Jonathan Lundgren on why all agriculture scientists should become farmers first

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A check in conversation with Jonathan Lundgren, founder of Blue Dasher Farms and the Ecdysis Foundation, who talk about the 1000 Farm Initiative, the real innovation on regen production in the United Sates and beyond, and his scientific approach to regen farming practises.

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What has happened over the last 2 years since the last conversation with Jonathan? Has traditional science started taking regenerative agriculture seriously? Is there finally more research into profitability and regenerative practices?

REGEN AG IS, ON AVERAGE, TWICE AS PROFITABLE

It has lower input costs and greater profits and, depending on the system, the relative contributions to the overall profitability are different. For instance, with corn, lowering input costs was the primary reason for the overall net profitability increasing. With almonds, you gain money based on premiums associated with the end product, and so on. The bottom line is that net profitability is always higher.

“We published a study that said it was twice as profitable. Apart from all these other wonderful metrics, carbon sequestration, life promotion, etc., but that wasn’t enough. Regenerative still isn’t okay. When scientists walk into a farmer’s field, or into their office, they’re wondering, what’s this guy going to sell me.” – Jonathan Lundgren

SCIENTISTS SHOULD BECOME FARMERS FIRST. UNDERSTANDING THE KEY DRIVER FOR FARMERS.

The relationships and the trust that Jon with his foundation is building with farmers is one of the biggest successes. There are some sociological elements that need to be understood. Becoming a farmer on Blue Dasher Farm in South Dakota has changed their approach to science and to life.

“Trying to figure out what is the motivators of decision making on farms, we like to think it’s all about profit. But honestly, if farmers were really interested and driven by profits, they wouldn’t be growing corn and beans. They’d be growing something totally different.”- Jonathan Lundgren

“You know, scientists have to be farmers, we can’t be addressing farmer’s needs without experiencing that first hand, and the relationships and trust that associated with that and driving a far grander impact of our research than could be obtained if we were just working at a normal institution.” – Jonathan Lundgren

WHY LUNDGREN BECAME A LIVESTOCK FARMER

The bread and butter at Jon’s farm is lamb, pork, poultry, eggs, and honey. Those are the things they consider the most beneficial for the land as well as for ourselves in our community. There are a lot of roles that livestock plays as a tool for managing vegetation and other things but there’s also another element that creates a connection to this place.

“It forces me to get out of bed in the middle of winter, and go out there and feed the animals. There’s something very mentally stimulating and healthy about that. And it’s harder to put a number on it.” – Jonathan Lundgren

“A farm just doesn’t feel like a farm without livestock. There’s something fundamentally human about being around animals. I don’t know if it’s a spiritual thing. I just don’t understand what it is. But there’s fundamentally something that we feel connected to when we’re raising our animals and caring for those animals.” – Jonathan Lundgren

THE 1000 FARM INITIATIVE

Ecdysis Foundation decided to run full systems assessment on 1000 farms per year around North America, with plans to upscale globally. They decided to deploy scientific teams to measure entire systems, deep carbon, soil, physical and chemical properties, water, invertebrates, microbes, plants, birds, mammals, the nutrient density of the foods, economics, etc. on each one of these fields. In order to answer the question ’does regen work?’ , the 1000 Farm Initiative uses empirical assessments to make roadmaps to remove risks associated with this transition process.

“We’re on the edge of a cliff. And we’re looking over and there’s a real sense of urgency.” – Jonathan Lundgren

“When we come out of a field, we have almost all of the data in hand so we can you give that back free for the farmers or give that off to decision-makers, policymakers, people that are coming up with verification ideas, regen people that are trying to conduct forecasting models on carbon. We’ve got ground truth data on a scale that’s never even been attempted before.” – Jonathan Lundgren

EXTRACTIVE AG IS NEARLY IMPLODING

While not doing full farm analyses, the data they obtain tell the relative profitability in one snapshot. The economic analysis doesn’t reflect the brittleness of a larger operation. It doesn’t reflect where people are at or how even with the best corn prices, they would ever be able to pay that off.

“Our farming community is so overextended on debt, and just trying to squeeze out being able to pay that mortgage in order to keep the chemical companies and the seed companies and all the other companies that are making money off of them in business. We’re gonna break down mentally before we break down economically, but I have a feeling both of those things are already happening.” – Jonathan Lundgren

“The land prices are artificially swollen, and that bubble continues to swell, but it will burst and it’s going to be painful to watch.” – Jonathan Lundgren

REAL INNOVATION IS HAPPENING ON FARMS NOT IN UNIVERSITIES

Not only in the United States, but around the world, there is a movement around regenerative production which is not being led by the research community or the scientific community, or governments.

“This research or this movement is being led by farmers. And there’s extremely successful farming operations that are regenerative in every habitat that you visit.” – Jonathan Lundgren

“There’s 1000s of regenerative farms just in the United States alone, that are operating under the radar screen that are not being served by anybody in terms of science or policies or anything like that. There’s a lot going on. And maybe one of our jobs is to help highlight that.” – Jonathan Lundgren

OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED:

  • The evolution of our food system
  • Margins and profitability
  • What inspires the transition to regen?

LINKS:

LINKED INTERVIEWS:

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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

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