Ep. 33: Ridge Shinn – CEO of Big Picture Beef ||

On episode 33 we welcome Ridge Shinn, CEO of Big Picture Beef – a businessman making us all a little more regenerative through a smarter regional production approach.  In 2010, Time Magazine cast Ridge as the original  Carbon Cowboy.  He lives with that mantra everyday.

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It’s as fundamental as investing in animal well-being for the betterment of our planet’s wellbeing and your health.  As the financial landscape in production continues to evolve, Shinn sees a sustainable business model for future food being of more regional production – an approach that he believes others will soon follow. Founded in 2015 – Based out of Hardwick, MA – Big Picture Beef’s mission is to establish an environmentally sustainable and economically viable model of producing beef through managed grazing—no feedlots and no grain, ever. Shine & Big Picture envision a system that produces healthy animals, healthy food, healthy soils, and fair wages for farmers.

 

“We work with numerous farms in the region that produce young stock according to our standards. Then we aggregate these cattle for fattening on several large finishing farms, also in the region, that are staffed by skilled graziers. A variety of regenerative farming techniques, notably rotational grazing to foster soil health and fertility, are key to our success. We harvest the finished cattle and sell 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef and beef products to wholesale customers.” – Ridge Shinn

 

In our 40 minute conversation we discuss topics ranging from bioregions; consumer’s role as change agents; drawdown; and one-health of animal, planet & consumer.   Ridge offers insights into an operating model that seeks to be benefit diverse stakeholders interested in preserving a regional provenance, and commitment to a production approach.  Decades of experience offers Shinn assurance that all of that hard work developing protocols in the fields are now queueing market interest.  It’ll be fascinating for all, but if you live in the Northeast – you should give it a listen.

@RidgeShinn

photo credit: Jason Grow
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Ep. 32: Usman Javaid – CEO & co-founder of Ricult ||

On episode 32 we welcome Usman Javaid – CEO of Ricult. This startup spawned out of MIT sets to change the paradigm in global agriculture by rejiggering how folks who grow our food in all corners of the world can access resources, and sell their resulting crops to benefit themselves and their consumers.  Ricult is unique as they aim to fix the agriculture value chain through simple mobile tools that can be overlaid on modern technology platforms. By improving the value chain, Ricult is enabling farmers to pull themselves out of poverty while tapping a multi-billion dollar market.
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“We are not a charity; we are an empowering community transformation. This is the basis for a brighter future, built on hand-ups, not handouts” describes Javaid, an entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in Telecom, Mobile Banking, Mobile Agriculture in Pakistan/Bangladesh – who is now equipped with an MBA from MIT Sloan.  Usman leveraged his past experience selling petrochemical fertilizers at Exxon, and time spent with Pakistani dairymen while at Nestle to better understand and appreciate the perils of small stakeholder farmers around the world.  While at Sloan school he helped organize a team of global thought-leaders equally interested in changing global agriculture through defining a new paradigm focused on the farmer first.  And, that’s what they’ve done.

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Their Bill and Melinda Gates foundation backed company has now architected and framed a system which alleviates many of the issues within current supply chains for small farmers.  Supply chains for the billion small stakeholder farmers throughout the globe are often controlled by their investors, who maybe be better described as loan-sharks and present limited interest in feeding a shrinking planet nor looking out for the best interests of their debtors.  From Clearinghouse -to- Financier -to- Marketplace preserving production qualities – it’s RIcult that has stepped in to re-introduce potential for small stakeholder farmers to make a fair living through growing our food.

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The solutions they seek set to address vast global problems like food shortage, malnourishment, poverty, and rural unemployment.  Javaid and his leadership team at Ricult have decided this must begin by investing in the smallholder farmer. Their promise is to give these farmers the tools they need to be better informed, and to empower economic actors which will help more farmers work their way out of debt & poverty. As Usman states – “The world is ready for farming to be revolutionized and become more inclusive by liberating the very people who form the backbone of this industry.”
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No matter where you’re from. where live, or what you’ve done – have a listen to our 40 minute conversation. This discussions impacts us all.
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@contact_Ricult

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Ep. 31: Ryland Engelhart, co-founder  & Jesse Smith, Farmland Program Director – Kiss The Ground ||

 

On episode 31 of Sourcing Matters we welcome Ryland Engelhart and Jesse Smith of Kiss The Ground.  Well known for the critically acclaimed book and forthcoming movie, both sharing the same namesake as their organization, non-profit Kiss The Ground is telling a new story about our ability to regenerate land, reverse climate change and reconnect to nature by building back healthy soil.  Through programs focused on storytelling, education, business, community gardens and the farmland – Kiss The Ground empowers people to restore soil and help accelerate the adoption of regenerative agriculture.  Seamlessly complementing each other throughout the 45 minute conversation, both guests brought unique insight to our discussion which connected soil, human, and planetary health.

 

Ryland Engelhart currently serves as the Mission Fulfillment Officer and co-owner of Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre. Engelhart co-founder of Kiss The Ground, and now works tirelessly to educate and advocate about the movement.  As a storyteller, Ryland co-created the award-winning, transformational documentary film, “May I Be Frank.” Also, he’s an entrepreneur and activist, using his restaurants as a platform to inspire more “gratitude” into our culture.   Running the Kiss The Ground Farmland program, Jesse Smith adds unique acumen from the perspective of a producer and philosopher.  Smith is a farmer, designer and consultant focused on the intersection of regenerative supply and enterprise. His passion for agriculture and food systems is rooted in his love of California’s diverse ecosystems, and influenced by his work and travels through Africa, Europe and the western United States. Jessie’s family, friends and community are what inspire him to develop a network of farmers, restaurants and consumers to benefit our soil, water & air.
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In this episode we go deep into the problems, and potential solutions for a shrinking planet.  Ryland describes the impetus for formulating this unique arena of Kiss The Ground which seems set on democratizing complex subjects that will prove increasingly essential for stabilizing all corners of the world.  Engaging consumers and citizens as the agents of change, it was consensus amongst all of us that it has to be the grass-roots to lead us forward through this tumultuous and concerning time for the future health of our planet.  The people will lead, and the policy will (eventually) follow.

 

Through the collection of their farms, non-profit initiative and restaurants this west coast collaborative is drafting a new recipe for moving us forward.  A mechanism that vertically integrates the value chain which will benefit the consumer of their food, fiber and fuel, and lead to positive externalities of regenerative results.
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@kissthegroundCA

 

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Ep. 30: Wood Turner – Senior Vice President of Agriculture Capital  ||

On episode 30 of Sourcing Matters we welcome Wood Turner, Sr. Vice President of Agriculture Capital.  Focused on integrating and operationalizing the firm’s cross-platform sustainability strategies into the 4 staple permacrops they invest in, Turner brings unique background and expertise to the changing dynamic of food production.
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It’s Agriculture Capitals mission to grow access to healthy, sustainable food.  “We’ve assembled experienced professionals from finance, farming, processing, marketing, and sustainability to bring innovative thinking to managing successful food enterprises.” described the firm’s website.  Turner has over 20 years of experience in corporate sustainability, environmental management, and consumer engagement. Most recently, he was on the executive team at organic yogurt pioneer Stonyfield Farm as the company’s VP Sustainability Innovation. Prior to that, he was founding executive director of Climate Counts, an international NGO focused on measuring and scoring the world’s largest consumer companies on their concrete, enterprise-level responses to climate change. Wood has consulted to brands, elected officials, and public agencies on mobilizing the public around ideas that improve the environment and build community.
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Agricultural economist Renee Vasillos joins as co-host of our 45 minute conversation which covers subjects that range from the current state of citrus, consumer engagement, “softening the edges” of investing in & production models that support pollinator health, and the all important topic of water. Private equity often gets a bad rap for being too focused on the deal instead of the value creation. Wood Turner and his team at Agriculture Capital seek to restructure how capital can deliver multi-dimensional returns beneficial to many stakeholders and the shared environment.

Agriculture Capital – Impact Report

@doubleUT

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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. 28: Willem Ferwerda – CEO of Commonland Group ||

 

Today on Sourcing Matters ep. 28 we welcome Willem Ferwerda – CEO of the Commonland Group.  Based out of the Netherlands, Commonland believes that landscape restoration offers tremendous untapped opportunities for sustainable economic development.  To demonstrate this potential, they develop landscape restoration projects that are based on business cases, and proper monitoring of their successes using multi-dimensional returns.  With current projects in Southern Africa, Spain, Western Australia, and the Netherlands – Commonland engages with multidisciplinary teams of investors, companies, and entrepreneurs in long-term restoration partnerships with farmers and land-users. Already, the approach has cast new expectations for what returns represent to each of the different stakeholders.

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The goal of Commonland is to realize large-scale landscape restoration with local farmers, land-users and experts based on sustainable business cases with each impact being assessed through a matrix monitoring diverse returns that connect natural and economic landscape zones through a multi-stakeholder initiative benefiting all parties. Willem founded Commonland with the idea the long-term commitment is important, as it takes approximately 20 years – or one generation – to restore a landscape.  Their holistic restoration approach focuses on the 4 key returns of Inspiration, Social, Natural, Financial.  Those returns combine to define a baseline for their long-horizon mission – which is to contribute to a large-scale landscape restoration industry, aligned with international policies and guidelines throughout a shrinking planet.

 

Maybe Teddy said it best: “I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. I ask nothing of the nation except that it so behaves as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children. That farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children. The farmer is a good farmer who, having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children, leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself. I believe the same thing of a nation.”

– Theodore Roosevelt: The 1910 New Nationalism Speech

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@Commonland

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related links:
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Ep. 24: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree – Maine’s First District ||

 

On Sourcing Matter episode 24 we welcome Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District.  A lifelong advocate for better food and equal rights – since her first day in office Congresswoman Pingree has been a dogged supporter of the local food movement, of the farm worker, and for improving access to nutrition for more US families.

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Having the opportunity to connect with Rep. Pingree a week after returning from a visit to the southern US border where she witnessed firsthand what’s happening in our modern day internment camps – we begin our conversation correlating how these policies are impacting the agricultural work force; and their kids!  In our 1 hour conversation we also chat about SNAP and the 2018 Farm Bill.  We share appreciation for the many bounties of Maine. And, we discuss how nutritious food can be preventative health care for each and every American citizen.

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Pingree currently serves on the Congressional Committee of Appropriations, the subcommittee of Agriculture, and that of the Interior & the Environment. As a past Eisenhower Fellow and with a decade of experience in US Congress – her unique experience allows us to seamlessly transition the conversation from rural Maine, to the New England region, to the entire US, and throughout the globe. Despite canvasing the map – our discussion is underpinned by the theme of reconnecting with natural order, and food.

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Truth is, a good portion of our discussion focused on the beautiful State of Maine.  Once, and what could again be the fulcrum of the regional food system of the Northeast, Maine has an agricultural linage dating back to the beginning of the Union.  3500 miles of coastline boasting access to a bounty of some of the cleanest waters and seafood in the world.  Through this, Maine could cast a long shadow in future bio-regional economies. Pingree embraces systems thinking on her farmstead & Inn in Maine, and in the other House – on The Hill, 600 miles south.

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Whether looking to progress regenerative agriculture, or responsible fisheries & ocean farms, or the connection of food and its impact on the environment, or just teaching constituents of the many values of good food – Maine seems it could be ground zero for a food and production revolution.  If Pingree has anything to say about it Maine will become the tip of the spear in growing its economy by investing in its own regenerative resources that service the wellbeing and stability of its citizens.  You see, years of forced innovation has matured into diverse layers of Maine ingenuity ready to be put through its paces. With an arsenal of natural resources, and knowledge that mitigates risks of future instabilities local and abroad – Pingree is drafting a new plan.  Tune-in, and listen to the insights of this passionate and impactful leader drafting a new plan for our future food.
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@ChelliePingree

@nebolodge

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related links discussed in our conversation:

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Blog: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/
Food Policy Action Scorecard: http://foodpolicyaction.org/scorecard/
Information on Rep Pingree’s food policy work: https://pingree.house.gov/food

 

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photo source: Grist (header) | Civil Eats (headshot)


 

Ep. 23: Jason Haas – Partner & General Manager at Tablas Creek Winery ||

 

Wine is more than just any libation, it’s an experience steeped in history. It’s part of ritual and beliefs, it ties us with friends, family, cuisine, and for many – with their lineage. From the highest-end vintages that are matured & aged for decades, to the low-end box of wine at the corner store costing a few bucks – this cold fired fermenting extends a full spectrum of offerings that now accounts for a $62B domestic industry.  The success of the industry is tied to its ability to differentiate those offerings throughout that spectrum. From the region it’s from, to an elevated production approach, to the aging process, or its unparalleled cuisine connection that helps develop an ecosystem of aficionados that have become increasingly interested in each of all of these unique factors further connecting the consumer with their drink of choice and its affinities – it matters in wine.

 

Producing Châteauneuf-du-Pape style Rhone wines native to the Southeast Corner of France, today we welcome Partner and General Manager of Tablas Creek Winery Jason Haas to Sourcing Matters.  Situated squarely between San Francisco & Los Angeles, Jason’s family began their California winery in 1989 using elevated practices that focused on Organic and regenerative in effort to benefit their soils, and the flavor of their wines.  Now, producing 360,000 bottles a year of biodynamic and diverse vitas – Tablas Creek has established themselves as a desired brand that engages consumers and progresses the industry through their commitment to producing world-class wine.

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From “Place” & provenance, to cleaner & transparent production, to agritourism which engages & retains,  to preservation of values throughout the supply chain – have a listen – hear how this approach in wine can act as a new baseline for more food categories to follow.  So, when next marrying wine with your cuisine – we hope those expectations for quality and associated values on wine thus ports (carries-over) to the food you’re pairing.
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@TablasCreek

 

 

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photo source: 


 

Ep. 22: Fiona Wilson, Chair of Board  & Dave Herring, Executive Director – Wolfe’s Neck Center on Casco Bay, Maine ||

 

Situated on over 600 acres of preserved coastal landscape in Freeport, Maine – Wolfe’s Neck Center uses its setting to connect people of all ages to the food they eat and where it comes from. As a nonprofit, Wolfe’s Neck Center draws upon a rich history of innovation and experimentation to continue the legacy of this place today. Through regenerative farming, innovative soil health research, and visitor interactions, the land is now used as an educational resource to create a healthier planet for all.
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Joining for episode 22 of Sourcing Matters we welcome Dave Herring: Executive Director at Wolfe’s Neck Center; and Fiona Wilson, Chair of the Board at Wolfe’s Neck, and ED at Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise, Asst. Prof. at UNH’s Paul College of Business.
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Our 45 minute discussion ranges from regenerative best practice -to- the current state of milk -to- the business potential of regional production -to- encouraging more connection to nature, and systems, through getting out – and camping.  Fiona and Dave have begun a new epicenter of food, agriculture and environmental research on Casco Bay in Maine. It’s a marquee example of Sustainable Coastal Farming that works to “Transform our relationship with farming & food, to transform the planet.” Hear how these folks are amplifying, educating and curating an ecosystem.

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@wolfesneck 

 

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Ep. 21: Volkert Engelsman – CEO & Founder of EOSTA & Nature & More ||

 

Did you know that the thin walled produce you eat can be some of the most concerning foods in your diet. From everything we think we know – that just seems counterintuitive. How can Fruit & Veg possibly worse than processed food, high fructose sugar, feedlot beef?  Well, that may come down to the eye of the beholder.  Concerns with neurotoxins and hormone disruptors used extensively in common pesticides throughout conventional production, or that of glyphosate are real and are worthy of scrutiny.

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On Sourcing Matters episode 21 we welcome Volkert Engelsman, CEO of the EU’s largest importer of organic and biological produce – EOSTA of the Netherlands.  Engelsman is a global thought-leader fighting for cleaner food and healthier soils through a unique process of engaging more stakeholders in sourcing.  “When you commoditize products, you anonymize origin and backstory” explains Engelsman in describing why he launched trans & trace technology platform Nature & More to validate the integrity of his supply chain.  Now, as the backbone of their produce distribution – this framework brought mainstream through a “Sustainability Flower” is used to evaluate, manage and communicate the sustainability achievements of organic growers. The six flower petals deal with ecology: soil, water, air, plants, animals and energy. The heart of the flower shows the words “freedom”, “justice” and “solidarity”, which refer to cultural, societal and economical sustainability respectively.
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Along with the UN and Ernst & Young – Volkert Engelsman and the team at EOSTA have levered the Nature & More framework to prove healthier & cleaner food has greater value than the cheap stuff.  The pilot program has been labeled “True Cost Accounting for Food, Farming & Finance”.   We learn that French Government has calculated a 54b Euro impact of externalized costs from contamination on the water supply and environmental impact tied to conventional food production. More over, the UN calculates $2.8 Trillion of environmental externalized costs and $2.1 Trillion in social damage tied to extractive models of agriculture.  Engelsman explains that’s about the equivalent of the total revenues of all food products from around the world.  “The report makes clear that organic food is not too expensive, but rather conventional food is too cheap.” – details Engelsman.
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in 2015 Engelsman launched a viral initiative to engage everyday citizens, VIPs, and political leaders to Save our Soils.  With 30 football fields of soil being lost every minute to irresponsible farming practices, this UN-backed Save Our Soils initiative aims to inform consumers about the urgent need to halt the loss of irreplaceable soils. To amplify the impact Engelsman employs ambassadors like Prince Charles, Julia Roberts, King of the Netherlands, Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, activist Vandana Shiva and conservationist founder of North Face Douglas Tompkins to support efforts in preserving soils, and promoting clean food on a shrinking planet with a fresh look at true costs.
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Have a listen, and hear what’s going on around the world. There are some pretty exciting concepts ripe for change. This guy, Volkert Engelsman of the Netherlands, is a driving force teeming with insight and creativity set on changing the world for the better.
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natureandmore

SaveOurSoilFund

 

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photo source: William Taufic


 

Ep. 18: Jill Isenbarger – CEO of Stone Barns & Wendy Millet – Director at TomKat ||

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Today I’m joined by two knowledgeable thought leaders pioneering a better food movement sprawling from coast to coast, and everywhere in-between.  On episode 18 of Sourcing Matters Wendy Millet – Director of Tomkat Ranch research center, and Jill Isenbarger – CEO of Stone Barns Center discuss all important topics ranging from circular economies, holistic management, food & Agtech, and more which have begun casting a long shadow over a quickly changing domestic food landscape. .

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Over the last decade, TomKat Ranch and the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture have materialized into the tip of the spear of domestic regenerative agricultural reform.  Through convening gatherings of industry expertise and consumers alike these unique epicenters of future food have gained a finger on the pulse of what it’ll take to return values back to food, and how to engage tomorrow’s workforce into the diverse rewards and opportunities of reconnecting with the land. .
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Supremely humble and approachable, Millet & Isenbarger are great friends who’ve accepted their leadership roles in this evolution of domestic expansion inevitably more holistic.  A 21st century revision that systematically works to clean-up the wake of failed experiments which range from Manifest Destiny to Earl Butz – a new script for agriculture is now being penned by leaders with focus on living within the rules of natural order and harmonizing interests for greater good on a shared and shrinking planet.  The ingenuity teeming from these bookends of regenerative reform are a significant part of this new playbook for future agricultural models which enhance instead of deplete regenerative natural resources.


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Now, leveraging an innovation economy which spawns creatively and engagement into future food as an agent of change to crack the nut of more complex systems like human & public health, environmental impact, community engagement and sustainable jobs – the anchor industry of agriculture is establishing a new cost basis for future economies becoming ultimately more circular.   Have a listen to what these folks have to say.  Ultimately, they’re defining a succession plan for us all.

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@StoneBarns  ||  @tomkat_ranch

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