Consulting and Land Management
By Jason Wisniewski, Executive Director
Regenerative agriculture captured my attention because of what is happening to rural communities and our personal health. My family took over my grandfather’s 200 acre farm in the early 90’s. We practiced some holistic and organic techniques along with conventional methods. After leaving the farm to attend business school, I joined John Deere’s electronics division and then sold and managed a line of seeding monitors and telematics devices for a smaller ag tech company. In all of these roles, I needed to closely analyze the industry at-large from the perspectives of our competitors, partners, and customers. Over time I began to recognize some of the serious situations our modern farming and food production systems have created.
One of the first things I recognized was a perception by some organizations that farmers were wealthy. I noticed this impression was most strongly held by those who had not been raised on a farm, which is most people these days. It directly contradicts what I saw growing up in my community. You might see larger producers always driving the newest Ford or Chevy trucks, but you need to put that into context with the capital requirements of a farming operation. Most operations require huge operating loans to buy new equipment each year. A pickup truck is pennies compared to the numbers some of these guys are working with. Non-the-less, margins are thin…. When I started at Deere, many farmers were doing well as commodity prices climbed form 2006 to 2014. But if those growers didn’t invest their proceeds wisely they could easily have been wiped out in the decline which quickly followed. Cash crops like corn, soybeans, and wheat have very volatile trading markets based on global supply and demand. I always wondered how such an important job as feeding people paid so little.
The next thing I couldn’t reconcile was the sense of urgency around feeding the world. While at Deere, employees were sent mass emails with inspiring videos from the executives in Illinois. The videos expounded on the virtue of our work to satiate the never-ending human appetite. All 70,000 of us at Deere were regularly indoctrinated with this message. The issue was, when I got back to my work, I could see all of our effort was going into developing tremendously marginal improvements to yields and reduced chemical usage. Deere and the rest of the industry were pouring billions of dollars into minute equipment and genetic improvements. Things like 1” accuracy for satellite guidance, sprayers that apply chemical on a per plant basis, and crop strains that yield one more bushel in dry climates. Meanwhile it seemed like producers were paying through the nose to fund this R&D with their equipment, seed, and input costs. If indeed the world needs this level of mechanistic control and technology to feed itself, the situation seemed dire indeed… and if there’s such a global demand, why do crop prices remain so low that the federal government needs to subsidize the prices?
As far as I can tell, it is all due to the false assumption that the world’s population is exploding and there’s no slowing it down. On that premise we must charge full steam ahead and let someone else figure out what to do with our depleted soil and greenhouse gas emissions. This is all based on what may be the biggest misconception of our century. The truth is population growth is slowing and expected to start DECLINING before the end of this century. Yes, future generations may actually struggle more with issues of underpopulation versus overpopulation. We are inventing products to stuff our over-abundance of corn and soybean crops into. Much of it goes into unhealthy food products that add to our country’s sky-rocketing health care costs or into our gas tanks, reducing fuel efficiency.
Industrial agriculture companies can no longer justify destroying our soil, health, and climate based on fears about overpopulation. Farmers must take back their operations with regenerative practices. Here at Regenquity, we promote grower education and are building a network of partners with land owners and operators. We invite you along for the journey!
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There are many exciting advancements happening in the space right now. Some great documentaries have been released in the past few years as well as books and podcasts. Check out some of our favorites!