Creating “Aha” Moments
AWAKENING CONGRESS TO THE POSSIBILITY OF REGENERATION:
A Year of Regenerative Farm Tours
Soil is our common ground—we know this is true, and we also know that by uniting citizens, farmers, ranchers, landowners, non-profits, and companies around this idea, regeneration is possible. But in order to enact federal policy reform, it will require support from those who will be writing and voting on the next Farm Bill.
Beginning in November 2021, Regenerate America has been bringing Congress out to the field—regenerative fields!—to provide highly personalized tours for them and their staff. The goal of these regenerative farm tours is to bring legislators from across the political spectrum out to regenerative farms in their districts to showcase what it looks like when healthy soil is centered in a farming system. Led by the farm or ranch manager, with support from a KTG soil expert, these tours have allowed policymakers to become deeply connected to their constituents that are practicing regenerative agriculture.
In the past year, Regenerate America has worked with farmers, ranchers, and coalition partners to arrange tours for members of Congress all across the country. As we reflect on a year of field days, read about some key moments or watch the video recap here!
On November 9, 2021, Regenerate America Farmer Leadership Council member Graham Christensen led a tour for staff of former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. A fifth generation farmer, Graham is implementing regenerative practices on the family farm in Burt County, Nebraska with a focus on building environmental and community resilience. He was joined by Angela Knuth, also a Regenerate America Farmer Leadership Council member, and Luis Marcos of Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim. All were able to share their stories of regeneration with staff that were eager to hear what barriers they faced and how policy change could support their work—Reyn Archer, the former Congressman’s Chief of staff, told the group that their “passion and drive has touched our hearts and seared in our brains some critical things we might do to help drive your success forward.”
Later that month, on November 13, 2021, Congressman Jimmy Panetta traveled to Paicines Ranch in Paicines, California for a tour of the regenerative vineyards and rangelands. The Congressman and his District Director were able to watch ranch manager Kelly Mulville conduct a water infiltration test to demonstrate the incredible rates, and participate in a Brix test, which examines plant sap as an indicator of plant health and immunity.
Images from White Buffalo Land Trust
In February 2022, Rep. Salud Carbajal visited Jalama Canyon Ranch near Lompoc, California for a tour hosted by Farmer Leadership Council member Jesse Smith. The land was acquired by White Buffalo Land Trust in 2021, and they are currently working to implement regenerative practices that include rehabilitated vineyards, orchards, and pasturelands. Rep. Carbajal is a strong champion for sustainable agriculture and efforts to improve conditions for agricultural workers, and the tour was an incredible opportunity to showcase how large-scale projects can yield systemic benefits for land, economy, and local community.
Images from White Buffalo Land Trust
Across the Western United States, drought conditions in recent years have reached increasingly critical levels, making it even more imperative to work with the land in ways that mimic more natural climatic cycles. Both California Congressman were interested in seeing how regenerative practices can improve water retention and increase environmental resilience.
Image courtesy of OrCAN
On October 08, 2022, Regenerate America collaborated with Oregon Climate & Agriculture Network (OrCAN) to hold a farm tour with Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s district staff. The tour was hosted by Campfire Farms, a regenerative livestock farm outside of Portland, Oregon. Campfire Farms has a pasture-raised farming approach that honors their animals’ instincts and implements their quick rotation, which includes spreading out their manure and improving the growth of forage and cover crops that they seed continuously.
Most recently, on October 14, 2022, the staff of Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson attended a tour hosted by one of Regenerate America ‘s farmer friends, Russ Wilson of Wilson Land & Cattle Co. in Tionesta, Pennsylvania. Russ Wilson focuses on educating other farmers on the importance of soil health while raising low-input cattle through regenerative practices. The field day was arranged in partnership with Clarion Conservation District and Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, and wrapped with a farmer-led discussion of how the 2023 U.S. Farm Bill can support soil health.
During a Farm Bill discussion at the end of the event, Russ Wilson and Michael Kovach shared this view: “In 100 years, regenerative agriculture will be the only type of farming because those are the only types of farms that will survive what’s to come.”
Image from Pasa Sustainable Agriculture
Seeing is believing. Farm tours have proven to be one of the best ways to create truly impactful “aha” moments around the incredible opportunities available through the adoption of regenerative agriculture. These tours provide lawmakers the first hand experience of seeing the myriad benefits of regenerative agriculture, and how these operations contrast with their conventional neighbors. From massive cost savings on inputs to increased yield stability and new market opportunities, if the takeaways from these tours are taken back to Congress, then together, we can Regenerate America!