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Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture Paperback – 4 October 2018
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“Dirt to Soil confirms my belief that animals are part of the natural land. We need to reintegrate livestock and crops on our farms and ranches, and Gabe Brown shows us how to do it well.”―Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
“Gabe Brown’s Dirt to Soil could not be more timely, as farmers are beginning to see an increase in costs of the fertilizers and many other inputs they rely on. Gabe provides us with his complete story of how he transitioned to a largely self-renewing and self-regulating (regenerative) farming system. Even though I have been an organic farmer for 40 years, I was amazed at how much I learned from reading Dirt to Soil. I highly recommend it to all farmers and food entrepreneurs, especially anyone interested in anticipating future changes and preparing for them in advance.”―Frederick Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; author of Cultivating an Ecological Conscience
“Restoring the productivity of agricultural land is one of the most urgent imperatives of our time. In this landmark book, Gabe Brown explains, step by step, how farmers and ranchers can transform lifeless dirt to healthy topsoil, offering a profound yet elegantly simple blueprint for reversing land degradation across the globe.”―Dr. Christine Jones, soil ecologist; founder of amazingcarbon.com
“Civilization was made possible by agriculture developed over the centuries by ordinary people domesticating plants and animals using the emerging biological sciences. Today mainstream agriculture―dominated by monoculture cropping and confined animal feeding―is the most destructive industry ever to evolve. Based on chemistry and marketing of technology, current agricultural practices produce twenty times more dead, eroding soil than food, year after year. In this dangerous time, Gabe Brown’s book comes as a breath of fresh air, showing by example what any farmer who cares enough about the future can do by following sound ecological principles and using common sense and imagination.”―Allan Savory, president, Savory Institute
“This book is a must read for anybody who thinks that the ‘Green Revolution’ has been a success. Gabe Brown provides a heartfelt personal account of his journey and awakening to a new perspective on the importance of soil biology and the urgent need for a return to regenerative integrated organic farming methods, not just to feed the world but also to save the ecosystem from imminent disaster.”―Stephanie Seneff, senior research scientist, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
“Dirt to Soil skillfully describes the learning process and rich rewards of perseverance in the conversion from yield-driven farm practices that degrade soils to the regeneration processes that provide pride, productivity, nutrition, health, and sustainability to the basic infrastructure of society―agriculture. The core values of stewardship Gabe Brown describes for managing the agricultural ecology are reinforced by science that links diverse components so they function together to benefit everyone and everything in the dynamic rejuvenation of soils. The principles are exemplified through firsthand experiences that not only explain what, why, and how things need to change, but also provide the motivation to start doing them. The book provides hope that nutrition and health can be guiding principles in food production for successive generations to displace the ‘Band-Aid’ interventions adopted by the past two generations that have resulted in serious, unintended negative consequences.”―Don M. Huber, emeritus professor of plant pathology, Purdue University
“Gabe Brown’s dirt-to-soil story is an inspiring example of how land can flourish when a farmer tunes out the textbooks and chemical purveyors and starts listening to nature. Brown has become a folk hero in regenerative agriculture circles, and this book delivers his trademark candor and ability to cut through myth, jargon, and generations of bad advice to reveal essential dynamics of how farm ecosystems work. By keeping it real, this practical, spirited, and timely book can help spark an agricultural shift from conventional wisdom to common sense.”―Judith D. Schwartz, author of Cows Save the Planet and Water in Plain Sight
“After hearing a presentation by Gabe Brown, many people picture Brown’s Ranch in North Dakota as some sort of Xanadu where nothing goes wrong. This book provides a realistic perspective on Gabe’s struggles in a challenging environment. Gabe and his family didn’t let the challenges defeat them; they viewed them as opportunities to learn and innovate. This determination has made Gabe one of the leaders in the movement to regenerate soils. He has also helped to push, pull, and drag science toward finding solutions to solve our current farm and food crises. Farmers and ranchers like Gabe Brown and the others whose stories are told in Dirt to Soil are addressing the critical need to develop resilient systems that provide abundant, nutrient-dense food on regenerated soils that efficiently cycle nutrients and water through diverse biological communities.”―Kris Nichols, PhD, soil microbiologist, KRIS Systems Education and Consultation
“Gabe Brown’s story is a journey of hope and freedom for all those who care about food, health, and the earth. His passion to heal the land and serve others has shaken the foundations of the industrial agriculture model. The industrial agriculture complex is an insatiable furnace of consumption that devours soil, leaves farm families destitute, and impoverishes rural communities―ultimately destroying nations. Who would have thought that a North Dakota rancher would lead the regenerative agriculture revolution, a campaign that shows us a new way of growing nutritious food―food that is medicine and that nurtures and honors all of creation. Because of Gabe Brown, I have hope for the future of agriculture. Dirt to Soil is a must read!”―Ray Archuleta, “The Soil Guy,” retired USDA/NRCS soil health specialist
“If you have interest in your health or saving the earth or eating food that tastes the way food should, you have heard a lot recently about regenerative farming. There are dozens (or hundreds) of self-proclaimed experts on the subject. Here is what I know: Gabe Brown is the Real Deal. He has done more than anyone to bridge the gap between research scientists and practicing farmers. His understanding of how to put the science of soil regeneration into practice is unsurpassed. Dirt to Soil should be required reading for every industrial farmer on the face of the earth.”―Will Harris, White Oak Pastures, Bluffton, Georgia
“Dirt to Soil is the perfect title for this new book from Gabe Brown. It is an apt metaphor to describe the Brown family’s escape, through intelligence and determination, from their entrapment in an agricultural model that has failed economically, ecologically, and as a source of quality of life for the family. Their accomplishment stems from their realization that long-term success is possible only when all parts of the soil-plant-animal-wealth-human complex we call a farm/ranch are nurtured simultaneously. The Browns understand that agriculture must be about promoting life. It must be regenerative.”―Walt Davis, author of How to Not Go Broke Ranching
“I can no longer drive by a farm without wanting to get out of the car and start planting cover crops. Dirt to Soil is an entertaining, illuminating read that will change the way people think about agriculture.”―Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect
“There is growing awareness that industrialized agricultural methods are doing considerable damage to our soil, farms, and planet. The way we farm needs to change, and Dirt to Soil is about to transform the way agriculture is practiced around the world. This book is filled with excellent advice on how to farm by following Mother Nature’s guidance, seasoned with Gabe’s great sense of humor and humility.”―Colin Seis, agricultural management consultant; owner of Winona, New South Wales, Australia
“Reading Dirt to Soil is like having a personal conversation with Gabe Brown about the changes he witnessed as he put regenerative practices into place on Brown’s Ranch. Most important is his clear message about capturing the value of his system by marketing directly to the consumer. In Gabe’s words, he ‘prefers to sign the back of the check, not the front.’”―Dwayne Beck, PhD, manager, Dakota Lakes Research Farm; professor of plant science, South Dakota State University
“Civilization after civilization plowed itself out of prosperity by degrading the soil. Gabe Brown’s inspiring story shows why regenerative farming to rebuild healthy, fertile soil is not just an academic theory―it’s already been done on farms like his.”―David R. Montgomery, author of Dirt and Growing a Revolution
“Dirt to Soil is an inspiration! Gabe Brown offers a proven model that will help other farmers improve their soils and our planet. More and more growers are starting to realize that they must be soil farmers first and foremost. Gabe helps us imagine what the health of our planet would look like and how the profitability of farms, both large and small, would improve if all of us shift the way we practice agriculture. His message to mimic nature rather than trying to fight against her resonates with everyone who cares about the quality of our food and our future.”―Todd Colehour, founder, Williams and Graham and Tribe Market
About the Author
Gabe Brown is a pioneer of the soil-health movement and has been named one of the twenty-five most influential agricultural leaders in the United States. Brown, his wife, Shelly, and son, Paul, own Brown’s Ranch, a holistic, diversified 5,000-acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, North Dakota. The Browns integrate their grazing and no-till cropping systems, which include cash crops and multi-species cover crops along with all-natural, grass-finished beef and lamb, pastured pork, and laying hens. The Brown family has received a Growing Green Award from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the USA Zero-Till Farmer of the Year Award.
From the introduction:
"Our lives depend on soil. This knowledge is so ingrained in me now that it’s hard for me to believe how many soil-destroying practices I followed when I first started farming. I didn’t know any better. In college I was taught all about the current industrial production model, which is a model based on reductionist science, not on how natural ecosystems function. The story of my farm is how I took a severely degraded, low-profit operation that had been managed using the industrial production model and regenerated it into a healthy, profitable one. The journey included many trials and constant experimentation, along with many failures and some successes. I’ve had many teachers, including other farmers and ranchers, researchers, ecologists, and my family. But the best teacher of all is nature herself."
photo credit: Larry Reichenberger
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The first half of the book gives a detailed background of his farm story and why he changed his farming management strategy.
The second half of the book discusses his 5 principles of soil health with plenty of references to experts in the field and other farmers in the soil health realm.
Brown learned from other farmers who were also experimenting and, like him, had ‘learned the hard way’. He consulted scientists and specialists. He read voraciously. He didn’t have any trouble raising cattle, but the dirt on his farm was unhealthy, had few worms, and there were plenty of other indicators that he needed to make a change from traditional farming methods. He ultimately learned to plant cover crops, saw that tilling dried out the soil, became adept at pasture management, realized the value of planting multiple species of forage crops similar to the varied plants living in harmony on the plains, and that fertilizing naturally instead of using synthetic was the way to go. Over time he stopped using herbicides and insecticides and found his fields were producing more and healthier foods. With his son, they expanded to additional animals, such as chickens and pigs, and to more diverse cultivation, such as fruit trees and bees. He explains, in layman’s terms, holistic management, bale grazing, and the value and roles of carbon and mycorrhizae. The color pictures in the center of the book tell the story as well.
Ironically, when Brown’s son attended college, he was surprised to see that his professors were still espousing traditional methods. Brown has realized he can play an active role in educating farmers interested in learning about a healthy ecosystem for a farm. He travels and gives presentations and his farm hosts internships yearly.
Reviewed in the United States on 5 October 2019