John King is a long-time HMI Certified Educator who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. He has contributed numerous articles for HMI’s publication IN PRACTICE and has written for such publications as ACRES USA and The New Zealand Farmer. This year, he took the plunge and published his own book titled, Curiosity: Farmers Discovering What Works,” which is a compilation of the articles he has written over the years about the key insights the farmers he has worked have had in their regenerative journey.
John grew up on a farm in Southland and has traveled and worked in the United Kingdom and the United States. He also graduated from Lincoln University with a Masters in Agricultural Science. He also earned a diploma in Adult Teaching and Learning from the University of Canterbury. After John became a Holistic Management Certified Educator he developed a number of farmer peer-to-peer networks as well as offering Holistic Management training programs.
What I’ve always appreciated about John’s writing is his ability to get to the “details” and numbers of the results of farmers’ experiments. Curiosity is set up to highlight over 50 farmers and their operations. Each case study averages 3-4 pages and ends with an “Eco-profits Observations” bullet list of what the key insights were for each article.
These farmers come from all over New Zealand with a variety of enterprises. Even if you live in a very arid environment and think these farmers’ experiences are not relevant to your situation, I encourage you to read this book. The lessons learned from these on-farm experiments are worth a read just to encourage your curiosity and creativity if nothing else.
For example, the article on John and Emily McRae chronicles how John’s health issues and depression about the state of farming started him down the regenerative agriculture path and breaking from the confines of conventional operations. In turn, he was able to show his accountant the greater profit per acre he was getting with his pastured eggs than his cattle enterprise. That thinking then led to a 50-km Bike Glenhu bike path, which now includes an Artisan Lane where businesses rent small studios to cater for family members who don’t ride bikes.
I also loved the article about Rick and Peter Cameron who set aside 12% of their farm’s gross income to invest in equipment and development necessary for on-farm research. The best purchase they ever made was purchasing livestock scales so they could remove the guesswork from their research trials to see how their practices affected their livestock’s weights. They found that 70% of the projects based on industry information that they tried over the years actually failed. They also discovered when using a penetrometer on various fertilizer trial areas that where they had applied a superphosphate they had a 300 psi reading (compaction that prevents root penetration and inhibits water infiltration), where they had much better readings 50 meters away where no fertilizer had been applied.
Whether you are learning about how oxygenating trough water resulted in one farm’s cattle eating 20% less dry matter and leaving higher post-grazing residuals to grow more grass (Rit and Sara Fisher), or how steers on a 46-day recovery reached market weight sooner than those on a 21-day recovery protocol (Dave and Shelley Campbell), or the difference in pollinator presence on multi-species crop fields vs a mono-crop field (William and Gerald Innes), you will not be short on quantifiable results that will get you thinking about your own on-farm/on-ranch research trials.
Moreover, these articles of creativity and collaboration permeate Curiosity and make you question what else you could be developing on your property. If you have found yourself bemoaning the many challenging aspects of what you are doing or where you are located, I encourage you to get yourself a copy of Curiosity and get a dose of inspiration.
Curiosity can be purchased on Amazon.com for $25.