On a Late Summer evening in Boulder, CO, a group of regenerative farming enthusiasts came together to learn from Dr. Jonathon Lundgren and his team of scientists from the Ecdysis Foundation. The Ecdysis team was in the area to begin a community-supported multi-year research initiative at twenty diverse farms in Boulder county as part of their ambitious 1000 Farms Initiative. The 1000 Farms Initiative seeks to put the science behind regenerative agricultural practices on farms throughout North America and to develop road maps for farmers who are transitioning to regenerative systems.
We gathered at the Golden Hoof, a locally revered farm that provides meat, poultry and dairy to members by raising animals in a rotational grazing system. Golden Hoof co-owner Karel Starek kicked off the event by explaining how their practices are inspired by the Slow Food movement and his ranchers shared that what is good for the animals can also be good for the landscape and the human gut.
Jon Lundgren and his team took over for the rest of the evening by moving everyone through several demonstration stations to explain the techniques they use to gather data on farms. Their research paints a picture with a variety of inquiries: from taking deep core samples of the soil to documenting the number of plant and insect species to doing an interview with the farmers to learn about the unique circumstances, practices and inputs on their land.
The goals of Ecdysis are clear, to show in scientific terms that regenerative practices lead to better soil health, balanced and prospering ecosystems, safe and nutrient-dense produce and higher profits for farmers. Lundgren's intelligent and zany team spends long days in the field collecting data, but what is perhaps the most impressive is their ability to be kind and respectful of all farmers and their practices. A key insight from spending time with the Ecdysis team is that it's the systemic infrastructure over the last 60-years that has led to a conventional farming crisis and that there is hope to rehabilitate deteriorated soil with regenerative practices.
After learning from the scientists and Golden Hoof caretakers, we walked back to the bell tent during the golden hour, grabbed cold drinks and plunged into conversation. A vibrant gathering of several generations, wizened farm veterans, vital young farmers, community leaders from the Harvest of All First Nations, Boulder City Council members, Boulder County commissioners, Boulder City and County Agricultural land managers, philanthropists and college students all felt at home with each other and prepared to shape a brighter future.
For all of us there, it felt uplifting to learn from the Ecdysis team and the Golden Hoof farmers. Many of us sat down in the lush grasses while learning. Being in the field, touching the ground and seeing the peacefully grazing animals brought us back to the essential prerequisite to true change — feeling connected to and belonging with the plants, animals, insects, fungi and all the life in these lush fields. This remembrance, and the methods of stewardship called "regenerative farming", are knowledge long held by the indigenous people of North America. It is within our grasp to reconnect with the land and each other.
Ecdysis is a biological term that refers to the process of an insect or reptile shedding its skin. For those interested in Jon Lundgren's work with the Ecdysis Foundation, go to www.ecdysis.bio.