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.

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.





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.
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.
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




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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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.

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.




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.
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.
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.






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


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. .


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. .

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.

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.


@StoneBarns  ||  @tomkat_ranch



Ep. 16 Jack Algiere: Farm Director at Stone Barns Agricultural Center ||


On Sourcing Matters episode 16 we welcome Jack Algiere, farm manager at Stone Barns Agricultural Research Center.  An insightful guide who has taken the reins in shepherding the future food system more regenerative, Algiere takes great pride and responsibility in his work.  Through a well endowed 80 acre central farm, and an additional 350 acres of pastural lands – Jack and his team manage a multidimensional farm of diverse outputs that fields 150,000 guests a year at their working hub.


The goal of this agricultural research and educational epicenter in West Chester NY is to cast a large shadow on consumers and producers alike through better connecting more to natural order through the food we eat.  There are many challenges of this type of agritourism on a working farm, but Jack takes them all in stride – stating: “We can only look ahead.  If people engage in food; if they ask for, and demand more – we can change the food system together.”  Algiere continues, “Where do we learn this stuff?  On the small, beautiful farms we can all access.”

Algiere defines regenerative agriculture as land and natural resource conservation beginning from the soil up.  This new, but fundamentally old-school of thought in feeding ourselves on a shrinking planet is vastly different than nearly every conventional agricultural model currently using an extractive and/or input-based approach. This too is changing. Algiere states that he welcomes scientific advancements.  Seeing the broad-reaching potential to have a seat at the table, to embrace these current conventional models based on yesterday’s science as essential but tricky – Algiere is equal parts pragmatic farmer, and systems thinking philosopher set on harmonizing man’s role in these systems.
Algiere explains – “there are very few things we inherit in this world, and (planet & animal) genetics is one.  We must guard that responsibility.”  His Young farmers program which teaches and spawns tomorrow’s guardians of biodiversity with the skills and access to properly manage these interconnected natural systems essential for future planetary, economic and political stability is something we must more broadly evaluate, and thus replicate.   What’s most incredible for any of us – from getting your hands dirty – to witnessing transformative change – to consuming world class food – the entire immersive experience at Stone Barns Agricultural Center is accessible to all.
So, have a listen to what Jack has to say.  Better yet, go visit, and you’ll forever understand the many values good food can have on us all.


*photo source: Stranded on Land


Ep. 13 Arion Thiboumery: General Manager, Vermont Packinghouse ||



For the past four years Arion Thiboumery has been progressing the regional food movement of the Northeast. Offering services that range from an advanced kill floor -to- full carcass utilization preserving elevated production standards up & down the value chain -to- value-add sausage, bacon, hams and more – Vermont Packinghouse is a full service provider establishing a new niche in domestic production. Through commitment to unparalleled transparency in their process and products coming through their facility, Arion and his team of 60 are defining new expectations in food provenance through their approach to food animal processing.


During a 35 minute chat, host Aaron Niederhelman discusses with Thiboumery a wide variety of subjects including the current state of the industry, bioregions for economic growth, new competition from plant-based cellular meat products and growth plans to scale Vermont Packinghouse’s honed process. Thiboumery  explains that he’s “a recovering academic who decided to get my hands dirty in meat processing”.  A deep thinking student of the game, Arion has a vision for the future of the American food system with a more engaged consumer who eat less meat, but better of it.  Have a listen, and learn why modern processing committed to transparency and provenance is cornerstone to feeding a shrinking and resource challenged world.



*photos of Arion Thiboumery by Everett Meissner 


Ep. 12 Bill Buckner: President & CEO of Noble Research Institute ||



On episode 12 of Sourcing Matters we welcome Bill Buckner, President and CEO of Noble Research institute.  As the largest independent private agricultural organization in the US, Noble has recently focused on bridging the worlds of conventional and Organic production through a commitment to land management and soil health that will provide solutions to the vast challenges facing Agriculture, and humanity as a whole.


Founded in 1945 in response to the dust bowl, the core competencies of land stewardship and proper resource conservation to prevent future disaster is part of Noble’s linage.  Earlier this year they’ve launched a market exchange for natural resources currently not even given a commodity value. It’s the hope of Buckner and his team of 400 at the Noble Research Institute that by adding a new cost basis to soil health, carbon and water – we’ll be able to decommoditized food and promote the differentiated values from elevated production models – while furthering commitment to regenerative natural resources.  Collectively, that’s a competitive advantage for all domestic producers.  Raising this minimum market threshold seems an essential next step in on-ramping more farmers to evolve production models often inherited with succession of a farm.  As more consumers appreciate those values of the food sourced with any and all aspirational standards it’ll continue to become increasingly more mainstream in the marketplace.


What I learned in our discussion was that Bill Buckner is a practitioner of change.  Gracefully handling language that is often alienating and ostracizing for different sides of the fence, you must listen to our chat as he explains how it’s the farmers who’ll elevate the conversation and transcend much of the infighting that has put us in such polarized position.  I think there are some lessons to be learned in our discussion by our brethren in DC.  For food and managing our resources – it’s the farmers and the consumers that will meet in the middle to balance a system that must become more harmonious, and just.




Ep. 11 Tim Joseph: Founder and owner of Maple Hill Creamery ||


Through the creation of a world-class creamery in upstate New York, Tim Joseph has seen his fair share of learning experiences. Joseph and his growing aggregation of dairy farms have become the tip of the spear in testing and evolving best holistic management practice to maximize the many values of a grassfed production model to benefit animals, land and consumer health.


Beginning with the quality of taste of their products, Tim Joseph has become more than just a student of the game in differentiating their products through elevated production standards.  Maple Hill Creamery has become a market leader in advancing consumer awareness in all food animal production. Simplifying the messaging that focuses on the personal benefits of investing in the animals and their living environments has seemed to resonate with more.  Now, leveraging that with extensive research into growing consumer’s interest in their food and the mirroring of the success witnessed in other products categories like beer, wine, coffee, sweets and savories – Joseph and his growing but never compromising dairy believe they’ve just scratched the surface on an increasingly crowded yogurt shelf.