Taking his farm from failure due extreme climate adversity to a world leading example of soil health and profitability
Gabe Brown focused first on the soil to build and regain his precious topsoil.
Here are his Five Tenets of Soil Regeneration
Using the following five tenets of soil regeneration, Gabe maintains that you may be able to add an inch of topsoil in a five-year period:
- No-tillage. This prevents soil erosion and also allows soil microbes to thrive
- Plant diversity and rotation
- Multispecies cover-cropping. While home gardeners can add crop cover like mulch or wood chips, large scale operations can achieve the same results by planting cover crops. Gabe grows cover crops on every acre of crop land each year. The cover crops may be grown before a cash crop, along with a cash crop, or after. But it’s the cover crops that provide the carbon that becomes that all-important “armor” on the soil surface. Cover crops also act as insulation, so the soil doesn’t get as hot or cold as it would if bare. This allows microbes to thrive longer. Also, the soil biology heats up the soil, which can extend your overall growing season in colder areas
- Maintaining living roots in the soil year-round. It’s important to have living plant roots in the soil as long as possible throughout the year. To accomplish this, use cover crops when not growing a cash crop.
- Livestock integration and diversification
Farm Program in Need of Serious Revisions to Integrate Soil Regeneration Practices
Unfortunately, Gabe reports that one major hurdle that needs to be overcome before US farmers can more readily switch over to these regenerative principles is the government farm program, which subsidizes the growing of certain crops. At present, the farm program is strictly geared to monoculture production. Says Gabe:
“I’ve come to the realization that we need to educate the consumers and the consumers need to drive the change through their purchasing dollars,” Gabe says. “Let me tell you of this movement… My son and I started [a grass-fed beef] business in March, and we have zero advertising dollars. We’ve just been going to local farmers’ markets. We already have over 650 repeat customers. We can’t keep up with the demand right now. That goes to show you that if that’s happening in a rural state such as North Dakota, what’s happening in more urban areas?”
…I tell the farmers and ranchers I talk to that carbon drives profitability of an operation. We have to start thinking of our farms and ranches as ecosystems and these ecosystems are driven by carbon. The more biomass you produce and the more diversity, the more carbon.
Ref: Regenerative Soil Management: A Special Interview with Gabe Brown By Dr. Joseph Mercola