Ep. 57: Gabe Brown – Innovator, farmer, businessman, author and soil health pioneer  -ft. co-host: Jay Vilar of Nourish ||

On episode 57 we welcome Gabe Brown – farmer, businessman, author and soil health pioneer.   Gabe, along with his wife, Shelly, and son, Paul, own and operate a diversified 5,000-acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, N.D. Their operation focuses on farming and ranching in nature’s image. The Browns holistically integrate their grazing and no-till cropping system, which includes a wide variety of cash crops along with multi-species cover crops and all-natural, grass-fed beef, poultry and sheep. This diversity and integration has regenerated the natural resources on the ranch without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. Over 2,000 people visit the Brown’s ranch annually with visitors from all 50 states and 16 foreign countries.

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Brown recently released the book “Dirt to Soil” describes their personal voyage into regenerative agriculture.  This insight gained over a these decades of hard work has established a nimble knowledge-base.  In this his first book – Gabe Brown has distilled all that complexity into five (5) principles of a healthy soil-ecosystem.

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  • No disturbance (no-till, no-synthetics)
  • Bolstering Soil’s Natural Defense (the outer-layer protecting all that life)
  • Bio-diversity (marrying nature’s way keeps the system healthy)
  • A living root in the ground as long as possible (covercrops & seasonal diversity)
  • Animal & Insect integration (nature relies on the entire system working together)

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Nutritionist Jay Vilar joins again as co-host.  Vilar is the founder, and a practitioner at ‘Nourish’ – a bespoke consulting company with a mission to educate, teach, and train people on the benefits of using food to heal your body and optimize your health.  Jay has always been on the forefront of using optimal health techniques, and bio-hacking his nutrition to achieve remarkable results in his career. Jay now spends his time teaching people how to use food to heal their body and speaks to businesses on how to optimize focus & productivity using nutritional and behavioral science.  Jay recently completed a Fellowship at the Rodale Institute, and just relocated from DC to join our crew in Boston.
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It’s a fascinating 45 minute conversation with a guy who has a unique ability to tell it like it is.  To clarify and simplify some pretty sophisticated subject matter so that we can all better appreciate the broad-reaching values that soil health and regenerative agriculture can bring to our world.

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@twitter



co-host:

Jay Vilar

  • Founder of Nourish
  • A focus on Nutritional Therapy
  • Rodale Institute Fellow
  • Host of  ‘listen to your mother’ show

@twitter

Ep. 55: Gray Harris – Senior Vice President of Food Systems @ Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI)  ||

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On episode 55 we welcome Gray Harris, Senior Vice President of food systems at Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) in Brunswick Maine.  Harris is responsible for the strategy, development and implementation of action-oriented business initiatives in the agriculture, food systems, and aquaculture and fisheries sectors. In her role, Gray assesses sector needs and identifies sources of specialized technical assistance and financing for start-up and expanding food businesses; this includes spearheading the development of funds for sector-specific lending and investing at CEI.
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In our 45 minute conversation we discuss the ins and outs of investing in regional and sustainable food systems of the Northeast and beyond.  CEI is a mission-driven lender and investor specializing in rural business development and financing. In Maine, and throughout the U.S., CEI helps to create economically and environmentally healthy communities in which all people, especially those with low incomes, can reach their full potential.  CEI is unique with its dossier of offerings which include business loans, micro-loans, new market tax credits, sub-debt loans, SBA 504 loans, business plans, marketing plans, business advising, financial advising, and public policy leadership.
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Gray Harris  is a former director of the Maine Farms for the Future program, a statewide business planning and grants program for Maine farmers. She participates in numerous action-oriented initiatives statewide, including the boards of Wolfe’s Neck Farm and the Maine Harvest Credit Union,  the Tech Board of the Maine Technology Institute, and she’s a marathon runner!  This all comes in handy with her role of conducting Maine’s Value chain.

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Dutch-American agricultural economist Renée Vassilos joins again as our co-host.  Stemming from fifteen years of agriculture industry know-how with John Deere and the USDA, Vassilos leverages her global cross-functional experience to support the growth of sustainability-focused agriculture business.  We’re lucky to have her wealth of knowledge in the co-pilot seat for these types of conversations.
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Tune-In to hear more from our conversation which ranged from place-based investment, circular economies, Maine fisheries and we profile the vertical integration of some of the best beer you’ll ever get to experience with Lunch!

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@CEIMaine

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co-host:

Renee Vassilos

  • Agricultural Economist
  • Regenerative & Big Ag intermediary
  • past portfolio manager: Deere China
  • Bilingual Dutch / American citizen 

Full bio: Renée Vassilos is a Dutch-American Agricultural Economist with over fifteen years of agriculture industry experience. Her expertise ranges from strategic market analysis and product development to sales, marketing and distribution strategy. She has lived and worked abroad- three years in Amsterdam and six years in Beijing- contributing to her robust global experience, cultural competence, and network. 

Today, Vassilos is sharing her expertise through her consulting business. She utilizes her global cross-functional experience from working for the USDA and John Deere to support the growth of sustainability-focused agriculture businesses. She has a BS and MS in Agricultural Economics from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and University of California, Davis, respectively.

Ep. 53: Dorothy Suput – Executive Director & Founder of The Carrot Project, with Judith Shanks of Judith Shanks Food Consulting -ft. Jennifer Hashley of New Entry Sustainable farming & The Carrot Project Advisor ||

 

On episode 53 of Sourcing Matters we welcome leadership from the The Carrot Project.  Based out of Massachusetts, The Carrot Project creates a sustainable local farm and food economy by providing financing and business assistance so farm and food enterprises thrive. With a goal to foster a sustainable, diverse food system by supporting small and midsized farms and farm-related businesses – The Carrot Project is expanding accessible financing and increasing farm operations’ ability to use it to build successful, ecologically and financially sustainable, businesses.
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Joining us for the 45 minute discussion is The Carrot Project founder and Executive Director Dorothy Suput. Suput’s commitment to a sustainable food system grew out of the incredible contrasts between Midwestern agriculture, with which she grew up, and the locally focused food and farming system in Switzerland, where she lived after graduating with a BS from Purdue University. Following graduate school at Tufts, Dorothy worked as the first regional organizer on the 1995 Farm Bill for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group under the auspices of the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, and subsequently, as a consultant for business and agency.
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Also profiled in this episode is Julia Shanks, who serves as the Senior Business Advisor to The Carrot Project, and is owner & principal of Julia Shanks food Consulting. Shanks brings a broad range of professional experiences to her clients, from pilot to chef to serial entrepreneur. Julia received her professional training as a chef at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, her BA from Hampshire College and an MBA from Babson College. After more than 10 years of professional cooking, Julia became a college professor of accounting and now works with food businesses and farms, helping them maximize profits and streamline operations through business planning, feasibility studies and operational audits. Julia’s second book, The Farmer’s Office provides tips, tools and templates for farmers to successfully manage a growing farm business.
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Co-host Jennifer Hashley of The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project happens to also be a strategic advisor to The Carrot Project, and as always, Jen brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding to round out our interesting conversation. Tune-In to these agents of change focused on a more stable and regional food system based on pragmatic economic modeling and a better understanding of the interests of a modern consumer.

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@Carrot_Project

@Julia Shanks

 



co-host:

Jennifer Hashley

  • Founder of Tufts New Entry Sustainable farming project 
  • Owner of Pete & Jen’s backyard birds
  • Evangelist | Activist| Innovator
  • Eisenhower Fellow 2016

@JHashley

Ep. 52: Kevin Esvelt – Head of MIT Media Lab Sculpting Evolution group ||

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On episode 52 we welcome Kevin Esvelt, Director of the MIT Media Lab Sculpting Evolution group.  At the Media Lab, Esvelt and his world class team of geneticists & biologists invent new ways to study and influence the evolution of ecosystems. By carefully developing and testing these methods with openness and humility, the group seeks to address difficult ecological problems to benefit humanity & the natural world.

Prior to joining the MIT Media Lab, Esvelt wove many different areas of science into novel approaches to ecological engineering. He invented phage-assisted continuous evolution (PACE), a synthetic microbial ecosystem for rapidly evolving biomolecules, in the laboratory of David R. Liu at Harvard University. At the Wyss Institute, he worked with George Church to develop the CRISPR system for genome engineering & regulation, and he began the use of bacteriophages and conjugation to engineer microbial ecosystems.

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Esvelt is credited as the first to describe how CRISPR gene drives could be used to alter the traits of wild populations in an evolutionarily stable manner. And recently, he and his Sculpting Evolution group devised a new form of technology, called ‘daisy drives’, which lets communities aiming to prevent disease alter wild organisms in local ecosystems.

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Esvelt offers some of the clearest descriptions of GMOs;  CRISPR gene editing; a scientist’s role as God while wielding the power of modern tech – and, what we do about that as a society – during our hour 1-hour discussion. Whether you’re interested in Genetic Engineering or Fitness Landscapes defining evolutionary biology – this episode will spark your interest.   I was just happy just to be along for the ride.

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Ep. 50: Elaine Ingham – Soil Food Web ||

 

Elaine Ingham maintains an active schedule of classes and webinars focused on the most up-to-date knowledge about growing plants without pesticides or inorganic fertilizer.  Ingham consults and educates large scale commercial cotton and soybean growers, large scale berry growers, as well as large commercial fruit producers as well as shrimp production. Tune-In to learn about the great things Elaine is doing for the savior underfoot.
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Ingham is well known for her work on the USDA soil-primer based on a concept she coined called the “Soil Food Web.”  Now, based on her decades of pioneering work as a soil microbiologist – Ingham has made it the objective of her company SoilFoodWeb.com to restore soil to its optimum state, anywhere at any scale.
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What most may not know is about her efforts that saved humanity and all living planets on this planet.  You see…

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“In 1992 the Environmental Protection Agency was only a few weeks away from ending life on the planet as we know it,” so writes George Lawton in the April, 2001 issue of Acres USA (“A Voice For Eco-Agriculture”).  Lawton reports that the EPA, although only having done limited tests at that time on a variety of genetically engineered microbes, all of which had been approved for release into the atmosphere, were prepared to approve the release of a GE variant of Klepsiella planticola (KP), one of the most common bacteria on the planet.
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“This particular variety of GE KP,” he writes, “had the unique ability to convert dead plant matter into alcohol. It was hoped that this would provide a way for farmers to transform their unused stalks, leaves and other types of compost material into alcohol, which could be used for washing, running vehicles. “
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So, it’s worth giving a listen to our discussion to learn more about Elaine’s focus, her interests, and her scope on a stable and prosperous future from the ground up.

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Ep. 43: Alicia Harvie, Advocacy & Farmer Services Director at Farm Aid  -ft. co-host: Jennifer Hashley of the New Entry Farming project ||

On episode 43 we welcome Alicia Harvie,  Advocacy & Farmer Services Director at Farm Aid.  Her role is to guide the organization’s advocacy, research, farmer services and policy-related activities.  Supporting her work, Harvie has a masters degree in Agricultural & Environmental Science and Policy from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Jennifer Hashley of the New Entry Farming Project joins the conversation as co-host, sharing unique understanding of the farmer and of Farm Aid. Throughout this episode Harvie describes the many positive initiatives Farm Aid is involved or has spawned in current day.  More than just an annual concert event, Farm Aid has become advocate, an influencer on national and local policies, a coalition builder, and a broad venue for communications for farmers, the community and eaters.

Bringing 24,000 concert goers to Hartford in September- the 2018 Farm Aid event was a smashing success.  Featuring Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Neil Young, Sturgill Simpson and many more – this gathering amplifies the needs, and helps define current state of farming in this county.  Alicia Harvie and Jennifer Harvie describe their moving experiences during both the main concert event and the field visits and pavilion days leading up to the top billing.

As you’ll hear, Harvie provides some unique insight into what needs to be done to save the American farm and to promote healthy economies for our farmers.  Nearing a decade at Farm Aid has provided her a clear vision to what can be done, and what should be done first.  Tune-in to get a better understanding of what this wonderful organization really does, and how influential their great people really are!
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@FarmAid

@AliciaHarvie

 



co-host:

Jennifer Hashley

  • Founder of Tufts New Entry Sustainable farming project 
  • Owner of Pete & Jen’s backyard birds
  • Evangelist | Activist| Innovator
  • Eisenhower Fellow 2016

@JHashley

Ep. 41: Live recorded at Harvard’s Let’s Talk About Food festival – we host a discussion about “Systems Thinking in Food Production” with founder of New Entry Farming Project – Jennifer Hashley, and CEO & Founder of Big Picture Beef – Ridge Shinn ||

Get this.  What if I told you it wasn’t the cow that was the problem, but instead the management shortcuts that are causing concerning environmental impact.  Properly orchestrated food animal management can actually have a net positive impact on the climate! That’s right.  Despite being counterintuitive to everything you’ve heard, it’s actually a straight forward leap to return to natural order.  More broadly, it’s just another example of an awakening to systems thinking on a shrinking planet.  In this 45 minute conversation expert guests will describe a few different systems thinking scenarios that will drastically evolve food production to positively impact future food systems, and our planet.
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Sourcing Matters ep. 41: “Systems Thinking in food production”– live recorded at the “Let’s talk about Food” festival at Harvard University – looks at harmonizing with more natural systems, and evaluates better management practice that could be used to produce our food in the future. Host Aaron Niederhelman will guide the discussion to cover diverse topics.  Not the least of which a process that’s being used to sequester carbon through reengaging the natural system of our living soils – on the hoof.  Additionally, one of the most under valued workforce in food production – pollinators.  And, it’ll be a conversation that clearly detail how what you eat is the most impactful vote you have to positively benefit your health and that of your family, to increase global stability and to mitigate climate change.   So, If you’re an environmentalist, a humanitarian, a patriot, a doctor, or even that you just want to look and feel better – tune-in and learn how your grocery budget can change the world.
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@JHashley || @NewEntry

@RidgeShinn

@Lets Talk About Food

 



Ep. 38: Judith Schwartz – Author of “Cows Save the Planet” & “Water in Plain Sight” ||

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Acclaimed author Judith Schwartz joins us for Sourcing Matters episode 38 – One on Land, a second on Water. Schwartz has written two transformative books which get under the hood of vast ecological systems, and their impact on us.

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First, in “Cows Save the Planet” – she takes a look at restoring large scale ecological systems through holistic planned grazing of herbivores.   Basically, by keeping animals on the parterre lands, in natural environments we evolve our management practice to actually harmonize with natural order. This kick starts natural environments that can have vast net positive impact on the climate.  Soil everywhere becomes a thriving carbon bank – by first stabilizing natural exchanges, then sucking-up excess carbon we spew into the air.  Judith shares her thoughts on the current state of affairs with this approach & mindset, and some new discoveries since publishing the book.

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In her most recent work “Water in Plain sight.  Hope for a thirsty world” – Schwartz goes into the often forgotten, but supremely complex natural systems that sustain and maintain clean water.  She makes a direct connection of her past work studying living soil, and its ability to store, lever and interchange life with water.  The lifeblood for all living things, water is set to have vast and drastic impact if we continue to manage our natural resources like this.  Water is now, and maybe at one point was an actual tip of the iceberg thanks to climate change.
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Tune-In to our 40 minute discussion as Schwarz brings it all full circle with her latest work – hitting us all close to home.

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@JudithDSchwartz

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Ep. 37: Bob Martin, Dir. of Food System Policy Program at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF)  -ft. co-host: Ken Kaplan, Sloan Initiative for Health Systems Innovation (HSI) ||

On episode 37 we welcome an icon in our field who has long since promoted cleaner food animal production throughout the US.  Bob Martin is Director of the Food System Policy Program at Johns Hopkins Center for a livable Futures (CLF). Operating within the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Martin and his team at the CLF have embraced their role in systems leadership. They’ve begun curating a revolution in food production and healthier eating through a deeper understanding of planetary boundaries and by defining a common language of ethics in food.  Tune-In to be part of the change.

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Previous to beginning his work at the CLF in 2011, Martin was the Executive Director of the PEW Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production.  Martin managed a comprehensive two-year, $3.6 million study that led to the publication of eight technical reports and a final 122-page report on the public health, environmental, animal welfare and rural community impacts of our conventional methods for producing meat, dairy and eggs. The report – Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America defined a seminal moment of awareness in US production, food systems and supporting a shared one-health. It’s been a significant part of our realization that the approach we’re using to raise animals has broad reaching human and public health impact that needs immediate attention.

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Joining the conversation today as is co-host and friend Ken Kaplan. During his impressive 20 year career at MIT, Kaplan has been a visiting Scholar, a Senior Health System Advisor at the Sociotechnical Systems research center, and now acts as a Advisor the Sloan Initiative for Health Systems Innovation. Kaplan leverages his unique background in health, food systems and architecture to institute systems thinking on broader problems needing new perspective. Ken and Bob have been friends for over a decade, and that proves evident in the conversation as the two leaders share stories of each other’s commitment and accomplishments throughout our 45 minute chat.

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Our engaging 45 minute conversation ranges broadly in subject matter.  From food animal wellbeing & living environment, Superbugs, the more general concept of investing in a shared Onehealth, the power of convening diverse stakeholders – and much, much more.  Without a doubt it’s the concept of systems thinking and design that underpins our discussion.   As it relates to all other conversations on the show – that’s the take away from this latest episode. If you want to get a bit under the hood, to learn more about what’s really going on thanks to the many shortcuts used in raising animals in our modern food system – this will be an enlightening conversation for many to hear.

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@livablefuture



co-host:

Ken Kaplan

  • A systems engineer trained as an architect
  • co-authored transformative Child Obesity study 
  • The designer who reengineered the modern operating room 
  • Has been working on health care systems at MIT for the past dozen years

Ep. 36: Shauna Sadowski – Head of Sustainability, Natural & Organic Operating Unit at General Mills ||

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On episode 36 we welcome Shauna Sadowski – Head of Sustainability, Natural & Organic Operating Unit at General Mills. “The way we manage agricultural lands is driving many environmental and social challenges and I seek to create solutions that account for a more balanced, triple-bottom line (people, planet and profits) outcome. I care deeply about the food that ends up on your plate and work to create a healthy and balanced system for people and the planet” explains Sadowski about our role in properly managing natural resources to feed ourselves moving forward.

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Throughout the 45 minute conversation Shauna shares some interesting anecdotes of situations that have arisen in her time at as VP at Annie’s, and most recently while managing the organic allotment of General Mills’ vast arsenal of products.

“I believe that food companies have an opportunity and a responsibility to play a significant and positive role in creating a more sustainable food system. I work cross-functionally and throughout the industry to create programs that enable transparency to the farm and a deeper understanding of how our agricultural and farming systems connect to the foods we eat.”  

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Earlier this year Annie’s and General Mills launched a wireframe for their regenerative scorecard.  The objective of the scorecard tool is to encourage producer commitment and consumer awareness to soil health.  It seems a shared language would be a big win for food values.  Now, heading up Sustainability and Organic brands for a fortune 500 company with 38,000 employees – Shauna continues to demonstrate her commitment to moving the industry more regenerative through creatives approaches that bridge a production divide.    It’s interesting stuff – have a listen:

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@SJSadowski

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