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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Regenerating a Bright Future for Planet Earth

Over the past decade, sustainability moved from a buzz word to a movement to a culture within leading communities, universities, and businesses. Significant strides were made in zero-waste practices, renewable energy technology, and reduced carbon | water footprints. Yet the glaciers continue to melt, the ocean acidification levels are increasing, and desertification is escalating.

Beginning with the above paragraph, the RiA Magazine article, Beyond Sustainability: Regenerative Solutions, articulates the pending oxygen deficiency and food-supply crisis substantiated with prominent scientific research. The article questions whether the established sustainability movement and the new resilience focus are enough to reverse the out-of-balance carbon cycles causing the pending crisis.

White Oak Pastures cattle grazing
on a regenerated pasture
To avoid a doom and gloom perspective, it is important to simplify the scenario and discover regenerative solutions. Beyond sustainability and resilience, regeneration focuses on rebuilding and restoring nature's perfect system.

The RiA Magazine article, Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance, explains the carbon cycles and the current out-of-balance scenario. Elemental Impact (Ei) Strategic Ally Kiss the Ground's inaugural four-minute video The Soil Story is featured in the article and simply explains why regenerative agriculture is the key to restoring the Earth's carbon-cycle imbalance.

Across the globe there are an increasing number of farms and ranches shifting to regenerative-agriculture practices with impressive success metrics for the land, the farm, and surrounding communities.

Brown's Ranch
In Kiss the Ground, the book, the "Bismark or Bust" chapter features Gabe Brown of Brown's Ranch. At his 5,000-acre farm networked with owned and leased land, Gabe and his son Paul use regenerative-agriculture practices with amazing results. Since 1993 Brown's Ranch is a no-till farm and uses a diverse crop strategy with cover and companion crops. An ever-evolving grazing strategy rests and rejuvenates the soil.

No GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or glyphosate are used on the farm. The Browns eliminated synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, and pesticides-use and only employ a minimum amount of herbicides.

Beyond restoring the soil, the farm produces abundant, healthy food, makes a solid profit, and provides a higher quality of life for the Browns. The "Bismark or Bust" chapter is inspiring dialogue filled with hope of what can be done.

Gabe's first book, Dirt to Soil, One Family's Journey into Regenerative Agriculture, released earlier this year and is an excellent, informative read.

White Oak Pastures
WOP on-farm abattoirs with
a regenerative field in front. 
Located in South Georgia, White Oak Pastures (WOP), a sixth generation, family-owned farm established in 1866, is a radically traditional farm where regenerative-agriculture practices are strictly maintained. Until a mere two-plus decades ago, WOP used typical commercial cattle-ranching practices filled with nitrogen-based fertilizer, antibiotics, long (thousands of miles) journeys to feedlots for the young cattle, and other unmentionable yet common practices. It was a profitable time period for the farm.

Around the millennium shift, Will Harris III, WOP Patriarch and Owner, began the journey of implementing regenerative-agriculture practices at the farm. The first step was shifting his herd to a grass and hay-only diet, the nutrition their digestive tracks were built to digest. Sheep were added to aid in weed control and balance the land.

Eliminating the cattle transport for slaughter (some prefer the term harvest) was the next step in the farm's regeneration. In 2008 Will traversed numerous regulations and built a $2.2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected beef abattoir. At the time, only one other on-farm USDA-inspected abattoir was permitted in the nation.

WOP General Store in Bluffton
The November 2011 The IMPACT Magazine article, White Oak Pastures - Dignity & Respect @ Its Core, chronicles the early years of the WOP metamorphosis.
Over the past decade, Will along with sixth generation daughters Jenni Harris and Jodi Harris Benoit continued the transformation by adding goats to the rudiment herds along with a plethora of poultry including chickens, ducks, turkeys, and others to the farm's grazing rotations. Later hogs were added to the livestock mix.

Understanding the social-conscious impact, WOP developed a strong agritourism business, complete with a restaurant, on-farm cottages, and a WOP General Store located two miles north in Bluffton. Along with locally produced products, the store sells an array of on-farm-handcrafted items made from meat-processing byproducts, including wallets, lip balm, earrings, dog chews, and many more. Beyond monetary considerations, WOP educates by example of the far-reaching, empowering implications of regenerative-agriculture practices.

Sixth generation Harris family:
Jodi Benoit Harris & Jenni Harris
Until recently Bluffton was a dying small southern town. WOP revived Bluffton's economic vitality with 150-plus employees who live, eat, and shop in the town. Many of the abandoned, dilapidated local residences are restored as lovely homes for WOP employees. When it opened in 2016, the WOP General Store was the first retail to open in forty years. The store is a blessing to local residents as the closest grocery is twelve miles away.

WOP maintains a "Bluffton campus" on Pine Street with a Community House and an old church converted into meeting space and offices. WOP hosted The Savory Institute's (SI) Global Network Reunion in early November at the "campus" for nearly 100 regenerative ranchers, agriculture professionals, and Holistic-Management advocates.

In Will's words:
"In the mid-1990’s, I began experimenting with regenerative-pasture management on my own. I spent a lot of time and effort just observing nature and learned a lot through trial and error. By 2010, I believed I had it figured out. Honestly, I thought that I knew as much about Holistic Land Management as anyone anywhere.
Then I heard Allan Savory speak. It was immediately clear to me that he was decades ahead of me. I decided to become a disciple."
Lunch tent on the WOP
Bluffton campus
Back in August 2015, WOP, then a SI Hub Candidate, hosted a SI Holistic-Management-Training session. In addition to key WOP employees, five individuals representing local farm and watershed groups successfully completed the training session. Subsequently, WOP was officially accepted as a SI Hub.

According to the SI site, Hubs are Holistic-Management training, learning and demonstration sites. Together, they are a global network of entrepreneurial people who are driven to create abundance for the people and places of their region and in their context. It is through Savory Global Hubs that Holistic-Management education, training, events, special projects, consulting, research, and experiences are conducted in a region.

The Savory Institute
Allan Savory speaking to
Regenerating Members
In the 1960's, Allan Savory, SI Co-Founder and Zimbabwean ecologist, livestock farmer, and environmentalist, began his research work on the degradation of land and the increasing desertification across the globe. As a biologist, Allan was taught in academic classes the common theory that grazing livestock on the land was the base cause for lush grasslands degrading into deserts.

Yet, the common theory did not align with nature's perfected grazing system of large herds of ruminants, multiple-stomach mammals who live on a plant-based diet. The herds graze over vast lands, never staying in one place for too long. As they defecate and urinate on the land, it is important the mammals move to fresh pasture. The animal's hooves work the excretions (nature's fertilizer) into the soil, which is left to rejuvenate back into thick grasses for the next herd.

The grassland plants develop deep root systems that aid in maintaining an active, healthy soil ecosystem through the dry season and droughts. Healthy, well-structured soils contain a diverse foundation of invertebrates, various microbial communities, and vast networks of mycorrhizal and other fungi. Well-structured soils absorb the minimal rain in arid climates and replenish the local aquifers. Deep root systems access the aquifers during the dry season. The grasses continue feeding the soil ecosystem with carbon and other nutrients from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

To emulate nature, Alan understood it was necessary to increase herd size while dividing pasture land into smaller paddocks. Grazing-rotation plans move the herds frequently in a specified paddock sequence. Thus, Holistic Management, a systems-thinking approach to managing resources, emerged from Alan's thorough research as a platform to regenerate the land. An added bonus is Holistic-Management practices produce more protein food and dairy products.

Will Harris (seated) with the
Savory team
In 1988, Alan and his wife Jody Butterfield published the acclaimed Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making. The Africa Centre for Holistic Management, a non-profit organization in Zimbabwe, was formed by Alan and Jody in 1992 via the donation of a ranch; the Centre serves as a learning site for the African people.

Along with Alan and Jody, a group of colleagues co-founded SI in Boulder, 2009. The SI vision was an international network of innovators and leaders committed to the highest standards of Holistic-Management training and implementation. The Africa Centre was the first locally led and managed SI Hub.

Alan's February 2013 TED Talk, How to fight desertification and reverse climate change, created a ground swelling of awareness around Holistic Management. The TED Talk showcased Holistic Management's important role in regenerating soils and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. To date, the empowering TED Talk has 5.2 million views.

According to Alan, one billion hectares of holistic-managed grasslands would sequester sufficient carbon from the atmosphere to bring the carbon cycles back into balance. With balanced carbon cycles, current ocean acidification and desertification trends would reverse. The SI is creating a decentralized, locally managed network that supports the education and implementation of Holistic-Management practices to reach the one billion-hectares threshold.

Per the SI site, the Savory Network is comprised of the following three categories:

Savory Global Network Hub
Will Harris with fellow Hub
Leaders & reunion attendees
Hubs are Holistic-Management training, learning, and demonstration sites. Together, they are a global
network of entrepreneurial people who are driven to create abundance for the people and places of their region and in their context. It is through Savory Global hubs that Holistic-Management education, training, events, special projects, consulting, research, and experiences are conducted in a region.

Accredited Professionals
Accredited professionals are trainers and implementers of Holistic Management. Equipped with accreditation in the complete and current Savory Holistic-Management body of knowledge, they teach, train, and support Holistic-Management practitioners.

Regenerating Members
Savory Regenerating Members are advocates for Holistic Management and regenerative agriculture. As members and supporters of the Savory Global Network, they propel a paradigm shift in public opinion and ignite the movement of regenerative agriculture.

As of this article's publication, the SI site boasts impressive success with the below stats:
  • 35 Global Hubs
  • 93 Accredited Professionals
  • 5,227 Holistic Land Managers trained 
  • 8.8 million hectares of land holistically managed
The March 2018 Successful Farming post, Meet Alan Savory, the Pioneer of Regenerative Agriculture, is an in-depth synopsis of Allan along with Holistic-Management accomplishments. Savory Global Network Coordinator Abbey Smith and her husband's California farm is featured in the article as an example of how Holistic-Managed land regenerates back into its healthy state.

In 2018 SI expanded their annual Global Hub Gathering to include Accredited Professionals and Regenerating Members and renamed the gathering the Global Network Reunion. WOP hosted the first annual reunion in rural, south Georgia.

Global Network Reunion
Land to Market presentation
The first annual Global Network Reunion held on November 10 & 11, 2018 at WOP was a global gathering with attendees traveling from around the world: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Kenya, Argentina, France, Scotland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Canada, and across the U.S residents attended the event.

Ei Founder Holly Elmore attended the reunion as a SI guest. On Saturday, Holly represented Ei while on Sunday she wore a dual Ei | media hat. Ei Partner Nancy Suttles of Veracity Media Group joined Holly on Sunday as media covering the event.

For the first reunion-day program, Hub Leaders, Accredited Professionals, and Regenerating Members attended separate programs designed for their experience and interests. Holly joined the Regenerating Members for their education sessions, including a morning tour of WOP cattle and grazing plans and an afternoon tour of the beef and poultry slaughterhouses.

Attendees heading into the lush
field for the EVO demo
In the late afternoon, the entire group was treated to a comprehensive WOP farm tour. The empowering day ended with a lovely dinner under the outdoor tent.

On the second day, the three attendee groups were together for the day's agenda. The full-morning agenda included two educational sessions followed by a panel discussion with the Land to Market™ Team.

After lunch, the group went on a land walk for an Ecological Outcome Verification™ (EOV™) demonstration. Following the demo, the group convened for discussion on the recently launched  Land to Market™ program parameters.

The weekend ended with a festive dinner celebration including live music.

Land to Market™ | EOV™
On October 22, 2018 EPIC Provisions, a mission-based snack brand known for its humanely raised, animal-based foods, announced its Sweet & Spicy Sriracha Beef Bites snack is the first product to feature the science-based Land to Market™ Ecological Outcome Verification™(EOV™) seal. EPIC sources the beef for the Sweet & Spicy Sriracha Beef Bites from WOP.

EOV Demonstration Team
@ the reunion
A few days earlier the South African Savory Hub delivered the first regenerative-wool bales carrying the EOV™ seal to the international wool market in Port Elizabeth.
Land to Market™, the world’s first verified regenerative-sourcing solution for meat, dairy, wool, and leather, launched as a beta program in 2017 and verified its first products in 2018. With the recent EOV™ products available, Land to Market™ was a main topic in the Sunday joint reunion sessions.

As SI's expertise is on regenerating grasslands, the EOV™ seal is currently limited to meat, dairy, wool, and leather products.

Scientific-based EOV™ is the empirical backbone of the Land to Market™ program and verifies outcomes in soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem function (water cycle, mineral cycle, energy flow and community dynamics).

Land to Market™ is designed to give the consumer a regenerative voice with their spending dollars and support producers who adhere to Holistic-Management practices on their farms. By purchasing products with the EOV™ seal, the consumer is assured their dollars are spent with farms who regenerate soils and sequester carbon from the atmosphere into the soils.

Hurricane Michael
A casualty of Hurricane Michael
Exactly one month prior to the Global Network Reunion, Hurricane Michael tore through South Georgia with sustained 115-miles-per-hour winds leaving behind death, destruction, and tragic conditions. In an October 17 report, WSBTV reported Georgia crop damage estimates are well over $1 billion.

WOP was directly hit by Hurricane Michael and sustained tremendous damage. WOP Livestock Manager John Benoit took Holly on a personalized tour of the lingering damage. One chicken coop was turned completely upside down while the intense wind tore the roof off of another. Part of WOP's​ hurricane preparation was processing the approximately 200 hens who called these coops home. Thus, there were no casualties related to the coop damage.

Fallen trees are expensive as they take down fences and are a lost cash crop. Hurricane fence damage is costly on many levels. Beyond the simple financial cost of repairs & replacement, damaged fences impact the livestock grazing patterns, which is critical in regenerative agriculture.

Fences throughout the farm
were damaged by fallen trees
Regenerative-agriculture practices helped mitigate post-hurricane water damage. The healthy, well-structured soil at WOP absorbed the tremendous water and within days there was minimal standing water on the farm. There were no spontaneous small streams created that carry away valuable top soil.

According to Jenni, WOP lost four head of cattle, over 100 small ruminants, over 4,000 birds, and around thirty hogs. A falling tree literally sliced through the midsection of a cow standing within the protection of the woods. Structural damage evaluation is ongoing. Overall hurricane damage costs are estimated to top hundreds of thousands of dollars.

... and literally one month later WOP hosted the prominent SI Global Network Reunion and welcomed the global attendees with gracious Southern hospitality at its best.

The Ei FB album, Savory Institute 2018 Global Network Reunion, gives a pictorial recount of the powerful weekend from Holly's camera-lens perspective.

The Savory Institute's commitment to Holistic-Management practices on global grasslands is regenerating a bright future for Planet Earth.

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