However, I did not grow up on a farm or ranch, so I learned traditional tillage methods and the use of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides, monoculture, mainly spring wheat, oats, and barley. In addition to other practices, the cattle ended up like livestock and ended up grazing them in the spring, then clearing pastures in the fall and feeding them hay for six months of the year.
So, what happened to me was still very curious and I was studying direct seeding and so in 1993, I read enough about direct seeding to realize that it would be important for us not to plow to preserve moisture and weather. So sold all of my 100 no-till tillage machines in 1994, and our current farmland has not been cultivated since 1993.
Then what happened to me in 1995 happened the day before I intended to start combining 1200 acres of spring wheat, we lost all of our crops in a rainstorm that was very damaging financially for aspiring young families, and it set us back. But the bank got stuck with us. 1996 went by, we lost 100 crops again due to hail, and I had to realize that the banker was suddenly not going to lend me money.
I couldn’t pay off the loan on how I am going to make this farm productive without buying all these resources, so I started experimenting with diversifying the crop rotation. I added crops like rye and vetch. Winter vetch and hairy vetch started growing peas and because the season is so short, we were just starting to diversify a little. My wife and I quit farming to pay the bills, and I was lucky to have a banker who believed in me and stayed with me.
It was 1997 and we dried up, there was a severe drought here in North Dakota, so we didn’t consolidate a single acre, so three years passed without farm income. I started to see things, you know, hail suddenly broke grain on the ground I was ground armor because due to zero plowing and, in this armor, I started to catch an earthworm, I noticed that my soil is denser, when it rained, we had more water.
Hence, that started me on a 25-meter journey of exploring regenerative farming, exploring how ecosystems work, exploring how we can make our farm or ranch more sustainable if we focus on working with nature rather than against it. Yes, this is very interesting and we just did.
Regenerative agriculture is not necessarily a new term in the world of agriculture, but it is becoming a generic term that you know for the average consumer, you know how you would explain regenerative agriculture to the consumer, which is why I tell people that regenerative agriculture is a renewal a food and agricultural system that focuses on the entire chain from soil to plant and animal health.
Then for human health, the nutrient density in the products we produce is directly related to the health of the soil, how biologically active this soil is, you know that there are more microorganisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on this planet, think about it nevertheless, however, farmers and ranchers are not inclined to think about life in the soil and its importance in the current production model.
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It’s all about the commodities, it’s about the yield of grains, pounds, and livestock, we just want to produce more and more, the nutrient density of these products is overlooked, and unfortunately in the current model farmers and ranchers are paid.
If they have goods or foods with a higher nutrient density, regenerative agriculture changes what, as it bridges the gap, bring the rancher closer to the consumer and end-user, and those consumers are willing to pay for it, so he invests more money. Pockets of farmers and ranchers and put a better product on our tables and you gave us an example that with corn you know, when we were on the podcast, you said you know corn, the market dropped so much at that time that you even would not encourage farmers to grow corn.
Yes, but could you please explain how what you did with corn made you steady at these prices, so today, for example, the current corn price is about 3.35 cents per bushel, in 1980 it was 3.17 cents a bushel 40 years ago and we don’t. We are no longer getting paid for our product, but look what led to a sharp rise in production costs that are astronomically higher than 40 years ago, so what we promote and what we did for our business is what we do.
How can we get more value from these products so that instead of just selling them as a commodity at the grain terminal, we add value by growing open-pollinated family corn varieties with much higher feed value, then we could charge a much higher price, and we also feed this corn to our livestock, and it is much richer in nutrients, so we get more products from our cattle, for example, our pigs, our poultry, our eggs, we can sell it to the consumer so we can increase value is the price of corn?
There are many other ways to sell the crown: we could sell it to roll up for eating, we could sell it to turn into tortillas, you can even turn it into bourbon, and how important marketing was to you guys, you know like wearing as many hats as a farmer or rancher, how you should be wearing now, how important it was to learn the marketing and branding side of things that most farmers and ranchers have very little time to market, they yield very good crops or book production books.
But they are very poor business people in the sense that they do not sell their product when it comes time to sell all they do is drag it to the local grain terminal or drag their cattle to the barn, which we did on our ranch. We try to eliminate as many of these intermediate steps as possible and sell directly to consumers right now my son has developed a business called feed by nature, which is a direct market that has 137 different products, different cuts of beef, lamb, pork roe with maple honey syrup that he sells directly to consumers and maintains that relationship with consumers who are trusted by his customers.
To him because they know our production protocol, they know how we grow and create things on this farm, we have an open-door policy on our farm, anyone can create on this farm at any time and look for anything that inspires confidence in customers, and therefore we demand higher prices for our products, but in our opinion, they are worth it because they have a higher nutrient density and give people the quality food they want, I think …
This is very important when you are talking about a relationship, you know where the customer is from, you kind of want to know where your food comes from, and I think you are building that relationship with the customer because you have this open-door policy that is correct. You know that almost every day some of our clients take their children outside, and they look at the chickens, they look at the sheep.
They will look at the cattle, they will see how we care for these animals, and we’ll tell our clients that the animals raised on brown’s farm are doing great and this is a bad time, otherwise you know they will enjoy life. Which they are not imprisoned there they graze them they are transferred to a new pasture every day this is a quality, a good experience for this animal, you know, this is a quality life that they have, yes, you have a lot of things going on here when you talk about multifaceted agricultural and livestock farming, how many businesses do you have here now.
At this ranch, we have about 17 different designs that do not include all the different grains we grow. I consider it just a commitment, but what it does makes us very resilient, you know that we are resilient to changes in market fluctuations. We are resilient to changes in rainfall and temperature changes, and with such a wide variety we are resilient financially because if the price of the grain we grow is low, we have all these other businesses that we can profit from each other. Through direct consumer marketing.
We can set our prices, so we become pricing makers, not pricing makers. We do not sell any of these 137 products that we produce at a loss, because we know the cost of production and we will set our prices higher, and if there is quality, there is food experience, the consumer will buy yes, it makes me think, I think that my next point is about regenerative agriculture, you know, really developing and becoming more and more popular, you know, especially with big commercialized companies like Cargill and the like, where you see opportunities in regenerative agriculture.
Because it is possible that farmers and ranchers who have not integrated or yet started working with these principles, I tell other farmers and ranchers when they come to visit our farm or go outside and make presentations that regenerative agriculture is this is the future of agriculture you” I have been known for two and a half years. Our egg research business signed a contract with one-stop mills to train farmers in regenerative agriculture, and they did it because they need a constant supply of high-quality grain for their company. The benefit to the farmer or rancher is the use of these restorative techniques.
Your ranch is becoming very sustainable and so you are producing that high-quality grain that the general mill wants, for example, and I tell the farmers and ranchers that they will demand, what they already require if you want to stay, and so what are you going to get even lower prices, or you are going to move in a direction that can meet your needs, and then you can supply the quality beans they need.
So, if you know a farmer or rancher, even if the consumer wants to know more about what you are doing here at Brown’s Ranch, then what is it like to understand the egg to be understood with my three business partners and I have formed several years back, and our goal is the education that we have, so we will educate clients, whether they are farmers, farm companies, municipalities, cities, government agencies, we are hired by a wide variety of organizations and people to lead them along the path of recovery.
You know that we will go to farms and ranches and help this farmer and rancher understand how to move his farm and what methods to do to move it to the regenerative path that we work with cities that are experiencing pollution problems in their drinking water from their normal water sources as we go to the hydrographic basins that supply these cities, and we educate farmers and ranchers how to change their practices or businesses that are causing this punctual pollution.
So, we work with them, we work with companies like factories in general and many others as they move their supply chain towards regenerative agriculture. Realizing that we currently employ about 20 consultants across North America, we cover over 17 million acres across North America and are constantly expanding, and in addition to understanding agriculture, we form a non-profit organization 501 c 3 called Soil Health Academy and Soil Health Academy with a focus on education.
As we educate everyone, from consumers to farmers and ranchers to commercial cities, how to educate them on the importance of regenerative agriculture, and we are focused on doing it through a variety of means, we provide three-day on-site training on farms and ranches, we educate companies for municipalities and consumers we educate consumers to teach them how you can edit this word try to educate correctly we do not educate consumers we teach consumers the importance of how and where they get the food they eat and their families.
And I think you know that it is important for a consumer or even a legislator to say that you know how regenerative agriculture can react, you know global issues like pollution from climate change, yes, even when you say about greed, you know how regenerative agriculture affects you, you know, if you know, you told me a little about yes, so I am often asked why regenerative agriculture and what regenerative agriculture brings, so to speak, to the table. So, I tell people that no matter where their interest is.
If you are concerned about climate change, nothing can take more carbon from the atmosphere, put it in the soil and store it there, like regenerative agriculture, if you are interested in the quality and quantity of water, regenerative agriculture can handle it. This means that we can store nutrients on the farm where they have to use these methods so that we can cure the water cycle if you are concerned about human health and discuss those who unfortunately succumb to cobalt, many have weakened immune systems, those who have a healthy immune system craves as bad a cold as the immune system.
Found in our body is directly related to the food we eat, which directly affects the health of the soil. Regenerative agriculture is capable of producing foods with a much higher nutrient density, thereby helping our gut microbiome by helping to strengthen our immunity, which is why I tell people wherever and wherever you are, regenerative agriculture has the power to bring people together and I say, let’s focus on 80% of the issues that we agree with and the other 20 will solve, you know, I think everyone in the world can come together and understand that regenerative agriculture is the answer, it is part of the solution.
This is not agriculture, it is not part of the problem, it is part of the solution. I have to add a segment to the other thing that regenerative farming can do is increase the profitability of the farm and the farm, and it can revitalize our communities because we put more money back into the farms and it will then be spent. Yes, in local communities, many people do not put it all together, but this is a very important point.
So, I think in conclusion, what advice would you give you, beginners or even young farmers and ranchers, do you know future generations like what you would tell them, yes, for over 25 years on our ranch We ran an internship program whereby interns came every summer to spend the summer and learn these restorative practices.
And I always told these young people that I said never stop learning, you know one of the things about me, that I am reaching 60 years old, and every day I learned something new for me, you know, I try to learn something … New, even if I’m not particularly interested in you continuing to learn, so I tell these young people that they are going to spend time on recovery farms and ranches, learn how to do business, and then something else, I tell them that many young people want to buy land and become a farmer, become a farmer, do not do it right away, you need to build your self-confidence and strengthen your business first.
As your business grows, you know you can amass money, so you can go out and buy your dream farmer’s ranch. Start your portable work small. Find out where your interest is. To meet that demand and you will be very profitable, yes, I think this is great advice that a lot of young people want to give, you know they want to go to the bank for funding and they are such that they are burdened with debt and not they do it, you know, my son is 32 years old, and he never borrowed a dime, and he knows that we work on a cash basis, if we don’t have money, he just won’t buy it.
There is no need for this, and you know, look at today’s society, which has become a society of desires, they want more and more and they borrow money for this, and they have a lot of borrowed funds, and what happens, do they have If you have any disruption in your income stream, you are suddenly faced with financial problems, this is not the way to be sustainable, yes, and I think there are probably many farmers and ranchers who are willing to mentor these young people.
I think there is still a gap in how they find this person, and one of the things we are proud of is how we bring these people together, how we take a farmer with a ranch with experience in regenerative agriculture. and bring them together with young people and what we find is one of the true joys of regenerative agriculture.
I can pick up the phone and call a farmer or rancher in any country in the world, of course, all 50 states in the US, and they are willing to share their experiences that you are so often familiar with the commercialized industrial model. I, I and I will not share my secrets with you, it is not like in restorative agriculture, we know that our success as a society as a whole depends on the exchange of information.
So now we’re going to breed the next generation, and I’m going to use that as an example, so often in manufacturing agriculture, you know you can go east here through Iowa, Indian Illinois and look at the corn belts and I’ll see your thousands on thousands of hectares without cattle, only corn, and soybeans, but still, most farms have these strange hectares, those areas where livestock can be well raised, why not offer this to a young man to come to me in house and integrated little cattle. We can grow cover crops on arable land that will benefit my harvest, and then you can graze them with your livestock to help this young man start guiding them – a win-win situation for both people.
And I think that on your behalf it is necessary to know that my generation must take responsibility to give the next generation this opportunity, yes, so another question arises: do you think regenerative agriculture can feed the world well, the question that I always ask and I use our ranch as an example and you compare it to neighboring farms nearby, most farmers only produce a small handful of, you know, maybe two or three different cash crops like corn and soybeans or corn and the wheat of spring and that’s where all their recipes flow, that’s all they do in the mud well on our ranch.
I still grow these crops, we grow many different cash crops, from corn to peas, barley, oats, rye, triticale and winter crops, we keep our beef cattle, our sheep and pigs, our farmers and our chickens, and we are honey., we make all of these projects stacked up.
I produce a lot more products per acre than the industrial model, and so we are often asked: yes, but you produce pastured proteins, you will never produce enough meat products to feed the world well, look at a large number of hectares that do not have a large cattle, and I usually tell people that they imagine what their farm was like centuries ago, you know that in the pre-European settlements there were rabbits and all these other species – we removed from the landscape animals that are harmful to the land so that they could not only plant corn and beans but also add these multiple sources of income.
And if you want to be price resilient, you need to have multiple streams of income that make you very resilient, which is a big key, I think you know that volatility in the markets is part of resilience, and I and I think you know that farmers and ranchers need to hear this over and over again. I understood you correctly, Gabe, you live near Bismarck, so you can sell your product, you know, in Bismarck, we cannot do that, because we live on. Many of our products ship throughout the United States with modern infrastructure and are very easy to do, you just need to have the proper packaging.
You know we have customers in California and Florida who buy our product and it is as easy as picking it up and taking it to a big courier, they will ship it in two days, you know, to me, these are just people who looking for excuses that they cannot do something, there is no reason why you cannot build your customer base now, I would rather sell everything locally and this is one of the goals that we want to sell to the local community to cut down on fossil fuels, but maybe I shouldn’t say that about the energy program, but it’s true, you know, but there is no excuse not to be commercialized, yes.
And I think this is the really important part, you know how to try to train again or teach these local restaurants and local grocery stores that you know are encouraging and reaching out to farmers and ranchers, saying hello we want your product in the first place because we know it benefits our community and this is a great moment, uh, we lost the mentality of thinking of food as food is food, well, there is a huge difference in density nutrients and quality of food and you can get more.
Regenerative agriculture uses technologies to rejuvenate and restore the soil and the environment, not only avoiding harming it but actively improving it. Regenerative agriculture uses soil to restore it to a healthy state in order to produce nutritious food at the same time, rather than the soil is destroyed. As a result, farms are able to maintain their productivity and communities remain healthy. The program is self-motivated and universal, featuring permaculture and organic farming techniques to boost food production, farmer revenue, and especially restore topsoil. This leads to higher crop yield and better sustainability.
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