How to bridge the worldviews of organic agriculture and chemical farming - Episode 72

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In this week's episode...
Scott Koepke has the science, facts, experience (and battle scars) with organic, regenerative and traditional farming that has convinced many chemical farmers that he is way onto something of great value. Listen as Jeffrey Smith brings out stories that you can deepen your understanding, which you can share widely.
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Notes for this week's Podcast
This week's Transcript


Speaker 2: (00:09)
I'm Jeffrey Smith and I get to interview Scott cupcake. Now, Scott, you are, um, not only a farmer and gardener, but an educator, someone that has used farming to bridge gaps to understand, to teach you. Have you had a program for education on, on gardening and farming for kids called soil mates, which I love that name. I hope to steal it sometime. You've worked in the juvenile correctional system on horticulture therapy, where you sit down where they, where they plant and it, no, it doesn't not something else. Uh, and you're, you're now, uh, you've been worked with Rodale, uh, you're, you're a farm manager of a, um, Indian Creek nature center. Uh, and you have a whole history of, of not just understanding proper organic farming and regenerative agriculture, but sharing it and talking about it in a way that gets people excited, because you were talking to a staff member of mine and she was so excited after talking to you. It was like, you got to have Scott on. I w I was thinking, we talked for now. I was buzzing afterwards. It was like, she doesn't normally say that she's been, she's a mild-mannered person. That's been dealing with this issue for years, and you just lit a fire under her, so welcome. And you can light a fire under us out on Facebook. Welcome Scott.

Speaker 3: (01:42)
Oh, Jeffrey. Thank you so much for inviting me. It's an honor. Absolute honor. To talk to you and Bethany, when I got to meet Bethany. Yeah. We had a great conversation and that's what it's all about is having some great conversations and trying to find some, some common ground we can build upon. Uh, the other, the other job I had before I got here was a hunger relief farm. I helped co-found, that's still going in Johnson County grow Johnson County. And, uh, but yeah, now I'm at the Indian Creek nature center. So I'm at the farm right now in Marianne, just North of the nature centers. Uh, I put in a seven acre permaculture field. I've got, uh, an apiary with, uh, lots of good beehives. I've got a layer, henhouse, poultry operation, a hoophouse, and we, we built a nutrient reduction berm to capture nitrogen and phosphorous runoff.

Speaker 3: (02:34)
Just, just, just a model, another way of, of, uh, mitigating water coming off the tiles. So, yeah, it's, it's a, it's a wonderful, uh, part of my career that I feel like I'm on the last lap of that career by the, by the way. But, uh, yeah, I've been able to, I've been able to squeeze a lot of rewarding work into all of this, uh, coming up until now. And it started for me in the peace Corps. I was a Corps volunteer right out of college, and that's where I started getting the passion that maybe Bethany picked up on for soil, the soil science and just the community building that comes with growing food, um, growing relationships, uh, all that. But, uh, yeah, and then I, this last year or so, let's see, how long has it been? A couple of years ago? I was asked to step into a role that I increasingly am finding myself in as a bridge builder.

Speaker 3: (03:27)
People all be that. And I don't, I didn't know what it meant at first until I was actually at the table with agriculture stakeholders from all worlds. Um, and, uh, this was at the Lynn County board of supervisors, food systems council. So I was asked to come in and facilitate that group. And that's where I started to really understand, um, the need more now, more than ever, uh, to have, um, a forum where we can sit down and, and pry too. I say, try because it often doesn't work as you know, to identify something that, that, that is a concern census on a fact to, just to just to try to identify something. I mean, I've never lived in a time. I don't, I'm not going to speak for you, but it's just stunning that, that, uh, we have lot trust. That's what, that's the foundation of it for me is if we don't have a foundation of trust in any relationship, we can't move forward on building anything.

Speaker 3: (04:34)
So I have to constantly go back to what am I doing to build that foundation of trust? And, um, so at the, at the Lynn County, uh, food systems council, I started this thing. It wasn't my original idea, but I call it the code of humility. Um, the more I point this finger, the more I get another finger back sometimes. And I learned that the hard way. Um, and I think, yeah, like as a younger man, I know as a younger man, I was much more of a hothead. And that rhetoric that I used was, was divisive unnecessarily. So, and so I was really challenging myself in my path to, to really focus on how I talk about talking, what words matter as, you know, words really, they really matter. And, um, so this code, if humility kind of, it's an informal thing, but what it does is encourage people to walk into any meeting and you can take this for whatever, whatever you're doing in life.

Speaker 3: (05:36)
And you can walk into a meeting and really kind of con you know, just subconsciously think about this phrase. I'm not always right. You're not always right. Let's try to find something in the middle and build from there. And that little acknowledgement of fallibility has really served me well, because it sets the tone of it's not shrill. It's not strident, it's not preachy. It's, it's, it's just, and we all just take a deep breath and admit that, you know, I'm going to be wrong a lot in my life. I have been, I will be. And so will you, but that's okay. That's, that's eternal education. And the minute you turn that off and say, Oh, I got it all figured out. I don't need to hear anymore. Well, that that's a problem for me, because then I need to challenge that. I need to say, you know, so anyway,

Speaker 2: (06:39)
I want to add something, Scott, um, people on this, uh, Facebook group, Facebook page and people, I reach out to a lot. Um, they don't like Monsanto. And I would say even more, so many of them love to hate mindset. Um, Monsanto has, has described, has, has actually confirmed its role as an organization, uh, uh, corporation that does avoid looking at the truth that does sacrifice human health for profit. And we have that, but what happens is there's a tendency to spill that onto chemical farmers, chemical farmers get certain information, they have a certain culture. And if someone who is involved with organic or regenerative or whatnot or permaculture, and they say, Oh, this is a traditional farmer using Roundup ready crops and loves the Monsanto system. People would paint them with that brush. And I find that that's a very serious problem in terms of bridging, bridging the gap.

Speaker 2: (07:52)
And I know even from my own experience, I remember the first time I was traveling around the world, speaking on GMOs might just written the book seeds of deception. And, uh, within two months I had very interesting responses cause I'm a friendly person. So the first one I went to Brazil a month after I launched my book and there, I gave a talk and one of the top, maybe the top university in the country as part of a conference. And there was someone that was just angry at me. He was a molecular biologist and was considering everything I said wrong. And he did it. He stayed up all night creating an anti Jeffrey Smith PowerPoint and gave his talk. And then we went out to dinner together.

Speaker 3: (08:42)
Oh, I got to tell you about, okay, go ahead.

Speaker 2: (08:44)
Right. So we went out to dinner together and like we started, we were, we were having a beautiful conversation. There was a several of us, but he and I were across the, across the table from each other. And I was just so friendly. He was expecting me to be scowling at him for his anti Jeffrey Smith. But I decided to just go deeper into knowledge and deeper into knowledge and deeper into knowledge and deeper knowledge. And at the end, he said, thank you so much. I will never write off anti GMO activists again as anti-science. And non-scientific you have completely changed my thinking. And then a month later, when I was actually two weeks before I was at the world trade organization, speaking to one of the Monsanto smokes people, so to speak and I was friendly and happy and whatnot. And then I met one of his colleagues that I was debating with two months later, he goes, I heard about you you're with your, they were the friendly one. So, so it's a combination of humility, like in terms of knowledge, like, I don't know everything, but in this case I actually knew more than they did on the subject. They didn't know that what I knew, but I was friendly. Go ahead. Take it.

Speaker 3: (09:54)
Well, I was just going to say, I'm, I'm going to err, on the side of philosophy and ethics as opposed to science, because I, I definitely, I mean, I would challenge most of us to be able to even define what a clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeat is, CRISPR know. So I'm just amazed that I can even still remember that, but

Speaker 2: (10:16)
I've never tried to memorize it yet. Yeah.

Speaker 3: (10:18)
Anyway, so, but I guess my point is, is that I have to re before I forget, go back to you're breaking bread with this gentlemen, I have launched, I just wrote a piece for the Gazette before the election. Um, I'm part, I'm a part of their writers' circle. And so every now and then I get to just throw something at the wall and see what sticks with what I'm thinking. So this particular piece was on humor on the theme of humility, but at the very end, I talked about this vision I have of an organization called break bread together. Will we just with, with, with people that I'm fundamentally opposed to, um, politics, whatever, just set that aside for one meal and just, just sit down. And again, this is not a novel idea either. I mean, most of my stuff is derivative, but I'm putting a new twist on it in my neighborhood to have a chance to just sit down with these people and share a meal and just talk about, tell me your story.

Speaker 3: (11:16)
Um, I'll tell you my story. You tell me your story. I'm going to sit here and listen, shut that off and just listen to you. Okay. Actively, and let's share a meal and I guarantee you, when you do that, it's all kinds of research that shows that, that one act of sharing a meal, then sets the tone that I keep talking about for going forward on greater civility. So I'm so glad you brought that up because the common ground we do have is food. And so, you know, um, I, you know, I have one, you know, when I did my hunger relief farm and I'm still involved with them a little bit, but not much as I, I don't have time for that or horticulture therapy much anymore, but I hope to have a chance to get back to that. Um, you know, we can talk about the ethics of food production, all we want and we should.

Speaker 3: (12:06)
Um, but I'm working on a project now on large-scale edible beans that I call profitable pandemic protein, where at scale we have, we have the opportunity in zone five eight to really ramp up the markets and the, uh, the capacity for growing. You know, I've, I've already worked with a guy on black beans for a long time, Pintos kidneys at Zuki. Uh, we have all kinds of opportunities right here in our backyard, um, to, to, to grow more of that real food. Okay. At scale and provide a profitable, diverse, diversified market for the five guys in my neighborhood that I can look around right here. Mike, Jim, Dan, Brad, Kevin, all these guys are my buddies. They're conventional farmers. Okay. But I don't, I gotta feed their kids too. You know, I mean, they're, they're, they're in a system. Okay. And, and so we, we get along great because that's, I can lean over the fence and have, and share a beer with these guys and just be real and talk about, um, just what our common ground is and what I have for whatever it's worth.

Speaker 3: (13:17)
The common ground that I have found, um, is that, well, biodome, I call, I call this farm biodiversity university. When I give a tour of it, we take a walk and I'm really trying to point out and model the biodiversity that's possible in an acreage like size. Um, and so when I ask a simple question, um, on the theme of diversity about diet, for instance, and these guys know where I'm going before I even finished my sentence. And I'll just say, do you only eat one thing like now, do you only have one thing in your investment portfolio now? I mean, a diversified investment portfolio is, is smart, right? Yeah. You got me there. I'm saying, well, I'll have, and then we laugh and then we can laugh. And we're not mad at each other. We're just, we're sharing common ground on the wisdom of diversification, in a diet, an investment portfolio and an ecosystem.

Speaker 3: (14:19)
And so when I can get someone to understand the ancient, ancient wisdom of biodiversity, that we are losing on this planet exponentially, as you know, at rates that can't even be quantified when we try to rediscover that biodiversity in these systems beyond just corn and soybeans, we can, in my view to, uh, lead to greater consistency in weather systems, for instance, where in my career, Jeffrey, I don't know about you, but I mean, in my career, I, to be able to kind of predict from April to October, the timely rain cycles, when to get in, when to get out, um, in the last several years, uh, it could snow on July 4th. I don't know. I mean, it's been, it's been 75 degrees on January 1st, and then it goes, and then the rollercoaster is such an extreme. And all I'm trying to say is I think that when you sacrifice diversity and systems, you sacrifice balance and systems.

Speaker 3: (15:24)
So I don't care if it's my diet, my investments, my ecosystem, when I sacrifice diversity, I sacrifice balance in that system. And so to go back. So, so what I'm trying to say is I can find some common ground with, with anybody on just an acknowledgement of the wisdom of that. And secondly, with, with farmers who, you know, you want to, you want to define sustainability, how about prob profitability? You know, if I ain't making money, I ain't farming. So we got to come back to profits, as it's not evil to pay your bills, you got to make money. Right? And so what I can do is talk to them about modeling profitability, through different diverse systems, um, and, and saving money. Okay. So cost savings is another. You want to get someone's attention. You can talk about cost savings on lower end.

Speaker 2: (16:15)
I love that. I mean, I, I find that what gets me excited about gathering information as part of my toolkit to bring to the world about the benefits of organic, uh, regenerative non-GMO agriculture is to talk about the profit per acre, um, because all of the soy and corn farmers and cotton farmers and all that, they all know the profit per acre that they're getting. And sometimes in Iowa, back when I was living there two decades ago, the profit breaker was like $14 or a hundred dollars, $20 really low, you know, and they were just basically living on subsidies. And I, around that time, I was interviewing, um, a permaculturist who had two acres. And one of those acres was usually fellow. So he was basically growing on one acre, but he was growing very specific high-end things for, for specialty markets. And he was making a hundred thousand dollars a year. So he was making $50,000 per acre. And it was like, if you talk to someone who's making, you know, $50 an acre, they go, what? Uh, so it, it gets the attention.

Speaker 3: (17:29)
Well. Yeah. And you would think you would, again, you would think the cost savings would be a common ground, but I have also found that even that can sometimes be divisive because I'm threatening the corporate interest of the seed and chemical dealer who taps me on the shoulder and says, Hey dude, don't tell Jim and Randy and Dave to stop buying my stuff. So anyway, so, but at least we've been able to identify one thing that the diversity with, and

Speaker 2: (17:54)
I will, I will acknowledge you. See, I want to have a big tent, absolutely. Everyone in the tent. And I'm also going to say that the chemical input model is based on dependency and high chemical use and monoculture typically purchasing seeds each year from the catalogs, as opposed to saving seeds in the crops that are available. And I realized that if we put that agenda forward, there's going to be some companies where if they hold on to their particular business model, they're going to suffer.

Speaker 3: (18:38)
Yeah. And they know that they know that they have people. I mean, in my backyard, I can point down the road here and I can see Cargill, ADM ingredient, GM I'm in the heart of it. Okay. But, but they all, they all have, I'm privy to a little bit of inside baseball with some of these boards. Now I know people who know people who tell me, yeah. I mean, they're, they're having the same discussion. I'm having it because they see the writing on the wall. They're an executive session as we speak right now, trying to come up with the next big thing and what are we going to do to diversify our portfolio. So, but what, what, I'll, I'll throw a wrench in this whole thing though, too, because I told Bethany, and this is what I think maybe caught her interest too. It's, it's not widely talked about, but it's something I brought up at food systems council, and I deal with every day on steering committees and, you know, and I used to not to, but, but again, I want to make a distinction in scale Jeffrey between my seven acres and the 7,000 across the road.

Speaker 3: (19:31)
So it's a totally different ag game, language, economics, markets, politics, everything. When I go from seven acres of permaculture to 7,000, I just knocked that over 7,000 acres of, uh, row crops. So w at that level, I'll just cut to the chase and make it short and simple. But at that level, the systemic challenges to profitable diversification don't have anything to do with the farmer. It has everything to do with a, the bank, the ag lender calls the shots and the seed dealer calls the shots. So if I don't have, and by the way, um, and again, I'm kind of playing devil's advocate here to push back a little bit so that we can all kind of think about this stuff from the perspective of my, my neighbors and get into, get on the, in the boots, get in the boots of my boys across the fence, and really try to listen, listen, listen, listen to their stories.

Speaker 3: (20:30)
I'll tell you, I'll give you an exact quote, exact quote from Jim next door. When I first moved down here, he says, Scotty, it's not up to me. It's not up to me about what I do on my phone. It's my bank. It's, you know, it's up to my land owner, Jeff Reed, you know that, I'm sure you do 51% or more. Most. We just tipped over an Iowa into a majority statistic. Most of the farmers in Iowa don't own their land. That is a staggering implication. So when you talk to a guy, my good old boys who are doing, they're just doing their best. They're in a system where the bank tells them what to do. The seed dealer tells them what to do. The land owner tells them what to do. So if I come at them saying, Oh girl, black beans, they're like, screw you.

Speaker 3: (21:21)
I don't, I don't have that choice. I would love to grow black beans. A do you have the market? The market is the horse, the farmers, the cart. This is not a field of dreams. This is not a field of dreams. It's not a garden of Eden. You don't just grow it in. They come at that scale. Now I can get away with a little more creativity in my career. With five acres of vegetables here, seven acres of permaculture, their garden projects, urban ag farmer's markets, direct sale to restaurants, CSA. That model's great. That will always be the foundation of my local food activism. But now I'm playing with the big boys. Now I'm going across the road with thousands of acres. Okay. And in order to move the ball forward on any diversification of another grain or lagoon, because it's only going to be a grain or lagoon, I'm not going to put in 7,000 acres of okra, it's going to be 7,000 acres of a grain or a lagoon.

Speaker 3: (22:19)
And so if it's not going to be corn and soy, what are the options? So we go down the list, we whiteboard it. I've been in thousands of meetings, like your white board. All we could do this, we could do that. We could do this. Yeah. But guess what? We can't do that because 2021 is already in the can 20, 20 twos. Budget's already in the can the market contracts for 20, 22, 2023. You know what I'm saying? I mean, you start projecting out at that scale, the reality of the game, you need to play with market contracts, with those institutional procurement directors and the ag lenders who aren't going to help you out. And you realize, Oh, we need to create the market first. And we do. And we are, and I'm really, really, really encouraged by, by some of the momentum I'm getting, I'm going into 2021 taking the garbage of life and making compost, because we have got a lot of garbage that we can, we can transform it into some, some really healthy compost.

Speaker 3: (23:18)
And it starts at that scale with trying to identify the barriers, the systemic barriers in terms of finance infrastructure, markets to diversification. Um, and then as you mentioned too, at that level, you've got a lot of, at that level. I mean, federal level, you've got a lot of commodity reform that needs to occur. You need crop insurance reform, you need commodity reform. Um, and that's a battle. You don't wanna talk about battle scars in your intro. You know, all, I don't know, there are times when I toy with jumping into that game and fun, but at the same time it's so, and I've been in it at a local level, but I don't know if I have that patient, the anger management or core patients for that, because I I've, I feel like I've, I'm kind of exhausted by that at argument. And I kinda need to, at that point, when I feel myself stretched too thin at that low that's when I have to just go back into the soil, literally get down on my knees, get in my sacred space and model the behavior that I would love others to consider. Just do the work, just model it, just be it. Instead of, um, getting, you know, trying to go to DC and convince Tom Vilsack again, now that he needs to, as, as an Iowa boy, he needs to step up his reform measures on some key things that, that need, that, that need to occur for that systemic change to occur. But I guess I go back to the triangle of the farmer, the banker and the, and the, the market director and those that triangle. We were not connecting the dots on that enough. So

Speaker 2: (25:06)
Challenge you here then Scott, you got the 7,000, uh, anchor person across the way. Um, let's pretend for a moment that he's, or she's ready to try something, but needs to have the structure there with the same level of security that they have. Now. I know one friend of mine, who's the largest organic grain dealer in the country.

Speaker 3: (25:34)
[inaudible] Montana police. No, no

Speaker 2: (25:38)
ADM. It's a Lynn Clarkson, um, organic and specialty grain with, for the, these things. And so he'll go in and he'll have a certain way that he works with the farmer and he'll have the market, he'll know what he wants to sell it. And you can't sell it through the grain silos. You have to sell it through, you know, train, train, and tug and barge. So you have to have the, the, the, you have to know where you're going to send it because it can't be mixed into the commodity market. He's got to have the buyer he's got to then work with the particular seed and get it tested to make sure it works. In other words, there's a hole he could pay comes in representing a system and the person's ready to do it now. That's if you have that, if you have that ability, and even then it can't be with people who aren't near the river for the barges or the other truck routes and whatnot. So how

Speaker 3: (26:31)
Do you, what, what would we,

Speaker 2: (26:34)
One, how do you convince them, which is one discussion? How do you convince them to be on board and two, if they're on board, but how do you it, so that they actually can make the transformation. Let's start with the second one. How, if you've convinced them, what can you do to switch the chemical farmer to the organic or regenerative? And then once we figured that out, maybe that'll help us inform on what do we say?

Speaker 3: (26:59)
Well, let's just go back to again, distinctions of scale. And I'm not going to arbitrarily draw a line in the sand with a number, but, but I will, I will go up to 200 acres and more, and then make the distinction between an, if a farm is 200 acres or less, let's just start there. Um, and before I forget, I'm thinking about a couple of other things, as you were talking, come into the picture at scale, with regards to fungal pressure, um, the storage of the grain, dry storage, test, weight, price, point, quality control, all that stuff at, at scale, um, it's, they are deal breakers, but they're, they're legitimate, uh, infrastructure needs that we don't have currently set up the peace of mind neighborhood. I mean, North of us in Minnesota, they've got a pretty, pretty big edible, dry bean production, Michigan, of course, Idaho, but I want Iowa to be on the map and I think we can.

Speaker 3: (28:02)
And when I'm getting the ball rolling on that, but I want to go to the elephant in the room, Jeffrey and that's weeds and weed management. I talked to Bethany about this briefly, and I talk about it wherever I talk, because it, it is truly the elephant in the room at scale about why my, my conventional friends will not consider transitioning. And it's because, uh, and it's nothing, it's nothing new, but it's something we have to acknowledge is the reason in my humble opinion, why people walk away from me saying, Scott, you had me until weeds. You cannot. And I'm, again, I'm exaggerating a small amount of time. We have here I'm to exaggerate to make a point. But, uh, I mean, I'm going through Moses certification right now on my poultry and botany. And so I'm still in my 36 month transition period, but, uh, I'm going to be certified organic at the end of the year.

Speaker 3: (29:04)
And again, but it's, it's a totally different context. It's seven acres. It's not 7,000. So when w let let's, let's look at grains, um, you know, Bob Quinn, he's one of my grain mentors out West. You know, he said to me at one city, he and I were at Rodale. In fact, last summer, two summers ago, Bob and I were at Rodale. And he wrote, and I reminded him of something. He reminded me when he was our keynote. Um, he came in, he was our keynote at the Iowa organic conference a few years ago, Kathleen and I had him come in. Um, and, and Bob said to me, he said, Scotty, your grain is your herbicide.

Speaker 3: (29:41)
Wow. I love that because you're so intensively sewing it. And in his case, it's commute. You're so intensively sewing this grain, you've totally out competed weed pressure. And again, he's in, he's in Montana or something where you've got like 10 inches of rain a year. So he has a totally different zone of hydration and stuff. But what hit the point he was trying to make is that, you know, if I'm a large scale grain producer, who's diversified beyond corn, I can get away with a little more creative weed management without having to go to atrazine because of the intense drilling of, of my grain. When you go to legumes and pulses, however, Geoffrey that's when you're starting to have to, you have to spread out your rows. Most guys around here and soybeans are doing, you know, 30 inch rows. Some are doing 15. I know a guy down the road, Jason's doing seven, which is just way tight, way tight.

Speaker 3: (30:35)
Most guys won't ever even think about going seven inch rows on soybeans, but you still have now seven inches of weeds. Okay. Now you can get a cultivator in there, but good luck on something over 200 acres with the labor required to get in there and make multiple passes on weed management. When you're doing, um, you know, the rotary hoe and the flamer and the zapper and the roller crimper and all this stuff. That's great that we have for mechanical weed management in organic systems for farms that are small. Okay. So all I'm trying to say, and even Jeff at Rodale agrees with me on this because they fight this all the time. You know, in fact, I just got, I just found a t-shirt of mine from the mid seventies when I was detasseling corn for funks hybrids, back in the mid seventies, I found that like one of the first t-shirts they ever made on my detasseling crew and the phrase was true then, and it's true now, clean fields, high yields.

Speaker 3: (31:39)
That's what drives the decision-making okay. If optics is everything in my neighborhood, you know, I look over at my guy down the road. If he's got, if he's got a field full of Fox tail, I'm not going to talk to him about organic methods. You can't control weeds. Okay. So I just wanted to make the point very clearly that weed management at scale is the bugaboo for moving forward on transitioning. Now we've got some creative stuff coming down the road that we'll be able to mitigate that with rotations. Um, the reason I mentioned bleakness is cause I just got off the phone last week with 10,000 acres in Montana, they've done, they do lots of large-scale grains and pulses. And I was really picking their brain hard about weed management at scale on a, they do lots of chickpeas and lentils. And, um, it was great because they, because they don't have as much fungal pressure because the less hydration they can, they can really intensively so their, their pulses. So, uh, they don't have to, they don't have to worry about some of the same pressures we have here, here.

Speaker 2: (32:47)
Like w what Bob, I mean, Bob is also a friend of mine too. Um, how does he, how does he say that your grain is your herbicide and does that apply to a 7,000 acre farm in Iowa or just in his zone with tennis?

Speaker 3: (33:05)
Yeah. And that's the challenge. Jeffrey is that we need to have more, and this is where I bring in academics to help me to partner with me on variety trials and breeding trials and weed management methods. And, but again, all the weed management tools that we have, sorry, the light's kind of shifted into my office here a little bit. Um, when, when we start shifting into, um,

Speaker 2: (33:31)
Wait a minute, we're talking about weed management, 7,000 acres, when you get the, except to me, the academics, cause it's like, there's so little money for research in the USDA budget for non chemical.

Speaker 3: (33:45)
Well, yeah. And we're going to see, here's the thing I don't mean to be crass or cynical about this, but I do. I do. I'm pretty sure that there were some R and D folks, as we speak, who are getting real ready to pull the trigger on, rolling out an Omri approved pre-emergent herbicide. That's going to be sprayed intensively on 7,000 acres in April to just basically nuke all of that. Pre-emergent weed pressure, but it will be organic. And there's going to be, I mean, if you think CRISPR is a, is a hot debate now in the organic world with defectors, like Klaus and Cornell and genetic literacy project, and all these folks who are trying to have this discussion with, with me and you and everybody in a civil way, if you thought that was divisive, you know, wait until we get to the, the rollout of the pre-emergent organic herbicide, because when that happens, then everyone's going to be organic and then nothing matters. We're all the same. Right? I can control my weeds. That's that's the last pin in the, in the game that I needed to secure before I would get my bank and my market to get me certified. And, and I think that that maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'm wrong,

Speaker 2: (35:04)
But I'm still coming back to you, Scott, what's the answer. I mean, you said that, how do we get the 7,000 acre, uh, monocrop chemical farmer to give, I mean, is the answer. We don't have the answer yet, but we need to invest in academics to,

Speaker 3: (35:21)
Yeah. Well, I'll tell you this. It's a cultural mindset, mind shift that has to occur in weeds because, you know, look at a certain point that like going back to my funk, Wagnalls, t-shirt clean, clean fields, just ain't going to happen. Well, I know I've

Speaker 2: (35:38)
Heard this, we're obsessed with it, but I've heard this for years. That there's a, there's a once, once Roundup ready, came in, there was a sense of clean field was what the psyche required for a Midwest farmer, because he couldn't, you didn't want to show some on your fields if it had weeds along there, somehow that was, uh, a problem. And so nuking, all of the other plant biodiversity became the op the visual stunning goal of Midwest agriculture. So, okay. If you let's forget the objects for a second, do you have a situation where you can allow for certain weeds in the row and you're still making the same amount of money or more?

Speaker 3: (36:24)
Well, the canopy is everything. So it, you know, and mother nature is everything. So a lot of, you know, if you're mechanically cultivating you simply sometimes, and again, I'm kind of going back to 200 acres or less. I know you want me, I want to push myself.

Speaker 2: (36:39)
I, I, I'm not going to be satisfied with a 200 acre for less solution for the world, but we can, we can start it

Speaker 3: (36:46)
Well. Okay. I'm just trying to make the point that like, there are times when I can't get in the field because of mud. Okay. Uh, more often than not, it's either feast or famine it's drought or flood. I don't have balanced anymore. Like a going back to that imbalance, that predictably unpredictable situation of, Oh, can I get in today? Oh, no. I thought I could get in today. Oh yeah. Can I go into my can't get in tomorrow? Oh, the window's closing. Oh, there goes the weed pressure and I still can't get in to cultivate. So I can't tell, I can't catch a break on weather. So if I get, if I've got my soybeans growing and my weeds are starting to eclipse the canopy, there comes a certain point where if I can't get in to cultivate, then I kind of have to just call it a loss.

Speaker 3: (37:35)
I mean, I just talked to a guy I'm not going to name names cause he doesn't want, he wouldn't want me to, but uh, I just talked to a guy before the holidays where he lost a couple hundred acres of soybeans, organic soybeans, because he just, he could not get in to cultivate and it turned into a foxtail package and you can have, I mean, I'm not, I'm not a row crop expert. I'm more veggie guy, but you know, you've got equipment that can clean up that mess. And when it's combined, you know, so you can have weed pressure. It's just, I think it comes back to that cultural optics thing.

Speaker 2: (38:11)
But you know, the, the Rodel has done the side-by-side GMO versus organic for years and before GMOs, it was conventional versus organic. And the organic on the soy and corn were out performing or even they were even, they were either even yield or on days on seasons of drought, they were outperforming, but substantially and they had, what is it? 40, less required inputs.

Speaker 3: (38:38)
I think that sounds about right. So,

Speaker 2: (38:40)
You know, there's an answer right there. So if they stay with soy and corn and there is a market for them and they have Rodale's information and say, okay, switch to these particular types of varieties and here's what Rodale did now, you can make more money.

Speaker 3: (38:56)
Well, and we've got to have more, I'm really hoping to roll out some bridal trials here that will, that we'll look at the metrics of disease, resistance, tolerance, drought tolerance, um, stand strength is another big one on legumes. Um, all of the fungal pressures, all of the creative, um, you know, zoned five a, I don't know if you're a little South of me, so you're, you might be in zone five

Speaker 2: (39:22)
In Fairfield. Yeah. But I'm in California.

Speaker 3: (39:25)
Oh, you are. Okay. Well, I mean, I'm just thinking that the, the, it, some of it, some of these variety trials and breedings and stuff need to be specific to the, obviously the zone that we're, that we're dealing with. And so, um, but you know, the market, like, I, again, I hate to just beat a dead horse here, but when I'm, when I'm talking to the 7,000 acre Pete folks, um, uh, we just have to have more markets, four semi-loads of this stuff. What right now, uh, you know, the guy that I'm working with, um, um, on black beans, um, that happened when I was a buyer for the new pioneer food co-op many years ago. And he was a friend of mine and came to Jason Grimm F a lot of people know him on this Facebook post I'm. Sure. So Jason came to me many years ago when I was a buyer and he said, you know, what can I grow for you here in your, in your beans for your, your bulk bins at the time I had, and I still have it on my desk here, a little baggy, and it had black beans, Pinto beans, kidney beans at Zuki, at a mommy, you know where I'm going with that.

Speaker 3: (40:29)
Right. I had, like, I had like 12 edible dry beans on my desk in a baggie, still have it right here. And it said on the bag, it said could be grown here. You know, because long as that was important, right, it was all important. The black beans came from China because these are Mexico, Ontario. It was all him. And so basically we, I said, well, let's start with black beads. So he started off with black beans, and now he's up to 20 some acres, you know, so what I'm trying to is because he found a market for it, but the market needs at that level, that scale, we're talking pallet loads and pallet loads and semi-loads, and semi-loads, and we don't have right now, currently we have a little bit of an occurrence, but we need to have a much more aggressive infrastructure for the bigger guys who will be able to dump off semi-loads of black beans right here in my neighborhood.

Speaker 2: (41:23)
I'm going to give a little bit of a solution here, which is, which is an interesting, it's not the complete picture, but first of all, my, my, uh, I'm going to shout out to new pioneer co-op, um,

Speaker 3: (41:36)
For 20 years.

Speaker 2: (41:37)
So, um, I gave one of my early lectures on GMOs.

Speaker 3: (41:43)
I thought I recognized you.

Speaker 2: (41:45)
Um, I forget the name of the person who was doing the outreach. She invited me and I wanted to speak on GMOs. I, I, and so she said, don't speak too long. You know, people don't like to speak to them. So I just spoke and she came up to me and said, no, no, you can speak as long as you are people aren't going to listen to you. It was really very nice compliment, but, um, that was one of my first places that I ever spoke on GMOs. So here's the thing. I remember speaking at some farm conferences in Iowa or farm meetings and talking to some organic farmers who had thousands of acres, but they were trying organic on a little area, maybe one of their, one of their fields

Speaker 3: (42:30)
And a lot, and a lot of hurt. And a lot of folks who are certified have, you know, just part of their farm certified,

Speaker 2: (42:37)
What was driving them. It had nothing to do with, with the philosophy of organic. It was the fact that there was that they could sell their beans at eight, a bushel and the organic ones were 24. Something like that. I don't remember the numbers, but it was, there was that level of a difference. And so, as long as the market was holding with that, with that premium, for organic, they're willing to spend the three years in transition, see what it was like. And they were attending an organic conference to figure out what they needed to do to make this money. So what I, what I think is going to happen is regenerative agriculture is going to become very popular. I'm also going to predict that there'll be ways to test for nutrient density, which should be digital. That will be easy. Um, I'm guessing that there's going to be a demand and an understanding by people more and more on the link between food and health and how it's necessary.

Speaker 2: (43:35)
And then also being able to make sure that they don't get the residues of chemicals that is going to drive a demand the marketplace. And when there's a premium in the marketplace for the high density, regenerative, chemical free, then you're going to have people coordinating off part of their, their land. And then, and then they'll have the information for Rodale and others that are doing it right, that are not seeing loss of yield. And then when they have proof of principle, then they can migrate the rest of the fields and take advantage of a much bigger profit margin. So that's my, that convinced me that I'm wrong or convinced.

Speaker 3: (44:19)
No, I think you're right in the longterm. And in fact, consumers drive the train. So if customer demand is going to increasingly be convinced and persuaded that nutrient density is in fact, uh, important, then they will help drive that train. You know, um, at this point though, uh, again, when I look at food security and going back to the hunger relief farm that I, that I started with John bowler, we were more concerned about just getting food into Belize.

Speaker 2: (44:50)
All right, I hear you, but I want to finish this, this, this idea because I'm really excited about giving people an understanding of why buying organic and regenerative is so important. And I was, I found myself in a situation where I had to remind myself of my own philosophy just the other day. I thought it was probably like yesterday, the day before I was like, well, I can buy this, which is conventional it's non-GMO. And I don't think it's sprayed, and this is organic and it costs more. And I realized, what have I been saying to people combine not only your health bill? Okay. So the health may have been the health profile might've been similar because the conventional, this particular crop was pretty similar, but I wanted to, I said, combine your philanthropy into your food purchases. So you're supporting an organic regenerative agricultural system so that you're, you're investing in the transformation of the world that we want.

Speaker 2: (45:57)
And as consumers, we do sit on top, we do carry the power in an enormous way. So if we think, okay, we'll invest it as food. We'll invest it as health. And we'll invest it as philanthropy because we're investing our money where we want to see change, that will drive the dollars. And it will eventually the premiums will go down. When, when the supply is there with all the farmers have made the shift and it'll become less expensive. And one other point is that people would say, how are you going to convert to so many non-GMO? Um, I said in that context, ADM and cargo will be our friend, because if we start driving more dollars into non-GMO, they're going to see the market. And then they're going to differentiate. I said, this years ago, then you go to Anaheim, the expo West of the natural products industry with 85,000 natural products, people, and there's Cargill with a huge, a huge booth. And they, it says non-GMO by Cargill. They have 40 items that are non-GMO 19, that are non GMO project verified. And they can, they're providing the, the way between the farmer and the consumer, even though it's not necessarily, they're not necessarily my favorite people in terms of corporate corporate behavior, they end up driving the marketplace to meet my needs.

Speaker 3: (47:23)
Like I said, yeah, they see the writing on the wall. They've got me, there's a guy down the road here at general mills. Who's that, you know, they've got the regenerative ag component. Now they all a million acres. So, so they, you know, they, they understand, you can talk about the CR they're just doing it for PR. I don't really care why they're doing it, they're doing it. And so let's keep doing it. And going back to trust though, Jeffrey, you know, we've got to try to find ways to build that trust. Okay. Because you've got your facts. I've got my facts. No, no, there's there's facts. There's not just your facts and my facts. There's the facts, but we can't get there yet. So when I go to the, and most people get their food at the grocery store, okay. I work with a lot of low-income people.

Speaker 3: (48:07)
My whole career has been focused on the least of these and just people who are just struggling to feed their kids for crying out loud. They don't, they don't give a rats how it's made. They just need to get some food and their kid. Okay. So again, I'm playing devil's advocate here with myself to push back a little bit on the way we talk about this stuff. I'm not going to go to the, to the food pantry and tell that mother not to buy that Mac and cheese, because it's got GMO grain in it. I'm not going to do that because all she's going to do is tell me to shut the hell up and I need to feed my kids for dinner. So, you know what I'm saying? So I'm trying to say, so I am, I have to challenge myself daily to figure out strategies of trust-building and to slowly get people to, to think another way of thinking to talk about talking to, to just, how are we, uh, you know, what are we putting in our minds?

Speaker 3: (49:08)
What are we putting in our bodies? Um, but I can't get to that point yet until I can at least, you know, have somebody who's just got food to eat. You know, we're in a food secure, I believe in our nation's history, we're going to be going into a food insecurity crisis. That's we haven't seen in my, in my life. I feel like people just take food supply way for granted. And that's why I'm so excited about stepping up my game to play at scale at larger acreages that have the capacity to grow more protein, you know, legumes and pulses. Aren't just protein though. They're got a lot of vitamins and a lot of minerals and beans. And so you can, and you can take that bean component and totally make it into a lot of other value added products. And of course we want it to be organic here and we will, but, uh, even doing the bean trials here, you know, we'll be able to manage the, we'll be able to cultivate weeds mechanically on the trials.

Speaker 3: (50:08)
But I'm just, I, I know that when I look ahead and project a head down the road to that market contract, for instance, in 2023, with somebody, hopefully knock on wood, I'll be able to get that vision launched with, uh, institutional procurement director in my neighborhood in 2023. And that's when the scale is going to ramp up that the weed management challenges are going to be such that those black beans might not be organic to start off with. I'm just saying, I hope they are because we've still got two years of, of tweaking to get that system able to manage those weeds. But I'll all I'm trying to say, Jeffrey is that if those black beans are not organic in 2023, I'm not going to stop the project because of that. So,

Speaker 2: (50:59)
So, so I wanna, I wanna wrap up here and say, this is an issue as a communicator, as an activist. I feel I deal with all the time where I don't want to marginalize people. I don't want to, I mean, people like to see things black and white, cause it's easier. It just doesn't usually conform with reality. Um, I, I'm very good friends with the folks at now foods and they've been supporting the non-GMO activists for years. And yet there were times when they say, we don't know if this is GMO or not, we're doing the best we can, or we can't get this as a non GMO verified. So it's like, so I'll interview them and I'll share the information with the public saying, these are our friends. These are the good guys and his best. And they are the best at finding what they can find in the world for you.

Speaker 2: (51:56)
And yet they can't get a non GMO verified version of this, but they're still going to sell it. But they're going to let you know, they're going to be transparent and say, this does not have the asterisk that tells you, or it may be GMO. And similarly, the farmers that I meet, you know, I really enjoy meeting and getting to know farmers around the world, conventional it or not. There's this beautiful quality that I find that is a consistency of those that work the soil, but there's got to, and you know, there's a knee jerk reaction amongst. So people, so many people where if they're buying Monsanto stuff, if they're using one sale, even people working at Monsanto, some of the people I met working at Monsanto I've, I've had dinner with, and I find, you know, I can feel connected to, and they just don't have the same information that I do.

Speaker 2: (52:45)
So I think in the terms of building bridges, what you've said is really important, but I think it also comes back because as you're talking about really wanting to create agriculture and what can we do and what can we do? It creates a sense of frustration where there's the bank and then there's the seed seller. And then there's the institutional buyer. Then there's the farmer. But in every case, it comes down to, there's also the consumer. And if we can, if we can commit to, if we can understand that we actually have a tremendous role to play in, in developing a new agriculture, by paying attention to what we eat, this is why heirloom seeds. Wonderful. We keep the, we keep the biodiversity through the heirloom. You know, we there's so many different ways. So how would you like to wrap up Scott? You've you've got so many different things going on.

Speaker 3: (53:40)
Well, thank you again so much for inviting me Jeffrey. It's great to meet you. Um, I'll just wrap up with a couple of thoughts. I'm thinking out loud here. You know, one phrase that I've been using a lot lately, especially after the last year where we had, I call it the four DS Duracio drought disease division, and we need something else on our report card besides a D well, first of all,

Speaker 2: (54:03)
Just tell, tell people about the duration. They don't know what it was.

Speaker 3: (54:07)
Rachel was called a land hurricane. So on this farm here, we had, we had wind speeds of 140 miles an hour. Okay. It destroyed where I'm sitting in Marion, Iowa. We got, we were in the epicenter of it. It was 700 miles swath from Nebraska to Indiana and it destroyed it destroyed farms. It destroyed crops. It flattened buildings. Uh, it's got, I've got, I lost thousands and thousands of trees. The lesson I learned though, that I just wrote about my annual report was that the canopy opened up and now I've got all the photosynthesizing baby trees that are, Oh, thank you. I'm going to go into the light right now

Speaker 2: (54:50)

Speaker 3: (54:50)
Uh, to now explode with new growth. Old becomes new, um, dwell and transformation is my phrase, take what, take whatever you're given and adapt to it. So mother nature gave me this. I'm going to take it and adapt to it. I'm not going. I used to be more of a mitigation person on climate change. I'm kind of letting go of mitigation. Well, I'm not letting go of it. I still know that there are things we can do institutionally to change the needle, to move the needle on that. But I also really want to focus on my need daily. This is an, and this is a daily thing I need to wake up and adapt. You know, the genie's out of the bottle on, we didn't get a chance to talk about CRISPR much, but I don't even know if some of that, and I'm not qualified to talk about it.

Speaker 3: (55:35)
Really tell you the truth, Jeffery. All I know is that, that I I'm in break. I'm not a purist on rhetoric or the science. I want to embrace hybrid models. If I can, if I can be convinced that they're healthy. And I think that there might be some hybrid wiggle room, no pun intended on all of this stuff, because it's another lesson to me and adaptation and transformation of what we're given. And finally, I'll just leave you with this. You know, the precautionary principle in science they'll ultimately says, just because we can doesn't mean we should. I'm probably preaching to the choir here on this chat because we can doesn't mean we should. That's ancient wisdom right there. And I remember as a gardener, even Jay Jeffrey chairing in my garden classes, some intervention management lessons that taught me the hard way, which is the only way I learn when my intervention was doing more harm than good.

Speaker 3: (56:31)
When for instance, um, I had circus for leaf spot that a hot wet wind blew in on my pepper patch with that. When I went back, when I was growing peppers for sale, many, many years ago, I was selling them to restaurants and grocery stores. And I had, after one hot wet wind blew in the storm, I was like, I started to see all of this defoliation to my pepper, my pepper fields brought it into the plant pathologist. Oh yeah, you got circus for leaf spot. That that's a, you know, you'd set a blight spore, come in, landed on your leaves. It spread like wildfire. What'd you? The question was, what did you do? I said, well, I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I went in there and got rid of all the old, he stopped the plant pathologist, stop me in mid-sentence and he says, that's the problem.

Speaker 3: (57:15)
I go, what, what are you talking about? He says, you're the problem. I go, what did I do? He says, you went in your field. He says, I bet you were wearing a poncho. Weren't you? I go, yeah. He goes, well, you are spreading the spore everywhere. When you were going into a, trying to frantically grab all of the evidence of the, of the circus spore leaf spot, you were spreading the sport throughout your entire patch. You can't grow peppers. Now there for three years. Cause that spore is going to what's airborne becomes soil-borne. So one simple lesson that I went, I'll never forget to this day that wasn't like what 2000 and something I come back wrote in my journal. I'm the problem. No, my man, my management, I was just still full a few Brits. Oh, I got to figure it out. I'll tell you. I'll take care of it all. It's not, it's not that simple. None of this stuff we've been talking about is that's. So I just really appreciate the chance to share my passion with you. It's great to meet you and I hope we can, uh, hope we can connect next time. You're back home, back in my neck of the woods. Come on by. I'll give you the biodiversity university walk and talk.

Speaker 2: (58:28)
Sounds good. And I will add just because you mentioned CRISPR just to finish up there. Most of what you read in the popular press about CRISPR is incomplete or poorly informed. The, when you focus on the side effects as to what can happen, you realize it's, it's not predictable. It's not safe. You can create a GMO and do an assessment. And then by the time you put the seed in the ground, the GMO could change with CRISPR. And by the time it's in its second or third generation, it can also change because of the instability. And what's tested for is very incomplete. And what can go wrong is very substantial. So although I've said many times, I'm not against the possibility that someday we can safely and predictably manipulate the DNA for the betterment of health and environment today is not that day. So I am theoretically saying, yes, it's possible eventually, but maybe not in our lifetime, but that does it. Hasn't stopped the outdoor release of these things, which can have a pretty serious impact. Anyway, Scott, I want to thank you so much and I will look forward to doing the biodiversity university work with you. Absolutely. All right, you too. Bye-bye

Speaker 4: (01:00:08)
Thank you for listening to live healthy. Be well, please subscribe to the podcast. Using whatever app you're listen to podcasts with, or go to live healthy, be to subscribe this podcast and inform you about health dangers, corporate and government corruption and ways we can protect ourselves, our families and our planet. I interview scientists, experts, authors, whistleblowers, and many people who have not shared their information with the world until now, please share the podcast with your friends. It was enlightened and may even save lives. [inaudible].


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