April 2019 ROC News

Collaboration. It's getting us solutions.

Why would Audubon, a bird conservation organization, be in collaboration with the Regenerative Organic Alliance, an agricultural certification? Because we access the importance of healthy soil, land, and biodiversity from different perspectives. And when we join up and cross-pollinate agricultural and environmental initiatives, we get greater returns for Earth.

Collaboration. It’s getting us solutions.

Why would Audubon, a bird conservation organization, be in collaboration with the Regenerative Organic Alliance, an agricultural certification? Because we access the importance of healthy soil, land, and biodiversity from different perspectives. And when we join up and cross-pollinate agricultural and environmental initiatives, we get greater returns for Earth.

With 60 ranches impacting over two million acres across this country, the Audubon Conservation Ranching program brings biodiversity, wildlife, and habitat front and center of their efforts, all while producing healthier grass-fed meat for bioregional markets. We got the lowdown from Marshall about implementing ROC on the range, along with valuable insights from five other ROC Pilot Participants around the globe at Expo West in Anaheim.

In March, we journeyed to Expo to offer a special ROC Pilot Update Panel, and now share with you the video from our panel, which includes the highs, lows, and why’s of what we do and why we do it. From over 200 species of birds counted on Alexandre Family Farm‘s riparian restoration areas in Northern California, to 122 million gallons of water captured during the dramatic 2019 winter rain events at Apricot Lane Farmsin Central California, we are seeing regenerative organic practices prove themselves to increase biodiversity, build soil health and grow healthier foods. We are also seeing soil regeneration on palm fields in Ghana at Serendipalm, a major palm oil supplier, as well as remarkable improvement in community resilience and worker welfare due to social certifications and the commitment of these shining star brands like Sol Simpleand Herb Pharm, notably these last three are all Certified B Corps.

Our sacred trinity of soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness are the pillars of the ROC- they are inseparable. As our relationships with wildlife organizations, pioneering farmers and forward-thinking brands continue to deepen, we expect to repeat the learning opportunities over and over as we begin our first audits next week.

As Matt Dybala of Herb Pharm asked, “How do we promote earth stewardship in a better and more equitable way?”  We are doing it with ROC. Regenerative organic practices not only produce beautiful crops from healthy soils, but also highlight the collaboration between us, the land, and the stewards who, together, will heal Earth. We wish you renewed energy on your path, and look forward to continuing with you on this Journey to Regenerative Organic Certified.

See the video here.

Too often as a wildlife conservation professional, I talk to wildlife conservation professionals at wildlife conservation conferences. And we don’t talk about food. I come to a lot of food conferences, and we don’t talk about biodiversity, wildlife or habitat enough.

And my charge to you today, if you remember anything…  It ALL matters. Whatever happens out on the land… it all matters.

-Marshall Johnson, ROC Pilot Updates @ Expo West, 2019


Support for Farms in the Heartland.

It happened just a few weeks ago, but it’s not over. This spring all eyes were on the Heartland as the devastating floods swept over the prairies with catastrophic consequences to the tune of over $1 billion dollars for Nebraska alone.

From CCOF:
… There’s no good time for this kind of natural disaster, but these floods are particularly poorly timed. Early spring a critical period for planting, and interruptions this time of year can delay harvest and ultimately reduce yields. The effects of this perfect storm are painfully palpable in farm country; the majority of farm households actually lost money farming last year.

The good news is that farmers who have been affected by flooding are not on their own—in addition to regular crop insurance programs, there are a number of national and state assistance programs in place to provide support during this challenging time… Read More

As climate change continues to rear its head, we stand with our farming communities, committed to practices that begin to reverse it. There are multiple ways individuals and businesses can support these farmers and ranchers. One is the FarmAid Disaster Relief Fund, and we encourage you share with us others that you have found.


About the fabric of our lives…

 

How does fashion connect with regenerative organic agriculture? Not only in the living crust of the earth as cellulose fibers like cotton, hemp, and linen, but also on the animals we steward who produce wool, cashmere, and leather. Just like food, textiles begin in soil.

The movement in fashion towards a more regenerative system is not new. Independent farmer/designers like Sally Fox have also been reversing course on conventionally grown cotton since 1989 and resisting further impacts through cultivating special fibers that carry color and structural integrity. We have a deep respect for pioneers like Sally, and how she’s grown her enterprise.

We are also so grateful that one of our own board members, LaRhea Pepper, has been taking regenerative logic from farm to industry since her own 5th-generation cotton farm was certified organic in 1991. “I’m changing agriculture one cotton ball at a time,” she says. Now managing director of the Textile Exchange, LaRhea is constantly balancing the cotton supply and demand cycle between producers, cotton mills, manufacturers and retailers. She has risen from organic cotton farmer to an incredibly effective changemaker and legacy in the world of fiber. You can view the incredible work of the Textile Exchange through their yearly organic cotton market reports.

It’s time to not only reverse course and move towards regeneratively grown foodcrops, but also other commodity crops, including fiber from plants and animals. Why?  We often forget that growing conventional cotton in the US ranks third in pesticide use of commodity crops, only third to corn and soybeans. Further, the way cotton is grown also impacts workers’ lives and the global labor market.  If you are curious about cotton’s impact, get the download here from the OTA.

Just this month, Whitney Bauck of Fashionista wrote a wonderful and comprehensive article: The Next Wave of Sustainable Fashion is All About Regenerative Farming. We encourage you to read it, and share it.


Over the next four newsletters, we will be featuring Bailey and Corinne’s investigative and narrative storytelling, a special feature we are proud to support.

I’m looking at two jars filled with dirt.

The first jar contains soil that looks like dried, cracked red clay. It reminds me of summertime corn and soybean fields in my hometown in Indiana, fields of straight-line crops laced with dry, exposed dirt. This soil sample in the jar had been taken from a field growing classic southern trifecta row crops: cotton, peanuts, and corn.

The other jar has deep, dark black, loamy soil, and as I lift off the cover I breathe in the smell of earth. Even though these two jars are housed inside an old, repurposed Baptist church, away from the elements, a few plant sprouts shooting out the top confirm the soil as a petri dish of fertility.

The two soil samples look worlds and ecosystems apart, but they actually came from two sides of the same fence in Bluffton, Georgia.

I stood by that fence later that day, a line straddling two startlingly different fields. On one side, green pasture, owned by Will Harris III of White Oak Pastures. On the other side, row crops, planted by a Harris family cousin and maintained with a steady diet of chemical inputs.

I’m looking at the two jars writ large, the soil samples played out on the scale of acres. The side-by-side view of the two fields, under completely different management, is disorienting. Green, lush grass layered on top of itself, sitting next to straight crop rows separated by bare, raw soil.

“It’s monoculture, in rotation” explains Will, pointing to the row crops. “That’s left the soil with half of 1% organic matter. Mine has 5%.”

Organic matter is the life in the soil, made up of fresh plant residue, small living microorganisms, and stable, decomposed organic materials. Organic matter acts as a nutrient reservoir and provides structure in the soil. It also acts as a sponge, allowing the soil to absorb and hold water – for every 1% of organic matter, the soil can hold about one inch of rain.

“So if it rains an inch on his soil, half of it runs off. If it rains five inches on my soil, all of that water is absorbed into my field,” Will adds. In a county where it rains nearly every week of the year, the ability to retain rainwater can be a boon for the land.

Taken separately, the two fields look like two completely different ecosystems. To see them side-by-side feels like a pointed case study in land management.

But as Will explains, the soils aren’t actually separated by much: “nothing but 20 yards, a fence, and 20 years of holistic management.” That last part is important – because a few decades ago, Will’s soil didn’t look much different than the dried, cracked soil sample that we saw in the church.

I stood by that fence later that day, a line straddling two startlingly different fields. On one side, green pasture, owned by Will Harris III (fourth-generation farmer at White Oak Pastures a Regenerative Organic Alliance board member). On the other side, row crops, planted by a Harris family cousin and maintained with a steady diet of chemical inputs.

I’m looking at the two jars writ large, the soil samples played out on the scale of acres. The side-by-side view of the two fields, under completely different management, is disorienting. Green, lush grass layered on top of itself, sitting next to straight crop rows separated by bare, raw soil.

But as Will explains, the soils aren’t actually separated by much: “nothing but 20 yards, a fence, and 20 years of holistic management.” That last part is important – because a few decades ago, Will’s soil didn’t look much different than the dried, cracked soil sample that we saw in the church. And a few decades ago, the surrounding town of Bluffton started to dry up with the soil.

“When we industrialized, centralized, commoditized agriculture – we made this town irrelevant” says Will Harris, rolling his truck through downtown Bluffton. As chemical inputs and mechanized processes started to take over agriculture, the community surrounding Bluffton grew smaller and smaller. What once was one farmer and ten farm hands became one farmer, 150 acres, a tractor, and ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

In the lifetimes of Will Harris and his father, the town had shrunk from a trade and social hub for an entire agricultural community to a quiet, sparse town of 100.

But today, White Oak Pastures’ shift toward regenerative agriculture has had some unintended consequences – the human effects of regenerative agriculture are revitalizing the town, too.

Read More


ROC Book Club: The B Corp Handbook

I hope that five years from now, ten years from now, we’ll look back and say #BCorporations were the start of the revolution.
                                                                           – Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

So many of the companies who are taking the lead are so brilliantly drawing these lines. How can YOU use business as a force for good? This authoritative handbook, completely revised and updated second edition of The B Corp Handbook has just been released.This volume, written by Ryan Honeyman and Dr. Tiffany Jana, with a foreword by ROC’s board chair Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, covers the what, why and how of B Certification. You’ll learn how companies are using this guide to provide transparency into their business practices, show accountability to consumers and improve their overall social, environmental & DEI performance. If you aren’t familiar yet with B Corps, this volume is the one source you’ll need.


Your great questions have us moving up!

We are so grateful for your keen and curious questions about the ROC. Because we’ve received so many questions that have overlap and complementary themes, we’ve decided to make a new page on our site dedicated to them. You can access them through our Resources portal.

Click here to check out the new FAQ’s page.