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

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  578 ratings  ·  91 reviews
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 pract ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published 2018 by Chelsea Green
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Average rating 4.47  · 
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 ·  578 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: aspiring regnerative farmers and ranchers
Shelves: agriculture
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 ...more
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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. 🐖 🌱
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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!
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eco
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
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: farming
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 ...more
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 fl
David Rudin
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 pl ...more
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Pat Loughery
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gardening
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.
Mikaela C.
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
D. Orion
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An interesting book.
Regenerative agriculture but also many other life messages.
A bit repetitive, still useful.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If I could only memorize every single word of this book and regurgitate it on demand. Seeing how that’s highly unlikely, I will be recommending it to every farmer, every coworker, and every human I know. It gets into the weeds with regard to farming technique, which will be appealing to the farming community and maybe not so appealing to, say, a townie. AND YET! Even a townie can grow stuff and eats stuff and can do stuff to help heal the planet. Please read it if you can. Or listen to it like I ...more
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food, nature-writing
Agribusiness meets environmentalism. Gabe Brown changes the world, one farm at a time. I don’t have a farm and I have never lived on a farm. Still, I like to garden and I am concerned about the state of our planet. Listening to Mr. Brown’s audiobook gives me hope that, as country, we can reunite over our common love of the earth and all she gives us, in spite of our ill treatment of here over the years. Gabe went into regenerative farming out of desperation after four disastrous years of convent ...more
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly Better Than I Expected It to Be

When the book began (I combined listening with the audible and reading using sometimes just the audible and other times both audible and marking up while reading.) I thought I’m not a livestock farmer, is this book for me?

However, as I progressed through the book my interest grew as I realized this was about a way we can save our health by saving our soil.

I do a little organic gardening and picked up some very useful ideas from this book such as the no
Sahil Raina
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
I'm not a farmer, so why did I read (and "really like") this book? The idea of regenerative farming appeals to me. It aligns with my notion that much of modern farming works against the natural forces governing the earth.

In this book, regenerative farming is explained, practically and in a straightforward manner, by one of its foremost proponents, Gabe Brown. His main point, which he helpfully repeats throughout the book, is that farming isn't about the crops or meat that are harvested from a fa
Glen Clark
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Dirt to Soil provides an elementary level overview of Gabe Brown's change into regenerative agriculture using such methods like no-till, cover cropping, and holistic livestock grazing. Gabe postulates five main principles that he broadly introduces in the first half of the book and then later goes into defining the more in depth, while finishing with examples of other farms and ranches who have implemented these practices.

It gives you the "why" behind regenerating soil and provides the general s
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone in agriculture
Recommended to Wesley by: A neighbor
A highly educational book along with a great story of a farm family to boot.

The book focuses on informing the reader of the what, how and why of soil repair, maintenance and regeneration. There is good science in this book which is introduced and talked about in such a way that anyone can understand it.

Gabe Brown is a good writer and the book is laid out in such a way that both the story of the family farm and the learning process is natural and simple to follow and ...interesting!

It is not of
Rachel G
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book isn’t just for farmers or ranchers. This is a great read if you are interested in healthy living and eating, sustainable practices, and being good caretakers of our world.
My dad is involved in the regenerative soil health movement, so I was familiar with Brown’s Ranch and a bit of Gabe’s story. Nonfiction is not my typical genre, but his experiences and wisdom are so compelling that I was interested from beginning to end.
I enjoyed hearing Gabe’s narration. His passion for his message
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part personal memoir part ag instruction manual, this book follows one family's journey from conventional agriculture to regenerative farming that focuses on soil health and profitability.

Gabe Brown is not afraid to try new things and through constant experimentation he seeks to farm and ranch in ways that are more in line with nature. He takes the principles and philosophies of authors such as Wendle Berry, Michael Pollan, Allan Savory, and Aldo Leopold and turns them into practical (and profi
Nate Bate
Dec 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was recommended to me by a friend - a friend who is an engineer and not a farmer. It is a fascinating read. I especially liked the first one-hundred pages. After that, it seemed somewhat repetitive. I suspect that if I were actually working on a Farm that I would have read the whole thing carefully. Gabe Brown also seems to have earned some bragging rights which he lets fly in the book. I don't know the difference on what is fluff and what is a good core foundational principle. The value of ...more
Jan 27, 2021 rated it liked it
I'm not the intended audience for this book, as I'm not a farmer and have no intentions of becoming one. That said, this book had some very intriguing ideas, largely focused on improving the quality of soil and thus it's productivity. I spent a lot of time stumped as to why the vast majority of American farmers are (according to the book) firmly stuck in practices that don't seem effective and are specifically short-sighted. If I was more interested, I'd do further research to see what people ar ...more
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
A great journey about adapting to situations and questioning established models. The author's success came over decades of trial and error and small changes. Biggest takeaway: "change the way you think vs. change the way you do things". View farming as an enterprise instead of a commodity and Earth as an assistant instead of a foe and you will provide an abundance of wealth for your family and others'. Worth the listen and worth imitating. ...more
Megan Moir
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
4 stars! Great, straightforward writing and convincing ideas. When I get my acreage and start a farm, I’ll be up at night reading this book again, this time with a notepad and highlighter. I believe everyone could get something out of this book, even if you aren’t a rancher or farmer. The philosophy of trusting nature to increase biodiversity in your soil and placing that first in line of importance when managing land can truly change everything. Recommend!
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
An interesting and surprising book. What if the most important revolution of the 21st century came not in the field of technology, but rather the field of agricultural production? So many problems of our world today seem like they could be mitigated, if not solved by regenerative agriculture. Maybe there’s a downside to all this that isn’t clear yet and I’m overstating its importance, but it just makes so much sense.
Cindy Nipper
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
READ THIS BOOK!! Or listen to it, as I did! I was so impressed with this book, I bought a paperback copy for my friend and neighbor who raises beef cattle behind my garden. Do Something!
I'm just a small backyard gardener, but I believe this book is informative and helpful for every level from the smallest garden to the largest ranch! There's something for everyone to learn and then teach! God bless you all!
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  If you listen to NPR regularly, you’ve likely heard the voice of Shankar Vedantam, the longtime science correspondent and host of the radio...
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“The Haney Soil Test measures seven parameters related to soil biology: Water-extractable organic carbon (WEOC) Water-extractable organic nitrogen (WEON) Percent microbially active carbon (MAC) Inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus levels Organic nitrogen and phosphorus levels Organic C:N ratio One-day CO2 respiration All seven parameters are used to arrive at a final soil-health score.” 0 likes
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