FORT WORTH — Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice.
“The greatest roadblock to solving a problem is the human mind,” he tells audiences.
Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.
He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor.
Such farming methods, which mimic the biology of virgin land, can revive degenerated earth, minimize erosion, encourage plant growth and increase farmers’ profits, their proponents say. And by using them, Mr. Brown told more than 250 farmers and ranchers who gathered at the hotel for the first Southern Soil Health Conference, he has produced crops that thrive on his 5,000-acre farm outside of Bismarck, N.D., even during droughts or flooding.
This article was on the "most emailed" list when I found it, which is cool.
Can definitely relate, nearly in the same boat. Currently sitting on 10,000 acres of prime South Dakota ranchland (under-grazed and under-stocked throughout its history, a very small portion of rowcrop farming, amazing rainfall and impeccable soils.) Unfortunately, its ownership situation is mostly traditional, elderly, and not exactly progressive-minded. So, pretty similar! By a very unlikely stroke of serendipity, however, the son of one of the owners is a permaculture enthusiast and hell-bent on turning the ranch into a space for creative, collective, re-wilding and self-sufficient activities (ideally to form a permanent or semi-permanent community of sorts.) He's currently working with local coop extension, and using some HMI (Holistic Management)/ranch legacy planning strategies to present the economic boon that a more ecologically sound model and/or grazing practices would most definitely yield. Ultimately he'll present these with a comprehensive business model to try and entice a gradual, healthy shift.
I would also agree with the above posters -- Salatin's message is aimed more directly at those with a more excitable back-to-the-lander, libertarian, or urban foodie/food justice activist attitude, rather than a seasoned ag guy.
The ideals around what other opportunities might be born out of this transition are posted on this website: http://www.foxmoonhaven.com.
If you're ever in the Black Hills region, you should stop by for a visit! He hosts WWOOF'ers and airbnb guests, haha, it's pretty cool.
Books and videos help too.. but you can't force anyone to watch or read (even if you leave it on the top of the pile in the bathroom)... Before the cards: two rams in the same pasture, anything I, "a young city girl", suggested was like head butting a wall... After playing cards, my conventional farmer didn't mind watching some of the videos on the topics we discussed, reading the articles I left in the pile, or even implementing some of my crazy ideas around the farm... even if he felt they wouldn't work.
Baby Steps.. They had decades of conventional learning.. and it's worked for them.. changing their minds won't be easy.. especially if your in your 20s trying to convince a parent your way will work better.
Good Luck!! Don't give up.. It is possible.