Ancient Farming Lessons for the Future
Though UCSB doles out plenty of awards to faculty and students every year, they almost never go to citizen scientists, those folks who help academics collect data and provide critical insights while going about their daily lives. But next week, UCSB’s longtime leader Henry Yang will bestow the university’s top medal upon Narciso Torres, a Maya forest gardener and longtime collaborator with archaeologist Anabel Ford who will receive the Chancellor’s Award on January 12.
“Chancellor Yang is highlighting the importance of different ways of knowing and seeing,” explains Ford, who’s built a legendary career around her discoveries at El Pilar in western Belize. After achieving initial acclaim for unearthing the ancient ruins on the border of Guatemala, Ford soon realized that there was more to learn from people like Torres, who rely on generational knowledge to cultivate the region’s flora and fauna in sustainable ways that have much to teach us today.
“In this award,” said Ford, “the academy is opening its eyes and welcoming traditions born of the basic scientific method of trial and error, recognizing the wide range of contributions to the world of science.”
As Nebraska’s Regenerative Farming Movement Grows, Omaha’s Maya Youth Lead the Way
In Burt County this summer, rows and rows of identical corn fields painted a familiar and quintessentially Nebraska landscape — until you reached a quarter of an acre of land teeming with a diversity of crops near Lyons, about 70 miles northwest of Omaha.
12-year-old Evelyn, who did not share her last name for privacy, crouched down in a small patch of budding plants on a Saturday morning in June. With pale blue plastic gloves on her hands, she yanked weeds out of the earth and left the varied leafy crops between them rooted.
“We’re looking for the ones that are thicker,” Evelyn said in Spanish. She was among 14 other youth and adults of Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim in the field separating invasive weeds from budding vegetables for the First Acre Milpa summer program.
Regenerative Farming Makes Sense…and More Importantly, Dollars
When I quit my high-profile job at the University of Massachusetts 30 years ago and came home to farm in Nebraska, I started growing corn and alfalfa, relying on lots of inputs to maximize my yields. It didn’t take long for me to get disillusioned with high-input, chemical-based farming: After I paid all my bills, there was rarely any profit left for me.
Everyone talks about farming as a lifestyle. That may be true, but farming is a business first: If you want to keep doing it, you have to make a profit. Bankers don’t care how many bushels you produce. They want to be paid in dollars. They also want to see that your business is profitable!
My profits improved the first year I began farming regeneratively and organically. I’ve found that the key to maximizing profitability is to reduce or even eliminate inputs, and then add value on the marketing end. Not only are my seed costs lower than conventional GMO seed costs, I’m also immune to all the outrageous fertilizer prices — which are now three to four times higher than what they were a couple years ago. I haven’t purchased any chemicals or commercial fertilizers in over 20 years. My cattle graze year-round and are integrated into my cropping system using an Adaptive Multi-Paddock (AMP) system. This symbiotic relationship improves soil health and fertility. Using these practices, I’ve been able to increase the soil organic matter on my crop fields from 1.5% to over 6%.
Winnebago Tribe Turns to Organic Farming, Looks to Build Future of Food Sovereignty
Aaron LaPointe stood before a large map on his office wall in Ho-Chunk Inc. headquarters just as harvest season got underway. The map details all 178 square miles of the Winnebago Reservation in northeast Nebraska. It also depicts a success story for the tribe.
“We have 6,400 acres this year that we farm,” LaPointe said, pointing out color-coded land plots on the map. “We’re pretty much spread out all across the reservation.”
That wasn’t always the case. For years, harmful federal policies uprooted the Winnebago people, and tribal lands often were sold or leased to White farmers at rates that were below the true value of the land.
In 2012, the Winnebago Tribe aimed to change course by developing a land-leasing policy that furthered opportunities for Native American farmers to lease tribal land. The policy shift has brought an estimated $10 million to $12 million to the tribe.
Practical Farmers of Iowa November 2022: Graham Christensen
Graham Christensen farms with his family near Omaha, Nebraska, where they grow 800 acres of non-GMO corn and soybeans and are experimenting with contract grazing their cover crops. They have grown non-GMO corn for almost 15 years and non-GMO soybeans for the last two years.
The business case for non-GMO: Raising non-GMO crops has been financially advantageous for the Christensens. “We pay less in seed and are seeing a premium on our product in the marketplace,” says Graham.
MILPA: GROWING FOOD IN HARMONY WITH NATURE
Nebraska farmer Graham Christensen teams up with members of Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim, a local Maya community center, to plant and harvest a milpa garden.
Milpa, the ancient Indigenous tradition of intercropping, provides multiple benefits to the grower and the community, as well as the soil, the broader ecosystem and the long-term health of our planet.
LET’S FOCUS ON PROFIT PER ACRE: KEVIN FULTON’S STORY
Kevin Fulton is a farmer in Nebraska who raises cattle regeneratively and grows organic corn and soybeans.
Kevin has escaped from under the thumb of corporate agriculture monopolies by prioritizing profit over yield.
Here’s his story!
MIDLANDS VOICES: AGRICULTURE CAN BE PART OF THE SOLUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGES
Agriculture accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to chemical contamination of water resources, but it is uniquely situated to be part of the solution. Agriculture can provide effective actions to mitigate climate change, reduce its impacts and improve water quality while increasing productivity. And the key lies in the soil under our feet.
Effective actions revolve around making sure soil is healthy and alive. When soil has depleted topsoil or little humus, few worms or fungi and other microorganisms, lacking texture and structure, it is no longer an organized living ecosystem. Over years of customary farming practices, most soils have lost organic matter, surface armor, ability to absorb heavy rains and shifted and depleted their biological diversity.
FARMERS AND RANCHERS ON THE BENEFITS AND BARRIERS OF ADOPTING REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE
Regenerate America™ Farmer Leadership Council members Wayne Swanson Jr., Dawn Breitkreutz, and Graham Christensen speak on the impacts that adopting regenerative ag has had for their land and businesses, as well as the role of USDA conservation programs in acting as a barrier or benefit.
SOIL HEALTH PRACTICES AND PROGRAMS THAT SUPPORT REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE
Regenerate America ™ is excited to announce they will be returning to D.C. to participate in the House Ag Committee’s historic hearing on regenerative agriculture!
The hearing, hosted by Representative David Scott (D-GA-13) and titled “Soil Health Practices and Programs that Support Regenerative Agriculture” will be the first of the House Ag Committee that is dedicated solely to this topic.
Regenerate America™ will be represented by Indiana farmer Rick Clark, who will testify about his experience of dramatically reducing input costs and chemicals on his 7,000 acres of regenerative-organic row crops.