About 200 people showed up last Friday, October 4, to hear Gabe Brown talk about regenerative agriculture. It was a mix of farmers, students from a college in La Crosse, a group of Amish, some environmentalists, along with three people who drove all the way from Green Bay to hear Gabe talk. It was put on by the Tainter Creek Farmer-Led Watershed Council, along with Vernon County Land & Water. Woodhill Farms hosted it at their farm in Viroqua, WI. The event was from 10:00 – 3:00 with a lunch included. There was a $10 fee with all proceeds going to improving the Tainter Creek Watershed.
And who better to talk about regenerative agriculture than Gabe. He lives and breathes it. He has been doing it since 1993. In a really bad debt-ridden situation at his farm in North Dakota, he took the plunge and never looked back. The proof is in his soil.
How do you change the farming system you have been using all of your life to something you are thinking might not work? Gabe hammered home that you have to see things in a new way, and it is about profits and not yield. Several times he said this system works on all soils. He mentioned what he hears all the time, “But, Gabe, it won’t work on my soil.” He retorts with a, “Yes, it will!”
Slide after slide showed how important the work going on underneath the soil is. Regenerative agriculture is basically no till, planting cover crops, and rotation. By using no till, that keeps the carbon in the soil and out of the atmosphere, which is a big plus for the climate crisis. Cover crops add nutrients to the soil. It can be used with grazing or row crops. You have to have all three to be successful. It is all spelled out in Gabe’s book, “Dirt to Soil.”
You don’t have to tell any farmer that they are losing soil. Here in the Driftless area with all of the ridges and hills to contend with, erosion and runoff is a big problem. Monoculture crops using fertilizers and pesticides alone will deplete the soil. It is what to do about it, and regenerative agriculture has the solutions. It also reduces or totally eliminates the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Who doesn’t want to save money on those?
There are several other issues that farmers may not be aware of. That is, the runoff of those chemicals into lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers creates dead zones. That hurts the ecosystems, along with the fish count. Making sure your soil is covered all the time, which is another thing Gabe commented on over and over again, helps the people living in the valleys below. It can help reduce flooding. Cover crops give that water somewhere to go, and better soil can hold that extra water, too.
All in all, it was a great event sending everyone home with great solutions to improve their soil and the climate crisis. Gabe was asked how the future of regenerative agriculture looks. He said he is booked solid with speaking engagements until 2024.