I have been asked numerous times, “Where did you get your education from?” My response is always, “Academia does not have a monopoly on knowledge.” Just to clear the air, I do not have a university degree, but here I am, teaching about agriculture.
My working knowledge on regenerative agriculture has come from the hundreds of conferences, seminars and private schools that I have attended over the last 20 years. There have been so many speakers that I have heard over the years that have blown my mind. I just get thinking that I know something about farming and then BOOM, I hear another amazing presentation that opens up a whole new field to dive into that I never knew existed.
Here in Alberta, I am going to give most of this credit for my education to the applied research and forage associations across the province. I know other areas have similar not-for-profit organizations that are constantly bringing in speakers and putting on extension events. These organizations are driven by a board of directors. These directors are local producers that volunteer their time because they see the value in unbiased farmer-led research. In my opinion, we already have far too much industry-led research. I am sure that you can guess the problem that I see with that type of research.
I have been involved with these not-for-profit boards for over 20 years and I am still constantly learning from them. I tip my hat to all the staff and directors that make these organizations a success. I am so grateful for everything that they do.
My advice is this: take advantage of this resource and become a member, or better yet, join the board as a director and help guide the industry.
Bear with me as I would like to share with you just a few of these mind-blowing moments. There is no way that I can put them all down from the last 20 years but here are a few:
- Allan Savory, Holistic Resource Management: We have broken the water cycle with agriculture. (How had I never heard of this before?) BOOM.
- Dave Pratt at the Ranching for Profit school: The easiest way to make more money is to stop doing things. BOOM.
- Don Campbell: You can make more money thinking than you can working. If you are too busy working, you might not have time to think. BOOM.
- Allan Nation: Land is a good investment if you make it with after-tax dollars. BOOM.
- Joel Salatin: If something is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly first. BOOM.
- Christine Jones: Plants do not grow from the soil. Plants grow from the air. BOOM.
- Gabe Brown: Build a polyculture, it is all about the polyculture of living roots. BOOM.
- Jim Gerrish: There are more economic losses in agriculture today from the fear of bloat than we would ever get from bloat. BOOM.
- Dennis Wobeser: You can never have too much grass, but you can for sure have too many cows. BOOM.
- Nicole Masters: Our soil is the most vital resource on the planet, and we treat it like dirt. BOOM.
- Gerald Fry: Balance the hormonal system of the cow to deal with parasites. BOOM.
- Dick Divon: Cattle can go on “metabolic welfare.” BOOM.
- Brendon Rocky: Be a “biotic” farmer, not an anti-biotic farmer. BOOM.
As I said, mind-blowing moments for me. I’ll end this part with a great quote from a man that I never met. Aristotle said, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”
My goal is to never stop learning. But wait, the speakers are only half of the education. There is a whole other side to these extension events. Networking with other like-minded producers has been so valuable to me over the years. In all of the schools and events that I have attended, I learn just as much from the networking as I do the event. Many times, I have also made some amazing connections that have boosted my business. There have been so many new ideas or maybe sometimes they are actually old ideas.
I have expanded my knowledge capacity a thousand-fold just because I have so many like-minded producers in my bubble. I know if I call on them for advice or ideas, they would be there in a heartbeat. I highly recommend to anyone who attends an event or a school, make sure you go out afterwards and network. Yes, even the introverts like me. The networking is well worth our time.
I know, I know… that will be difficult this year when there are no in-person events. No one was planning for the 2020 factor. Already, I have noticed that with all these virtual events, we are severely lacking on the networking side of this equation. You might still get to listen to a great speaker online, but where is the networking? The human contact is gone, the sharing of ideas and laughing and joking is no more. I miss you. This is just not right.
As a director of the Gateway Research Organization, I am proud to tell you that we are here to fix that. We have started up Wednesday Night Networking or WNN. Join us for a Q & A session as we look at a different topic each week. Just because we are not allowed to hold events, that does not mean that we cannot still network. The best part is… it is free. Networking is far too valuable to put a price on it. Join us every Wednesday night, come drink the Kool-Aid as there will be plenty for everyone. Regenerative Agriculture is still here, still growing and still spreading like the mycorrhiza spreads through the soil. A silly little virus cannot keep us from networking.