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Dirt to Soil: One Family's Journey Into Regenerative Agriculture

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Gabe Brown didn't set out to change the world when he first started working alongside his father-in-law on the family farm in North Dakota. But as a series of weather-related crop disasters put Brown and his wife, Shelly, in desperate financial straits, they started making bold changes to their farm. Brown--in an effort to simply survive--began experimenting with new practices he'd learned about from reading and talking with innovative researchers and ranchers. As he and his family struggled to keep the farm viable, they found themselves on an amazing journey into a new type of farming: regenerative agriculture.

240 pages, Paperback

Published January 1, 2018

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Gabe Brown

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 189 reviews
Profile Image for Maggy.
13 reviews3 followers
February 5, 2020
Now that’s an ag book! WARNING: do not read while drinking or shortly after drinking espresso... you’ll end up with a hundred pounds of 8-way cover crop mixes, a no-till drill, and 4 piglets if you aren’t careful. 🐖 🌱
Profile Image for Stephen.
652 reviews15 followers
February 12, 2019
Having read a number of books both old and new about soil, food, agriculture and environment, I call this one stupendous. It is a short, extremely practical guidebook on how to change from typical North American farming/ranching to regenerative agriculture. Gabe Brown never tells the reader "Here's what you must do" or "The perfect cocktail of seeds for your winter cover crop is such and such [naming nine varieties]" He says learn from experience, make mistakes and learn from them, find out what works for you. His principles are no-till, cover crops, grazing animals, diversity and waste not want not.
Not many people are set up spiritually or geographically to ranch as Brown's ranch does, with multiple types of animals, extraordinary varieties of grasses, legumes, forbs, trees. Still this Noah's ark approach appeals and instructs and the early struggles are touching.
Note: climate activists who understand importance of carbon sequestration in ag soils by improved practices as a method of "drawdown" will find this book gives more ink to soil than to atmosphere and global heating. That's a matter of emphasis. This book is meant for ranchers and farmers. For a less granular picture of life on the ranch, Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life is excellent. It has a good section on Brown's Ranch, as well it should.
Profile Image for Lena.
1,145 reviews244 followers
June 17, 2019
“We are over fed and undernourished.”

I had not expected to burst into tears at the end of this audiobook but Gabe Brown caught me off guard.

It took four years of hail and drought to show Gabe Brown everything that was wrong with conventional farming; that mimicking, and working with, nature is the resilient, successful, and moral option.

You are a Solarpunk Rock Star Gabe Brown!
Profile Image for Ryan.
990 reviews
August 21, 2020
If you want to make small changes, change the way you do things. If you want to make major changes, change the way you see things.
Gabe Brown attributes this insight to Don Campbell, a "Canadian rancher who practices holistic management." In Dirt to Soil, Brown explains how his family changed the way they see farming and restored their soil. Much can be learned from this book, and not just by farmers.

I see Brown as engaging in two broad regenerative strategies. First, he is making use of diverse cover crops. The cover crops fix nitrogen and carbon while also providing organic material. They also seem to have a fungal impact, though I don't understand fungi at all—maybe no one does, excepting, perhaps, Lieutenant Stamets. These cover crops further help the soil to retain moisture, which is a pretty big deal. Summers on the prairie where I grew up are getting hotter and rain often comes in a violent dump, so moisture either evaporates or washes away. Winters can be dry and cold, and the ground needs more insulation. Cover crops do a lot. Second, Brown uses livestock to provide healthy stress on his plants while also providing fertilizer. These strategies allowed Brown to transform a Promethean farm operation that works against nature into a managed ecosystem that works with nature.

If this were all Brown were doing, it would be a lot, but he has more to offer.

People mostly leave rural communities for the city. I think many farmers go into colossal debt as they buy land, equipment, and inputs. They retire when they sell their land to the next generation. It's not a wonderful cycle, and if you look at it as ecologically destructive, it's unsurprising that many leave. Brown takes a longterm view of his farm. First, he aligns his farm with natural rhythms and with his community, which I suspect people find fulfilling. Second, he puts his land into a trust that can be passed on to his son without a massive debt liability. Further, he diversifies his business and puts his son in charge of some aspects of the operation, which gives his son experience and agency. Most farms now specialize, but Brown seems to have found a way to return to the mixed farm setup of old. Brown further breaks his business into multiple companies to limit liability. Although he is not explicit, I suspect he has a public speaking company, a cattle company, a grain company, a marketing company, and a processing company. He runs an internship program, which I mostly view as a labor problem, but he suggests it's about teaching the next generation. Because he achieves all of this, he farms without subsidies, which is very unusual in the USA.

Although Dirt to Soil is written in a folksy and often Christian way that I tend to dislike (too many exclamation points for my taste), it is clearly a thoughtful work. He has a strong why (Sinek) for his business. He reads Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, Joel Salatin—I'd bet against even the wonkiest agro-hipster having read more than Brown. He understands soil in a way that demonstrates that I don't. And because he does so much public speaking and outreach (I get the sense that if you write him he'll reply), he not only knows how to explain his ideas but also knows how to explain them to skeptics. We would all do well to learn from his example.

When I began Dirt to Soil, I wondered how "boutique" his ideas are. I'd say they remain pretty far from mainstream. When I drive through the prairies today, they still seem increasingly bare and barren. Trees are increasingly cut down. Monocultures persist. "Environmentalists" are either a joke or an insult. But when I reached out to people I grew up with who are "more ag than ever," they were all familiar with Brown's ideas and were trying them at some margin. Right now, people seem interested in making small changes, though I remain skeptical that many are prepared to change the way they see things. Still, little things add up.
Profile Image for Hayley Hall.
63 reviews1 follower
March 31, 2022
SO GOOD! “We are overfed and under nourished” I already wanted to start a farm/commune and now I know how 😱🤩🥳🎉❤️
Profile Image for Carolien.
786 reviews143 followers
October 24, 2021
Whenever the term regenerative agriculture is used, the name Gabe Brown is soon mentioned. A farmer in North Dakota, Gabe joined the regenerative agriculture movement at the end of the 1990s after four consecutive years of crop failure due to weather disasters. Part of his motivation stemmed purely from economics as he had to turn profitable with the lowest possible input costs. In the first part of Dirt to Soil, Gabe describes his journey from new farmer to a world-renowned expert of regenerative agriculture with a profitable mixed farming enterprise. Gabe then unpacks the principles of regenerative farming and describes how he has implemented each one. The principles that he covers include the need for limited soil disturbance, keeping the soil covered at all times, cultivating diversity, maintaining living root systems and integrating animals in the operation. He is not scared to acknowledge failures and never prescriptive, telling farmers to experiment and test what works in their own environment. The principles can be applied at any scale and even my garden will be an experiment this summer! Highly, highly recommend this for any farmer who needs to improve profitability and manage extreme weather risk.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,718 reviews20 followers
November 14, 2019
When Gabe Brown and his wife first started farming they took over her family's farm. In the beginning Gabe did everything the "traditional/industrial" way his father-in-law taught him. But, the first four years after taking over were a series of disasters. On the brink of financial ruin, Gabe started thinking outside the box - initially just to save money. But, once he started to see how no-till and cover cropping helped not just his bottom line financially, but in the output of the crops he was hooked. He started researching regenerative agriculture and trying to incorporate ways to make his farm healthier - both financially and the health of his crops and animals. In Dirt to Soil Gabe shares his story, both the good decisions and the failures they learned from. Often failure is what helps the most if you're willing to be open-minded and learn from it. While this book is pretty detailed in the soil health aspect, there are things that are applicable even if you're just trying to grow your own food in a backyard garden and not farming for profit/career. Gabe reminds me a lot of Joel Salatin - another lunatic farmer who is embracing the counter-culture, unorthodox lifestyle.

Some quotes I liked:

"First, I realized that I had come to accept the degraded condition of our ranch as normal. Instead of reversing the degraded conditions, I had been trying to hang on not let things become worse. I was trying to sustain the operation in a poor state of health, not help it recover and improve. I know sustainable is a popular buzzword today. Everybody wants to be sustainable. But my question is: Why in the world would we want to sustain a degraded resource? We instead need to work on regenerating our ecosystems." (p. 24)

"The fusion of life transforms dirt into soil. Dirt becomes soil not simply because there is enough organic matter in the soil but because there's life if the soil - and not just any life but the full spectrum of soil biology. As Ray likes to say, without life we might as well be farming on the moon." (p. 50)

"The best thing about raising hogs, other than the bacon and pork chops, is the economic return. Our hogs finish in seven months and provide superior meat quality. Per dollar invested, on our operation, hogs are second only to honey." (p. 90)

"The owner of the apiary [who provides the honeybees for Gabe] told us that the hives placed on our property yield 19 percent more honey as compared to the hives placed on other properties. I see this high yield as proof of the diversity and health of our ecosystem. We pay them a fair price, thus helping support a local business. Then we sell the honey to our customers at a small profit. It's a win-win situation for all involved, including the bees!" (p. 103)

"He [Jack Stahl] considers the use of GMOs to be an act of arrogance, as well. 'Over the long run, you can't manipulate nature and win. It will always have the final word.'" (p. 157)

"The US government has propagated this mindset with its cheap food policy. It wants to ensure that citizens have an abundant supply of cheap food. Notice I did not say nutrient-dense food. The United States spends more on health care than any other country in the world, and yet, its citizens are not healthy. Are farmers and ranchers to blame for all this? No, not entirely, but we need to take our fair share of the blame. The American public needs to take their part of the blame, as well, for allowing this to happen. Through their buying dollars, consumers have made the choice that they want this system, even as they choose to ignore the environmental degradation, the mistreatment of animals, and the overall decline in human health. And think of what else this production model has caused. It has led to tighter and tighter margins for producers. Lower margins mean producers must farm more and more land to make ends meet. Farm sizes increase, leaving fewer farms overall and fewer people operating the land. In other words, this production model has also lead to the decline of many of our small towns." (p. 177)

"In 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that diet alone, sourced from the conventional production model, could no longer supply adequate amounts of nutrients and advised all adults to take one multivitamin per day, reversing a long-standing position. The sales of supplements have since grown into a $30 billion-a-year industry." (p. 185)

"Once, when I was speaking to a large crowd of corn and soybean producers in Nebraska, I asked how many of them made a profit on their corn the previous year. One person raised his hand. Yes only one. I asked how many planned on planting corn the following year. Every hand went up. This is an example of how entrenched people are in today's production model." (p. 190)
Profile Image for Kinnell.
44 reviews6 followers
January 17, 2019
I went into this hoping to learn something more on a sub-surface / biological level.  I did not. I did learn some things around raising livestock but mostly the book seemed like it was someone wrangling the author's ramblings, which I guess it was.  It repeated itself a lot and seemed like it was high on itself. Honestly, I think it's a good book for someone that doesn't know anything about no-till agriculture or about the importance of native grasses in an ecosystem, but if you fall out of that population I would skip this.  

I really appreciate what the author is doing from an environmental education front for whatever talks he gives, but this book was not for me.  I id not get out of it what I went into it to find
Profile Image for Liz.
105 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2020
I was hooked into reading this book after watching a Netflix video, Kiss the Ground. The movie is about the potential of regenerative agriculture to reverse the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere through carbon sequestration in the soil. Gabe Brown was featured prominently in the movie so I decided to read his book.

The book goes into the nitty-gritty of how Brown came to embrace regenerative techniques on his North Dakota ranch. After four years of devastating losses owing to hail, drought, and flood, he was forced to look for a different way of managing his land – simply because he could not afford the inputs needed to continue the old way, and the bank would no longer lend him money. Gradually, he came to understand the importance of soil health, and over a number of years developed the kind of deep topsoil, teeming with life, that the prairies once comprised. He shows how he did this step by step, first by abandoning tillage, and then adding cover crops and livestock to his operation. He no longer needed to rely on crop insurance, since diversification made him able to handle failure of any individual crop. His production per acre may have declined, but his profitability went up.

I gave the book 5 stars although it doesn’t apply to me, a suburban dweller with not enough sun to grow a tomato. But I am a passionate environmentalist and I see the importance of Brown’s message to the thousands of farmers and ranchers who manage our vast agricultural acreage. Interestingly, Brown focuses not only on restoring the land, but restoring communities. Farmers and ranchers, year-by-year, find that their sons and daughters do not want to stay on the land. When the older generation dies, the land is sold and becomes increasingly consolidated into enormous operations. Rural communities are experiencing death by a thousand cuts. The author links the health of the soil to the health of the crops, the health of consumers, and the health of farmers and their communities. It is the ultimate holistic message. I wish Gabe Godspeed in spreading this important message to those who need to hear it.
May 29, 2021
A clean, simple & practical take on soil health and regenerative agricultural practices. For Gabe Brown, the "proof" is well and truly "in the pudding" when it comes to the huge turnaround in productivity and profitability he has experienced by focusing on the soil, as well as being prepared to divert from traditional industrial agricultural practices. Worth a read if you're interested on what's happening on the frontier of regenerating soil health or you're a city-dweller who likes to stay informed about te future of food production.
Profile Image for D. Orion.
Author 2 books3 followers
October 21, 2020
This book is so powerful, because its one of the only books on the topic of regenerative agriculture written by a farmer who lives and breaths it.
May 10, 2021
My first read on the topic of regenerative Ag. An honest account of Gabe Brown managing his land in the conventional way, how it almost lead to his failure and how he found regenerative principles. I didn't realize how important soil quality is and how much conventional farming damages the land.

If we care about fixing our environment, we not only need a sustainable food system but one that actually regenerates the land back to health and puts carbon back into the soil. That requires we stop cheating with petrochemical fertilizers, put grazing animals back on the land and stop tillage which destroys the homes for the vast microbiology in the soil. We need to create ecosystems with massive diversity of plant and animal life.

If you care about human health at all its interesting to note most conventional food products are grown on nutrient-depleted soil from planting the same crop continuously and not caring for the health of the soil. Whereas Gabe's farm and others like it has much higher nutrient density in their products.
136 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2018
I can think of no better place to start learning about Regenerative Ag. than Gabe Brown’s ranch in North Dakota. Part autobiography, part preaching the gospel of rejuvenating our soil it is an enjoyable read with important lessons to teach. In short, by focusing on feeding and growing the microbiome in the soil using cover crops, animal impacts and eliminating tilling, artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides soil can be brought back to health and so to humans who eat the plants and animals that come from this soil.
I am especially impressed by the stated results of improvements in soil nutrients, carbon, organic matter and water infiltration and storage that this method results in. Gabe does a great job of boiling down all of this to 5 Principles of Soil Health, handy enough to keep in mind but flexible enough to adapt to farm, ranch or garden. This book is essential reading for the future of raising healthy food on planet earth.
Profile Image for Ruth.
262 reviews16 followers
May 9, 2022
I borrowed this book from my fiance's grandma- a matriarch of North Dakotan farming who said this book has changed her perspective on the industry. I wasn't sure what to expect, but absolutely loved this read. Brown writes simply and clearly as he tells his family's journey to regenerative ag practices. This book is part narrative, part practical information, and Brown does it all with heart.

"The prevailing system of agriculture does not provide the means to intensify food and fiber production without degrading the soil resource."

"If you want to make small changes, change how you do things; if you want to make major changes, change how you see things." -Don Campbell
25 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2020
Very interesting book. This book, combined with the Back to Eden gardening video have got me rethinking my own gardening strategy. Everything in nature has a covering (skin, fur, feathers, etc), and yet we rip the covering off of the soil through tilling and expect it to still be healthy. No wonder soil denegration is so significant.

Overall, not a book for everyone, but I enjoyed it. A solid book on an important topic for the future of our food production and soil quality - regenerative farming practices.
Profile Image for Erin.
759 reviews
December 22, 2021
My heritage is very rooted in agriculture, but I'm pretty out of my depth in this area... much to the amusement of certain family members. Reading this was a good chance for me to learn and to reinforce the idea that there is a lot of science and a lot of business that goes into running a family farm these days. I was pleased to see all the focus on sustainability - more from an ecological standpoint for me, but I agree with the author that efforts in ecological sustainability need to be economically sustainable as well, particularly for smaller farms that don't have vast resources we see in Big Ag.
Profile Image for Pat Loughery.
298 reviews33 followers
September 20, 2020
This book was not what I expected and not what I thought I was getting into, but super exciting. Gabe Brown describes his journey into regenerative agriculture, based upon building healthy soil that follows the natural ecosystem of his land. As a backyard gardener, I’m not working at a scale but learned a ton of things. Not much about chaos gardening, which is why I thought I was reading the book :-), but a ton of things.
Profile Image for Mikaela C..
69 reviews
December 14, 2020
After a seemingly endless and difficult semester, this informative, beautiful book reminded me of why I do what I do, and what a worthwhile pursuit it is during our short time on Earth. Thank you Gabe Brown!

“But ask the beasts and they will teach you, the birds of the heavens and they will tell you, or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.” Job 12:7-8
Profile Image for The.
3 reviews1 follower
July 11, 2021
I'm a city kid trying to learn more about farming and ag practices. This book was a fascinating eye opener. Gabe talks about transitioning from plow/till to no till to full on regenerative farming using animals, cover crops and cash crops. Also discussed, why farming has died down as an occupation. Banks and big ag and their influence on ag including destructive techniques, and so many other ag concerns and topics. It was really eye opening for me. Whether you're a farmer it a city kid interested in the topic, no doubt you'll find this an interesting read.
2 reviews
September 21, 2022
Solid book, definitely worth a re-read with a pencil and notepad. Gabe Brown tells his family's story of their progress to regenerative farming/ranching in North Dakota, as well as the stories of others in North America, encouraging readers to work with nature to care for their land.
Full of comprehensive, practical advice for running a regenerative farm in any geographic region.
Profile Image for Kolumbina.
819 reviews21 followers
October 23, 2020
An interesting book.
Regenerative agriculture but also many other life messages.
A bit repetitive, still useful.
Profile Image for Valdis Reķis.
139 reviews7 followers
August 3, 2021
Mazliet cits skats uz lauksaimniecību. Viela pārdomām par tradicionāli lietoto metožu efektivitāti
Profile Image for William Schrecengost.
666 reviews20 followers
August 4, 2022
Really good. The second half is more detailed than I could follow very well on audio, but still excellent. Care for the earth as a true steward of God caring for his creation.
Profile Image for John Harris.
332 reviews
September 4, 2022
Excellent book that is really designed for people who have commerical farms but too good not to read
Profile Image for Patina Malinalli.
111 reviews1 follower
October 5, 2022
Do you feel like you're a failure at gardening? It actually may be easier to fix than you think. The topsoil has been removed from much of the dirt in America, but it can be resolved with little actual effort (although some work is required). Gale Brown shares his experiences about regenerative agriculture (turning useless dirt into productive living soil) and gives excellent advice on how to become a productive gardener or farmer. Five stars!
125 reviews4 followers
February 2, 2023
To say that Gabe Brown is larger than life is an understatement; It is hard to encapsulate the man and his message. My first read of Dirt to Soil was just for the story; an easy, enjoyable read. Since I have attended numerous presentations of Gabe’s, I could hear him speak with his endearing self-deprecating humor and humility. He “preaches”about the power of nature, and he lives and practices what he preaches. Even if farmers struggle to implement his message, they realize he is one of them. His catch phrase of “I like to sign the back of checks, not the front” is particularly engaging.

He and his family endured four years of traumatic weather events that most would have not survived economically. Despite the fact that he had to “learn every lesson the hard way,” this is anything but a depressing read. He was so “broke the banker knew every time they bought toilet paper!” Many of his successes were accidental - the result of desperate financial straits. For example he did not have money for twine, so he had to leave the cover crop standing. He grazed it over the winter and, by golly... that worked! And he managed not to sign the front of the check for twine!

The book is full of noteworthy quips, so much so that my second-read note-taking consisted of fifteen pages. My favorite is: “People laugh at me because I am different, but I laugh at them because they are all the same.” He does not lament that only $.14 of every dollar spent on food goes to the farmer, nor ask the government for assistance. Instead, he actively pursues that $.86. “To be successful you have to MAKE money farming; conventional farming is all about SPENDING money.”Also, “The successful farmer of today is the one that un-learnes the quickest.”

Gabe quotes our “own” SD Jonathan Lundgren and his amazing research endeavor, “1000 farms Initiative.” Lundgren posits that insects are nature’s insecticide. Everything regenerative agriculture promotes helps mitigate the pestilence of pests by allowing the predators to these pests to live! Whoda thought! Dr. Lundgren’s graduate students do the counting, and their research has verified that there are are ten times less pests in regenerative systems.

A review of this book would be remiss without eliciting the five principles of soil health. They are:

1) Limited disturbance (tillage); mechanical, chemical, and physical.
2) Armor on the soil – NO BLACK DIRT. EVER!
3) Diverse plants and animals on the soil to promote diverse (bacterial and fungal) life.
4) Living roots in the soil at all time possible to feed the microorganisms (underground livestock).
5) Animals on the land...again.

Tillage and it’s chemical cousins, herbicides and fungicides ‘burn’ organic matter (OM) that is needed in the soil. So does overgrazing. If the animals remove 30-40% of the forage in a pasture, roots can produce more forage to graze again quickly. But if more than 60% is grazed, root growth is halved and it takes much longer for the forage to rebound. OM is the magic material that structures the soil – the ‘house’ for microorganisms. It helps the soil adhere to itself to form the coveted ‘Chocolate Cake’ consistency that depicts healthy soil. Beginning attempts to improve soil health can be “measured” by noting the earthworms that will increase in number and activity.

Armor is clothing for the soil. This protection prevents the inevitable erosion from wind and rainfall events. WAPF folks know that microorganisms and enzymes are killed with high temperatures, and black soil absorbs the sun’s rays and heats up quickly. When black soil heats to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, all the soil life is killed. Gabe got armor on his soil for four years in a row when the “Great White Combine” pummeled his crops and left them on top of the ground to feed the worms
Diversity might be the hardest principle for the conventional farmer to adopt. Attendees at Gabe’s presentations frequently present their problems to him. When he asks them about their crop rotations, they might say “Canola – Snow – Canola.” Adding a new crop, such as a second or third rotation instead of the usual, corn – beans – corn, seems to be a perceptual cliff from which only the daring can leap; understandably so. Every farmer’s foibles are fodder for their neighbors critiques. There also the expense of needing additional equipment, while the equipment they have already invested in sits idle. There are likely to be multiple unknowns and inevitable failures. Failures, according to this farmer-turned-scientist, Gabe, are not failures but learning opportunities. Cover crops that grow three inches and then die in a frost are not failures, he claims. The little roots that grew underground still performed their function. However, that coffee-shop ribbing can still sting.

Living roots in the soil as long as possible is much more doable than most of us think. When cool season plants and warm season plants are growing in tandem, the roots are active over a longer period of time. Even with a harsh South Dakota winter when the ground is brown or white with snow, we do have green “stuff” growing in December. No one really likes the work, expense and death loss of dealing with snow on the prairie, but a nice blanket covering the microorganisms in the soil helps them survive.

Animal impact improves the soil in a myriad of ways. Their dung, of course, and their urine, return nutrients to the soil and spread it over the land. Diversity in animals results in diversity of nutrients returned to the soil. If managed properly, their foot traffic enhances seed to soil contact, which promotes more diversity in plant growth. Their foraging literally stimulates growth of the plant, and that further stimulates the plant feeding the microorganisms below ground.

Gabe speaks of soil that is addicted to synthetic fertilizer just like a drug addict. He thinks we starve the soil biology and then buy them junk food (synthetic fertilizer).Too much nitrogen can mess with plant communication. By not fertilizing with synthetics, he encourages the natural plant microbe interaction. He cautions against a cold turkey approach; rather to use multiple species cover crops and cattle grazing to slowly make the transition.

He has the data from a four year soil health experiment, where they compared cover crops, or biological primers as he prefers, to synthetic fertilizer. Each one of those years, the synthetic fertilizer fields’ production trailed the production from the regenerative fields.

Conventional soil testing has failed to accurately find what it was supposed to be testing and has resulted in enormous over fertilizing. Would Dr. Cowan would refer to this as the electron microscope version of soil analysis? Caustic chemicals force the soil to release nutrients in these tests. Fortunately, a field researcher has developed a test that is more useful; The Haney test, that measures the living activity in the soil, which releases the nutrients that are already there.

The thumbs are up enthusiastically for this book. Buy it, enjoy it. Get one for a friend, especially if they are a farmer. Then go make your crops grasshopper proof and like Gabe, buy your own caps!

Transition to Conventional Farming
Transition changes
Transition in health
Diverse grasses and broadleaves

Healthy people, plants, animals and soil
Tillage x decades
Most farmland is tilled annually
Carbon stores are “burned up” with tillage.
Less diversity in our diet
More nutrient deficiencies.
Lost species
Less diversity available
More difficult to provide adequate nourishment.
New and “Improved” varieties
Less nutrients in the same foods
Encourages overeating to get what the body needs.
N&I Varieties need synthetic fertilizer
Large amounts poorly utilized, “leaked into water supply.”
Lakes, rivers and oceans negatively affected with excess nitrogen.
Synthetic fertilizer increases weed growth
Requires additional tillage and or herbicides.
More financial stress for farmers, less small, independent farmers, “get big or get out” explodes.
Weeds require Herbicides – impair soil biology
Soil life diminished by herbicides
More of same.
Herbicides are chelators (remove zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron and copper from our diet)
Herbicides tie up necessary nutrients that would be available to plants.
More and More.
Plants devoid of above minerals are susceptible to diseases
Plants are now susceptible to disease because they are not getting adequate nourishment from the soil.
More sickness. More chronic illness. More vaccinations.
Need fungicides to deal with diseases.
Fungicides are needed because of the increasingly altered soil biology.

Further impair soil biology and POLLINATORS
Now pollinators, yes, our bees and such, are not getting their nutrient needs met.
Oops! Bee colonies are collapsing and we cannot find out why, Except that we need more fungicides and antibiotics to keep the bees “healthy.”
Increased susceptibility to pests/decreased number of pest predators
Pests proliferate because birds and other predatory agents of nature are experiencing a food shortage.

Dysfunctional ecosystem
Dysfunctional ecosystem
Dysfunctional Healthcare system has no idea why these are happening. The answer: more of the same.

1) What is “Chocolate Cake” soil?
2) What is the first clue that your soil has improved?
3) Mycorrhizal Fungi is an antagonist to plants. T/F
4) Water infiltration (rain absorbed into the soil) is enhanced with tillage. T/F
5) Nature is competitive. T/V
6) Nutrient cycling is enhanced with pour on insecticides. T/F

Books he recommends in the book:
Plowman’s Folly
Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden
Roots Demystified by Robert Kourik
Managing Cover Crops Profitably www.sare.org
Korean Natural Farming
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ella.
107 reviews
October 16, 2019
A positive and informative read making it clear how farmers can make change happen to support the environment, their land and their own profitability. Told from a personal perspective with a huge amount of heart this book makes regenerative agriculture accessible to anyone.
Profile Image for Deb.
599 reviews6 followers
February 2, 2020
I ended up with this book by accident since it was an item at a silent auction fundraiser I was attending, and, since no one had placed a bid on it, I penciled in a starter bid to get things rolling. Yes, well .....
So now I own a book about regenerative agriculture, something I know very little about (being a city girl and all). But, when you own a book, what you do is read it. And I did. It's written like a "how-to" manual, which, I guess, is really what it is. The author gets a little preachy at times but I found the book to be both instructive and intriguing. And now I know a little bit more about regenerative agriculture.
Profile Image for Dale.
14 reviews
November 19, 2021
Wow. I learned so much from this! You don’t need to be a farmer to take a lot from this book. I live in a highly agricultural area of Australia and I drive past bare fields and plough working daily. I can’t stand to see it knowing what Gabe has taught me! Regenerative agriculture makes me hopeful for a better future planet, healthier and happier humans and animals. No matter the question, the answer is soil.
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86 reviews
September 4, 2020
Great book dealing with commercial (large scale) agriculture. Emphasis on growing traditional crops and cattle. Focus is more on principles of regenerative agriculture than a “how to” guide to regenerative agriculture. Easy read and very straightforward.

I like how the book illuminates current commercial farming practices. And their story of moving away from these traditional practices.

Things that stand out (in no particular order)
1) The principles work for large scale agriculture (1000s of acres not small farms (ex: farms less than 100 acres) —> Like Restoration Agriculture )
2) The use of cover crops to feed the soil
3) The use of cattle to improve soil (grazing herbivores —> like Wilding )
4) They don’t apply any fertilizer and (rarely) spray pesticides
5) Regenerative agriculture is financially profitable. Also, in some case their yields exceed the yields of conventional agriculture.
6) The emphasis on supporting the life in the soil and agricultural practices that improve the soil
7) The internship for helping young people get into farming (A problem also identified in The Unsettling of America )
8) Emphasis on plant diversity (even if it seeding 12 plant varieties in the cover crop)
9) It uses a no till to build soil and is strongly against disturbing the soil (Contrasted with Restoration Agriculture which does disturb the soil to build soil)

Also the story with the loss of 8 inches of topsoil is insane.

Also Gabe Brown is from the city which is interesting to note.

I found this book through Wilding by Isabella Tree

Note: There is nothing about permaculture
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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