Guest blog by Walter Lynn, HMI Board Chair
Dirt to Soil—
One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture
By Gabe Brown
Published by Chelsea Green Publishing
Gabe Brown’s new book, Dirt to Soil, just became available in October 2018 and it is a pleasure to write this review. The ten chapters of this book reinforce why Gabe is such an apostle to help a reader implement regenerative agriculture on their farm or ranch, regardless of size. Dirt to Soil helps us understand the Browns and what has driven the family to be one of the USA’s most resilient agricultural producers.
Gabe shares his story about the changes in his life to become a world advocate for the agriculture he believes in so strongly. Plato has a quote—“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Gabe had four consecutive years of adversity, 1995 – 1998, which created a financial hardship that strained Gabe’s family and banking relationships. It was those challenges that helped Gabe dig deeper and learn the farming practices and philosophy he has today.
Gabe and his family’s philosophy is—“We believe that the quality of the food we raise depends on the quality of the soil on which it is grown or raised. Our belief is that if we have healthy soil it will provide for clean air, clean water, healthy plants, healthy animals, and healthy people. Our soils are much more resilient than they once were. They now harbor billions of life forms that in fact ‘feed the food’ we raise. Soils that are biologically active produce foods that are higher in vitamin and mineral content and when we eat these foods, these vitamins and minerals are passed on to us. These soils are also able to store more carbon and water which has a positive impact on the environment.”
In the Brown family journey, Gabe was touched by some very special people that fostered change to their operation including Canadian Holistic Management International Certified Educator, Don Campbell. In the winter of 1997 – 1998 Don made a statement that was like a light bulb going off in Gabe’s head. Don said, “If you want to make small changes, change the way you do things. If you want to make major changes, change the way you see things.” This was a key to how Gabe’s family started digging their way out of the hole they were in and to develop a multigenerational business, which now includes 17 enterprises.
For example, Gabe articulates why he changed their bull seedstock enterprise. Calving was not in sync with nature. Listening to industry experts, the ranch was always working cattle–vaccinating, worming, doctoring, ear tagging, hauling, and artificially inseminating. Then there were registration papers, photographing the animals, developing the sales catalog, and marketing the bulls. With all these tasks, Gabe stepped back and realized how many tasks were taking him away from what he enjoyed—his family. This precipitated him to change their beef production model.
When Gabe share his story it encourages the reader to think about all the tasks that do not have to be done when a farm or ranch mimics nature. A reader can make similar changes in their life to have a more holistically managed lifestyle. The Brown family has freed themselves from those tasks to focus on better family and community relationships, profit per acre versus yield, and a phenomenal land resource.
I highly recommend this book for your winter reading list. It prods one to think differently and consider a paradigm shift towards a freer and more meaningful life.
To learn more about Dirt to Soil, visit Chelsea Green at: https://www.chelseagreen.com/product/dirt-to-soil/