Regenerative Skills

Oliver Goshey

Helping you learn the skills and solutions to create an abundant and connected future read less
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Episodes

Farming for both local and regional change, with Anne Van Leeuwen
3d ago
Farming for both local and regional change, with Anne Van Leeuwen
Today’s conversation is the first of a two part conversation with Anne Va Leeuwen from Bodemzicht in the Netherlands that I’ve been looking forward to for quite a few years. Anne and her husband Ricardo and I met for the first time at the first Climate Farmers conference in Germany 3 years ago. By then they were already building a reputation in the Dutch regen ag scene as leaders and innovators. Since then they’ve continued to take a leading role in bringing visibility to regenerative farming, the challenges that farmers face, and advocate for the creation of a regenerative agrifood system in the Netherlands and beyond. At the core of their advocacy has been the inspiring example of their own farm which not only produces high quality produce and animal products for locals, but has served as a hub for training, presentations and community gatherings since it began. I organized this interview with Anne as she and their organization have just completed a move to a new farm location. Their tenure at their original site was up and we had been in communication throughout their process of looking for new land and all of the planning, preparation, and logistics involved with moving their operation to a new place. Now that they’re getting settled, I was excited to have Anne share her learnings and experience from the process on this show. Beyond the moving experience, Anne and I also cover a lot of other topics which range from the learnings they’ve gathered in the previous years both in pioneering their innovative farm model, regenerating their environment through conscious cultivation and care, navigating the challenges in the current farming system in the Netherlands, new cooperative farming models, lobbying for European Agriculture policy reform, and much more.
Simplifying gardening and food forests, with David the Good
May 10 2024
Simplifying gardening and food forests, with David the Good
Continuing on the theme of last week’s episode in which I spoke with Jessica Robertson about community food forests, we’re going to go deeper into the practical knowledge and skills that anyone can develop to create their own plant nursery, propagate their favorite varieties, and get their own garden or food forest established quickly and cheaply.  Joining me for this dive into DIY plant breeding and propagation is David Goodman, better known to his fans as David the Good. David is a gardening author and teacher, focusing on simple methods to grow the most food for the least amount of work. His blog can be found at thesurvivalgardener.com, and he is on YouTube as @davidthegood. In this discussion we’ll take a look at what concepts and realizations helped David to find success in his early gardening and growing endeavors which he uses to this day. David is a big proponent of setting up your own plant nursery and we go into his advice for getting one set up cheaply so you can save money from the garden centers and maybe even make money with it as a side hustle. We also explore the process of selecting varieties and species that thrive in your area and conditions, and the importance of building community through your planting and breeding efforts.  I myself am in the process of setting up my own nursery and agroforestry system and I can vouch for the importance of starting your own plants, not only to save money, but to learn a valuable skill and potentially even increase the quality of plants you have access to.
How to design and build a community food forest, with Jessica Robertson
May 3 2024
How to design and build a community food forest, with Jessica Robertson
With the growth in popularity around permaculture and food forests, even people without access to their own land are looking into opportunities to come together and create beautiful edible landscapes that everyone can access on public land. Enter community orchards or food forests. These are increasingly being grown on abandoned lots, local parks, or forgotten strips of land that caring neighbors take interest in and decide to grow perennial food and medicine crops on. Yet as the number of people involved grows, and the need to conform to regulations and permit processes, many people can get lost in the complexities during the attempt.  To help me better understand these challenges and opportunities, I reached out to Jessica Robertson in Canada who has helped design and install a number of community food forests and helped to illuminate the process from her experience.  Jessica is the Owner, Designer, and Head Grunt at Wild Craft Permaculture and a Lead Designer at United Designers International. Jessica has designed holistic permaculture systems for spaces from 200 sq. ft. to 200-acres and works on residential, commercial, and public projects. She is often involved in the implementation of these designs and loves sharing her knowledge with clients as they work alongside each other. She brings a background in biology, education, silviculture and urban planning to her work. In this episode, Jessica shares insights from decades of experience in the permaculture world, showing how people from all walks of life can reconnect with the earth in deeper and more active ways. We'll also work carefully through the process of designing, setting up, and keeping up with community food forests, including things people often forget about and realistic expectations for maintenance. And to top it off, we'll give you some easy steps to create your own successful community food forest right in your own neighborhood.
Taming the apocalypse by partnering with new species, with Shane Simonsen
Apr 25 2024
Taming the apocalypse by partnering with new species, with Shane Simonsen
So much of what inspires me and that I hope to highlight on this show comes from an ever growing awareness of the incredible superpowers that humans have that emerge from our relationship with the natural world around us. Our senses coupled with adaptability, the skill of collaboration and the inventiveness of our creativity have allowed humans to find a niche in almost every major biome on this planet. Whether it’s forming a symbiotic relationship with the semi-wild reindeer of the arctic circle, or coastal people of the tropics evolving superior vision underwater, or our ability to communicate with wild species to understand imminent dangers or changes in the weather, or polynesian sailors being able to navigate through open ocean by sensing the patterns in the waves. Everywhere that humans have made their home, they’ve developed unique ways of understanding, adapting to, and developing deep relationships with the forms of life around them.  One of the most outstanding of our collective abilities is being able to manipulate the genes and evolution of the species around us. We’ve done this with animal and plant domestication, breeding, and propagation, and more recently, with advanced technological tools. In past episodes I’ve explored the topic of landrace gardening, low tech plant breeding, and adaptation to your place and context. This is an idea that has captivated me in the last couple years and is informing a major part of the development of my own farm.  Today I want to step out of the details of landrace plant breeding to try and understand the broader potential of what partnering with the evolutionary trajectory of selected species in our sphere of influence could look like and the mind bending possibilities that hide in that way of interacting with the environment around us.  Here to explore this concept and give ideas based on his own experiences is Shane Simionsen. Shane is a long-time contributor to this podcast so I’ll keep his introduction short and recommend you go back to some previous episodes to hear more of his back story and work, but briefly, Shane is an Australian experimental farmer developing zero input agricultural systems and writing biological science fiction.  In this conversation, we’ll be taking a look at what Shane sees as the essential moment in our developmental journey as a species to make use of the temporary ease and convenience of global trade to do the hard work of accelerating our close partnerships with the plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi around us. We take a look at how people from the dawn of our evolution have been doing this and how modern technology can play a role in bringing these cooperative relationships to new heights.  We also go into the steps and actions that anyone can take to help create climate adapted food crops and maybe even tackle the next novel domestication project. Shane gives great examples of how he’s running his own tests and experiments on his farm in Queensland, AU and shares his learnings, failures and successes to help set expectations for what a landrace or breeding project entails.  His new book “Taming the Apocalypse” is now available in digital and audiobook formats through subscription to his blog on Substack
Finding the potential in "invasive" species, with Tao Orion
Apr 19 2024
Finding the potential in "invasive" species, with Tao Orion
I’m really lucky that I have been collaborating with book publishers since the early days of this podcast. It gives me access to all of the books from the authors that I interview and the full catalogs of most of the publishers too. As a result I have a pretty good overview of the new literature that comes out on the topics that I focus on in this podcast. Under these conditions, It’s rare that a single book stands out so much in my mind for the quality and importance of the ideas in it, and for the practical examples that illustrate those concepts in a way that someone can put into action. For me though, that book is “Beyond the War on Invasive Species” by Tao Orion. Perhaps I really connected with it because of my work in the conservation corps and the collaborations with the US forestry service and National Park Service on those jobs. The fight against invasives in those circles was very present and left an impression on me in my early career. The idea of fighting against the propagation and spread of a plant or animal never sat well with me though, but I didn’t have a way of expressing my unease about it until I read this book. The world view and perspective on our role as earth stewards that Tao outlines continues to inform so much of my work and experience on my own land. So let's get into it.    Tao Orion is the author of Beyond the War on Invasive Species: A Permaculture Approach to Ecosystem Restoration, and "“People as Purposeful and Conscientious Resource Stewards: Human Agency in a World Gone Wild” and Rethinking Wilderness and the Wild: Conflict, Conservation, and Co-Existence. Tao consults on holistic farm, forest, and restoration planning through her company Resilience Permaculture Design, LLC and works as an instructor in the Oregon State University Permaculture program. She holds a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture from UC Santa Cruz, and a MSc degree in Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security from the National University of Ireland. She lives with her husband, two children, and an array of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and animals on her southern Willamette Valley smallholding, Viriditas Farm. In this interview, Tao and I dig through the ideas and examples in her first book from the origins of the concept of invasive species, through to the governmental policies that wage war on them in modern times. We look at how species migration has accelerated with human travel technologies and how their spread has mirrored the spread of global trade. Tao describes the paradoxes of demonizing opportunistic and displaced species and gives examples of how we can begin to look deeper into the reasons, conditions, and needs that bring about their proliferation to gain insight how we might look beyond eradication to collaboration in their management. We also talk about some tangible examples that I’m dealing with right now on my farm and local area in an attempt to uncover the hidden potential in the species that the authorities around me are working to control. I know I recommend a lot of books on this show, and for good reason, I stand by all of those recommendations. But if there’s one volume that you really take the time to understand and internalize in your way of observing and understanding the fast changing natural world around us, it’s this one.
Why we need inscets and how you can help rebug the planet,  with Vicki Hird
Apr 12 2024
Why we need inscets and how you can help rebug the planet, with Vicki Hird
world of insects. Though there are only a handful of bugs and invertebrates that humans consider edible, productive, or beautiful, they are an essential element in any healthy ecosystem. All too often the ones that we don’t derive beauty from or direct use from are considered an annoyance at best or actively destroyed and eradicated in all too many cases. It’s long overdue that I highlight just how valuable insects are to out world and our own wellbeing on this show, and to help me to do that in this episode is Vicki Hird.  Vicki Hird is the Strategic Lead on Agriculture for The Wildlife Trusts UK and was until recently Head of the Sustainable Farming Campaign for Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming. She is also a published author and runs an independent consultancy. As an experienced and award-winning environmental campaigner, researcher, writer and strategist working for the past 30 years mainly on food, farming and environmental issues and solutions, Vicki has worked on government policy for many years authored ‘Perfectly Safe to Eat? The facts on food’ in 2000, and has led teams at FoE, War on Want, WSPA and SAFE Alliance. She has co-founded many organisations including Sustain, Hackney Food Partnership and the Eating Better Alliance - and has written and campaigned extensively at a global, EU and national level. Vicki’s other passion is insects and other invertebrates and she has a Masters in Pest Management and is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (FRES). Her new book – ‘Rebugging the Planet-The Remarkable Things that Insects (and Other Invertebrates) Do – and Why we need to love them more’ will be our focus of today’s conversation.   Vicki helps me to understand the significance of invertebrates in ecosystems, exploring their role, challenges, and conservation efforts. Together we go over how promoting biodiversity, sustainable practices, and community engagement is crucial to protect these essential species and support whole ecosystem health.  We also cover practical actions that anyone can take to support insect habitats in their area such as adopting habitat-friendly gardening practices, advocating for conservation policies, and understanding the impact of individual actions on invertebrates to maintain the delicate balance of nature.
Natural beekeeping for better honey, healthy colonies, and vibrant ecosystems,  with Uli Beckman
Apr 5 2024
Natural beekeeping for better honey, healthy colonies, and vibrant ecosystems, with Uli Beckman
I’ve had the pleasure over the last few months to interview quite a few people that I admire, who’ve told me about their fascination with beekeeping. Over and over again I’ve heard about the incredible insights into overall ecological health and the amazing reflections of ecosystem function that can be observed through managing bee hives.    I got a window into the world of natural beekeeping back in May of 2022 when I co-hosted a Climate Farmer’s community event at Wilmer’s Gaerten, a regenerative farm just south of Berlin. Since then I've been looking for an opportunity to speak with Uli Beckman, the instructor on our course on beekeeping and management who helped me to see a whole new possibility in how to promote healthy colonies that in turn promote health ecosystems and people. This is exactly what today’s episode is all about. Uli’s company, Beckmann Urtracht was founded in 2015 with the aim of consistently working in such a way that the beekeeper takes a back seat to the needs of the bees. Today, their principles and way of working far exceed anything required to be certified as an organic beekeeper. Natural propagation, natural honeycomb, built entirely by the bees, natural nutrition and minimal intervention are their maxims. Because with every jar of honey we hold in our hands, we must not forget that the bees did not produce it for us, but as food for themselves. Beckmann Urtracht is the alternative to maximizing yields and obtaining varietal honeys. The end result is an honest, original honey that can only be harvested in small quantities, but is outstanding in terms of quality and taste as well as its ecological and bee-friendly production. In todays conversation with Uli, we start by comparing and contrasting the conventional practices of industrial beekeeping and how they differ from the principles that guide natural beekeeping. From there we go into the details of not only the life cycle and behavioral patterns of bees and how those inform how to manage them well, but also the practical side of building hives that promote their health and the environmental factors that present a real challenge to the future of the species. In the process we also unpack the history of beekeeping in Europe and the innovators how pioneered new management methods based on relationship over extraction. We cover advice on how to get started with your own hive and expectations of time and equipment for keeping bees too. I’m sure that by the end of this episode you’ll come to understand why many of the most influential and insightful people in the world of regenerative land management have become beekeepers themselves.
Reflections on over two decades of resilient farmstead living, with Ben Falk
Mar 29 2024
Reflections on over two decades of resilient farmstead living, with Ben Falk
Despite the popularity of permaculture, homesteading, regen ag, and all these other buzz terms we hear, many of the people promoting these ideas, including myself, are quite new and inexperienced. It’s still rare to find people who can offer insight and wisdom from decades or a whole lifetime of living with regenerative systems. Sure, you can still find quite a few hardy old timers who know a lot about resilience and self sufficiency, but even though there is a ton of wisdom to be gleaned from those life experiences I’ve found many of them lacking in the whole picture, systems level thinking that informs a regenerative world view. I’ve been lucky enough to interview and highlight some of those voices on this show in the past, and today is another example of a person who’s work and life philosophy has been a big inspiration to me. Many of you may know Ben Falk as the developer of Whole Systems Design, LLC, his company created as a land-based response to biological and cultural extinction and the increasing separation between people and elemental things. Life as a designer, builder, ecologist, tree-tender, and backcountry traveler continually informs Ben’s integrative approach to developing landscapes and buildings. His home landscape and the WSD studio site in Vermont's Mad River Valley serve as a proving ground for the regenerative land developments featured in the projects of Whole Systems Design. Ben studied architecture and landscape architecture at the graduate level and holds a master’s degree in land-use planning and design. He has conducted more than 650 site development and land inspection consultations across the US and abroad, and has facilitated dozens of courses on property selection, permaculture design, and resilient systems. He has given keynote addresses and presented dozens of workshops at venues ranging from Bioneers to the Omega Institute. Ben is the author of the award-winning book The Resilient Farm and Homestead (Chelsea Green, 2013) and serves as an Advisory Council for the international regeneration group Ecosystem Restoration Camps, which is incidentally how I first got in touch with him back when I worked with that organization. Today we’ll be going beyond the typical talking points of regenerative design principles, reading the landscape and life hacks for permaculture enthusiasts, partly because we already went over them in the first interview he and I did together a couple seasons ago. Instead, Ben and I explore the reflections he has on over two decades of living the lifestyle that he designs and promotes for others. We look into the biggest learnings that have come from evolving alongside and in service to perennial food systems as well as what he might do differently if he could go back and redesign things. Ben also explains how his life experience has informed his design work and consultancy for clients, the patterns that have emerged from the endless experiments that he’s run, and where his focus is in this stage of life, both in his family and personal life as well as his work on the land. Since I’m only in the second year of designing and building my own farmstead, I find it invaluable to gain insights into all of these reflections almost as a way to peek into one of a million possible futures in hopes of setting a solid foundation and maybe avoid some pitfalls ahead.
Financial management tips for a healthy farm, with Julia Shanks
Mar 22 2024
Financial management tips for a healthy farm, with Julia Shanks
Though I’ve highlighted this before on this show, it bears repeating. So many of the stress factors on farms are caused by money. Either not being able to generate enough, being in debt, not having control over the expenses and cash flows, or another one that I see time and again, not paying yourself a salary and just hoping for a profit at the end of the year. Though this is hardly the most interesting part of the work for anyone I know who farms, it doesn’t change the fact that a farm is a business and in order for it to function well and enable us to do the parts that we love, we need to make sure the financial side is as healthy as the land. Here today to shed light on the unique challenges and opportunities that farmers face on the financial management side of their work is Julia Shanks. Julia works with food and agricultural entrepreneurs and organizations as a business strategist, analyst and educator. She brings a broad range of professional experiences to her clients, with a background that ranges from pilot to chef to serial entrepreneur. She combines the practicality of an accountant with the creativity of a chef. Through her consulting practice, Julia helps food and farm businesses maximize profits and streamline operations through business planning, feasibility studies and operational audits. She provides financial management trainings to farmers and business advisors who work with farmers. Julia shares her tools and knowledge more broadly in her second book, The Farmer’s Office. This book is a practical hands-on guide to help farmers think like entrepreneurs so they can build financially sustainable businesses.  In this episode Julia and I dig into the common pitfalls that she has observed from the farmer clients she works with and we try to unpack the myths and misconceptions about accounting and financial terms that are at the root of these mistakes.  We take a particular look at the all-to-common debt cycles that many farmers are in as well as what it takes to get out of them. Julia also calls attention to the risks and variables that are inherent to farm enterprises before we get into the tools and resources that she considers to be essential for financial success on a farm.  We cover a lot of ground from doing financial assessments of new ventures and investments, to ways of establishing fiscal resilience in these uncertain times.
Reversing the Spanish trajectory towards desertification,  with Sara Garcia
Mar 15 2024
Reversing the Spanish trajectory towards desertification, with Sara Garcia
In the process of researching the area that I now call home, and working to understand the context and history of the land, I’ve uncovered some fascinating information. The Iberian peninsula made up mostly of Spain with Portugal along the Atlanitc coast and Andorra in the Pyrenees mountains has been dramatically transformed through thousands of years of human history, to say nothing of prehistoric and geological times. Caves and monuments point to some of the earliest evidence of human habitation in Europe. Empires from the Romans through the Visigoths and the Umayyad caliphate as well as various ruling families of the peninsula have all left their mark on the culture and of course, the land. The Spanish empire fueled the colonization of the Americas and the immense sequestration of resources and wealth that followed. This involved unprecedented exchange of biological resources too, that have even become associated with the local cuisine with ingredients like tomatoes and potatoes which are of course originally from south america. The civil war in the 1930s eradicated many rural villages and oppressed non Castilian cultures and resulted in a government structure that still only loosely holds together 17 autonomous communities. Modern industrial agriculture continues to shape the land like never before and it’s all just a superficial explanation of what adds up to the landscape and context that I now find myself building a life in. So you can see why I’ve been on a mission since I arrived to find others to help me better understand the complexities and nuances of the never ending journey of finding my place in this place. This episode is my first attempt at bringing you along with me in this research effort and we have the pleasure to speak to a friend of mine who has built an incredible understanding of the Spanish context through the lens of biology and regenerative landscape design.  Sara Garcia is the founder of Ecoloniza and lead designer at United Designers International. As a forest engineer and permaculture designer, she concentrates on creating ecological design solutions that integrate hydrological cycle management systems, techniques to enhance soil health, and the restoration of native plant communities and ecosystems. Through her experience, she’s learned that project success depends not only on a well-thought-out design but also on effective management, keen observation, and the ability to adapt. As a result, Sara emphasizes the importance of embracing a role as stewards of the land and actively monitoring the progress of the implemented design. I reached out to Sara originally to help me map out and understand the geology and biome of the unique little pocket of the pre-littoral mountains of Catalunya where I live, but I quickly realized I had so much more to learn from her knowledge and experience. In this episode Sara and I will talk in more detail about the history and influences that have shaped the land and life across the Iberian peninsula, both the good and the catastrophic,  as well as the trajectory we find it on in modern times.  From there we talk about what is needed to set a new course for ecological prosperity for our region before going into the key awareness and understanding that is needed to act appropriately in any of the immensely diverse bioregions on the peninsula. With that information as a base we also go into the actions and areas of focus that anyone can take to contribute to the regeneration of our incredibly special corner of the earth. Now, some of you might be thinking, well where I live is nothing like Spain, maybe this won’t be interesting or useful to me. My reply to that would be that episodes like this where I take you along on my own journey of research and discovery in an attempt to become an integrated steward of my land and community is meant to act like a case study of the steps that anyone can take to learn more about their own place on this planet and how to actively participate in setting a new trajectory for abundant and resilient life for that space. This is one of many episodes I have planned to give you all a window into what will be a lifelong pursuit of what could be described as my efforts to become a person of place, or re indigenize myself. There are endless ways to approach this vision and so many perspectives to explore, so I’m excited to get this series started with this first conversation with Sara Garcia.
The potential of small scale regeneration, from three distinct perspectives
Mar 8 2024
The potential of small scale regeneration, from three distinct perspectives
I’ve spent a lot of time through the interviews of this podcast speaking with people around the world who are advancing incredible and ambitious projects that aim to regenerate large land bases like farms, estates, or even whole regions. Last week’s conversation with Weruschca Kirkegaard from United Designers is a perfect example of these kinds of projects and the potential of collaborative large scale design.  That being said, it’s such a tiny portion of the population globally that has access or ownership of any land at all, much less many multiple acres or hectares. Despìte that, there are countless examples of inspiring regeneration happening at the small scale as well. In particular the discussion on the Discord community for this show is buzzing with conversations about what members can do and what they’ve achieved on balconies, terraces, strips of land between sidewalks and roads, abandoned lots, small allotments, and little yards. Beyond those who are gardening there are tons of members who are engaged in community work, public service, volunteering and apprenticeships, and other acts of regeneration that have nothing to do with plants or soil. Since the main purpose of this show is to highlight the abilities that any of us can cultivate, regardless of experience, location or access to resources, I wanted to highlight some of the most active and engaged members of our Discord who exemplify the potential of small initiatives that act as the seeds for transformation which blossom into the catalysts for meaningful change in their neighborhoods and local networks. Today we’ll hear from three people from very different corners of Europe. Kathryn in the UK, Bobby in Bulgaria, and Theresa in Estonia.  Kathryn describes herself as a stubble-jumpin' Saskatchewan girl transplanted to London. When she isn't composing choral music, helping out at church, or cycling around London, she grows plenty of fruit and veg on allotments, in a churchyard and in her back garden. She likes cats and spaghetti and hates punctures. Bobby was born and raised in a family of generational growers and agrarians. His own family of 5 lives in the western highlands of Bulgaria on a quarter acre plot, extended virtually to all the neighbors' gardens they’ve helped create. A zero input integrated garden is in the heart of their permaculture, degrowth and holistic approach to life. Growing everything from annual and perennial veggies, medicinal herbs, small fruit bushes and larger fruit and nut trees, their main yield is community and resilience via an ever deepening connection to place and people. Therese is an experienced plant enthusiast who has been involved in gardening since childhood. She’s lived and traveled to various places around the world, creating nature-inspired gardens wherever she’s lived. Therese focuses on using local natural materials and practicing holistic cultivation methods, with an emphasis on growing edible plants and at the moment she’s growing in zone 5, in Estonia. Their different stories and efforts are a constant source of inspiration in Discord community and I know many of you will find ideas and relatable circumstances from them that larger regeneration projects are unlikely to offer
Large scale regeneration and the potential of cooperative design, with Weruschca Kirkegaard
Mar 1 2024
Large scale regeneration and the potential of cooperative design, with Weruschca Kirkegaard
Todays episode is going to build on a couple concepts that I’ve been exploring from different perspectives. The first is that of the power of community, and the second is different scales of regeneration. In this episode I’m joined by my good friend and mentor Weruschca Kirkegaard based in the Netherlands, Weruschca the is co-founder of United Designers International and head of their project management. Her combined experience and knowledge of aesthetics, nutrition, health, and communications brings a multidisciplinary expertise to the design table. She is seasoned in large scale project management and brings her skills to the larger ecological canvas with site science based regenerative planning and design from Adaptive Food Production, residential and commercial contexts, to Agroforestry and Municipal green space. The aspect of community that Weruschca and I explore in this episode is focused on the inner workings and collaborations of United Designers International, the regenerative design consortium that she co founded with Dan Halsey. Their organization breaks the mold of most conventional businesses which try to hoard market share, or even freelancers that try to do everything themselves so that they don’t have to divide up the money that is coming in. Instead we explore reasons why bringing in as many people on a project is not only good for the project, but also for the people involved.  United Designers is also world renowned for working on high profile and complex projects. Weruschca sheds light on the challenges of working on large initiatives with massive investments and many multiple stakeholders, and the way she has learned to navigate those complexities and broad considerations.  If you’ve ever wondered what the inner workings of a proposal to the UN for regional scale regeneration or the process of ecological design for a massive estate looks like, this is the episode for you.
The essential skills and knowledge to become a regenerative water worker, with Zach Weiss and Nick Steiner
Feb 23 2024
The essential skills and knowledge to become a regenerative water worker, with Zach Weiss and Nick Steiner
For those of you following along from the last three episodes of this season so far, I’ve been sharing the intimate details of my own journey along with my good friend Nick Steiner as we’ve gone around to visit a number of out client’s projects in the south of Portugal and both gather essential data to inform our process and actually put that process into action implementing water retention features.  We’ve seen examples of farms facing droughts and rural communities facing wildfire and working to recover from it. In last week’s episode with Aline from La Casa Integral, I also explored what severe drought in my local community looks like and explored the actions both ecological and community oriented to set ourselves on a new path.  Though water cycle restoration will always be a theme on this show, today's episode is going to wrap up this personal deep dive for a little while. I believe that regular reflection on one’s learning process is essential to continued progress and today I’m joined by two people that have been major figures in my learning and growth, Nick Steiner of course, and Zach Weiss. Nick is of course the founder of Permanick water solutions and Zach is the founder of Elemental Ecosystems, project implementation company, and Water Stories his online teaching and community platform focused on building water solution awareness and education. Since both of them have appeared on this show quite a number of times I’ll skip over their introductions and instead have linked to previous episodes with them in which we explore their backstories. We’re having this conversation at an important point for a couple reasons. Nick and I had just submitted out final project report in order to complete the professional certification, the highest tier of completion through the water stories training course, and Zach and the organization have just opened their training once again to new applicants.  Together, the three of us reflect on our different learning journeys to get where we currently are. We discuss in depth both the obvious and less apparent skills that we each believe is essential for effective work in this space and in order to develop ourselves as true regenerative actors.  Each one of us talks about our personal turning points and “aha moments” as well as mentors, growing pains, and areas in which we still need to improve. We cover different roles and responsibilities in the space of water restoration and how designing and installing ecosystem features is only one which we have a common passion for. We also recognize the need for so many other skill sets, experience bases, and focuses that are required to bring regeneration to the scale that is needed.  I also really recommend that you listen to this one all the way till the end when Zach gives us a brutally honest review of our final project submission and critiques our work with no filter.
Nature based solutions for the worst drought on record, with Aline Van Moerbeke
Feb 16 2024
Nature based solutions for the worst drought on record, with Aline Van Moerbeke
I’ve talked a lot about drought and water management on this podcast. It’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of my work and specialization, both in the work I do with private clients and through the network of farmers that I work with through Climate Farmers. At the moment, these topics are hitting home for another reason. Catalunya, the region where I live in Northeastern Spain is currently experiencing the most severe drought in its recorded history, and there is little relief in sight.  Now obviously I’m not from this area of the world myself and though I’ve built a competent understanding of my local context and the water management history of this region, I’m always looking to better understand the scope and options of what is happening in this time of climate emergency. Another big focus of mine lately has been to reach out and make connections to others in the area who are working on nature based and regenerative solutions to the challenges we face in hopes of supporting existing efforts and making myself useful to the people and organizations who’ve been working in this space for a long time. One source of unification around these efforts in my area and consistent messages of inspiration and hope come from the small company La Casa Integral, and today I had the pleasure of speaking to Aline, one of the co-founders of the company. Aline Van Moerbeke is Flemish Belgian by birth but feels most Mallorquina after spending over 20 years in San Roqueta on the island of Mallorca. She now lives with her partner Juan Pedro in the Maresme region just up the coast from Barcelona in Catalunya where they run their business La Casa Integral, a permaculture and ecological design company focused on the needs of the communities of the Balearic Islands and Northeastern Spain. Aline is also the co founder of Permacultura Mediterranea and is highly active in many networks and initiatives in the region.    In this episode, Aline and I begin by talking about the unique journey that she took to begin a career in permaculture education and regenerative design. From there we go into the unique context behind the current drought and how Catalunya is wrestling with this challenge. Since she has made an incredible effort to participate in and lead many discussions at various levels of government, industry, and communities, she gives me an overview of the ideas and solutions that are being proposed and the entrenched ways of thinking that are holding progress back. Through her work at La Casa Integral she and Juan Pedro have advanced many unique water saving and recycling solutions and we explore some of them and even take a closer look at natural blackwater filtration systems that they are known for designing and installing for many different use cases.  We also talk about reasons for hope in the policy and institutional structures at our local level and explore the first steps that anyone listening can take to gain a better understanding of their own opportunities to participate in the restoration of their own water systems, at any scale. This interview is a first step towards two things that I am trying to do more of in this season. The first is to highlight the incredible work that is being done by so many local people in my area, partly to build closer relationships with them myself, partly to demonstrate that most of the really effective people in this space are not the big name famous people from your documentaries and social media threads, and partly to show what it could look like for some of you listeners to explore your own local scene of regenerative workers and advocates instead of always looking outside your communities for solutions. Many of the topics that I’m passionate about and like to focus on might not be relevant or interesting to you, but the idea of connecting with and exploring the hyper local community of like-minded people doing good work around you is more important than a couple highly effective but isolated actors. Another theme I’ll be promoting this season is that of inspiring examples of collaboration. People who break the mold of protectionist business practices, ivory tower academics, and competitive paradigms of commerce. Aline and La Casa Integral are a perfect example in my area of folks who are leading through collaboration and by including the voices and expertise of as many people as they can. Their creation and participation in countless committees, online groups, advocacy organizations, and volunteer initiatives show a true commitment to the larger vision of realizing change in our region, and I know this chat will inspire you as it did for me, even if the challenges in your region have more to do with too much water rather than too little.
Reading the landscape and gathering essential data for a water restoration design
Feb 2 2024
Reading the landscape and gathering essential data for a water restoration design
Welcome to the first episode of season 8 of the Regenerative Skills podcast. We're starting in a big way with a special episode in which me and my good friend and collaborator Nick Steiner will be taking you along with us on a client visit in the south of Portugal in the very first steps of a water retention landscape project.  We'll be giving you a behind the scenes look at what we do on these jobs, the landscape indicators that we're observing to inform our concept plans, and all of the essential data we collect while out in the field as we build the initial design for this farm.  Southern Portugal is a classic area to illustrate the patterns of drought, flood and fire that are the result of landscape degradation. This mediterranean climate has been getting dryer and hotter in an accelerated way over the last few decades, and the result is failing farms, abandoned villages, and land that is on a downward trajectory.  Each day we'll describe what we're up to out in the field, offer summaries of the discussions with the clients, describe the landscape features and observations we're making and even the heavy machinery work that it takes to inform the placement and types of features that can be implemented in order to turn the trajectory of this farm around through watershed restoration.  Don't forget that you can see pictures and videos of our time out in the field on our social media pages and on the Regenerative Skills community on Discord.
Regenerative farming on the edge of the desert, with Yanniek Schoonhoven
Dec 29 2023
Regenerative farming on the edge of the desert, with Yanniek Schoonhoven
There are a few farms and organizations here in Spain that have been gaining international attention for their work and initiatives in the past few years. Partly through reaching out directly and partly through the Climate Farmers network I’ve been connecting with them to bring their inspiring stories and innovative knowledge to the farmers community that I help to manage.  One of the most established and accomplished of these farms is La Junquera, an 1100 hectare farm in one of the most environmentally challenging regions of Spain in the south eastern province of Murcia in the altiplano region. Now some of you may remember previous interviews I’ve done with Alfonzo Chico de Guzman, the owner of the farm and one of the driving forces of the Alvelal cooperative that he helped to found, but today I’ll be speaking with his wife and co-owner of the farm to get a deeper look at all the projects that she has helped to lead simultaneously. Yanniek Schoonhoven is also the co-founder of the Regeneration Academy, a physical learning hub and model farm in La Junquera, focused on building a space and community to help students become practitioners, entrepreneurs, innovators and leaders in the field of regenerative agriculture and eco-system restoration, specialized in semi-arid climates.  Yanniek has built a reputation in the regen ag space as an expert connection builder, weaving partnerships from the local community around them in Spain all the way up to the European Union level along with universities and non-profits. All of these connections are fueling the positive change that The Regeneration Academy and the farm itself are having on the ecology as well as the human communities around them. In this session we explore the journey that led Yanniek to southern Spain and the creation of all the projects that she now helps to coordinate. Yanniek talks about the unique challenges that they face in their remote rural area as well as the climate and ecological challenges of rebuilding the capacity for life on the land there. We also dig into the connections that she’s helped to build and strengthen that have brought visibility, support, and recognition to their efforts on the ground while making it possible to include more people in their training and projects. This is also a great opportunity to announce the collaboration that I’ll be doing with them as I’ll be co-facilitating a course in the upcoming year with them about water resource management.  At the end of the episode we give an overview of the curriculum that we’ll be teaching through a highly immersive project of gathering essential data, co creating a design for water retention on a micro watershed on their farm, and actually implementing the design on the site.  We’ll be training participants on a wide range of tools for site design and layout as well as building experience with everything from hand tools to guiding heavy machinery in order to install the design. You can find all the details about the course which will be from April 8th-11th in the show notes for this episode on the website,
Making soil health approachable and practical, with Ian Robertson
Dec 22 2023
Making soil health approachable and practical, with Ian Robertson
By now I’m sure many of you have heard the few episodes on soil health that I’ve recorded with people like Harriet Mela, Matt Powers, James White, and others. I know that the subject of soil has become really popular with growers and it’s always talked about as being central to the success of regenerative agriculture and broader environmental health, and I don’t disagree. Yet I’m often worried that the discourse around soil science is reminiscent of other scientific studies in which there’s a never ending search for more granular details.  Breaking components of the whole overview down into chemistry, biology, and even down to anatomical structure, all without making the learnings accessible to soil stewards, growers and land managers.  Such detailed science shrouded in a veil of technical jargon and research papers makes me feel that the real learnings are inaccessible and overly complicated. For that reason I’ve often held back from really going deeper into soil on this show.  Here I hope to find the key concepts and actionable information that anyone can use to get real results, and that’s often been hard to find.  Yet that’s exactly what brings me to today's session, where I get to speak to a soil scientist and consultant who believes, as I do, that we need to make soil concepts and principles more accessible and help to guide land managers along the way to learn how to make their own observations and discoveries in order to foster relationships or understanding with the land we take care of.  Ian Robertson has a lifelong involvement in all things soil, growing up on an organic farm, and working in various roles helping farmers understand their soils. His present role is General Manager of Sustainable soil Management, a soil testing and consultation company in the UK.  Over the last 20 years Ian has developed the most detailed soil test, which is widely used throughout the UK and Europe, allowing farmers a greater understanding of how best to manage their soil. Ian delivers soil presentations that are practical and engaging and he works across all sectors of agriculture to build long term relationships between himself, farmers, and their soil.   In this episode we start by exploring what aspects of soil are really essential to understand a holistic picture of the function of the earth you’re working with, as well as the best tests to gain that knowledge. Spoiler alert, many of those tests turn out to be things you can observe with your own senses. From there we dissect the three main conventional agricultural practices of tillage, fertilization, and crop protection chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides for their impact on the soil and what is really happening from a scientific perspective when they are used.  We use that part of the discussion as a springboard towards which soil stewardship practices are broadly beneficial and represent the least amount of risk regardless of the soil type and makeup you have. Ian’s learnings from decades and thousands of soil tests make for a very practical and digestible overview of the more detailed science out there and hopefully will act as an antidote to the overwhelming amount of information about soil out there at the moment.
Adapting syntropic agroforestry to temperate climates, with Renke De Vries
Dec 15 2023
Adapting syntropic agroforestry to temperate climates, with Renke De Vries
Syntropic Agroforestry has exploded in popularity and interest in the last few years. I’ve explored this agroforestry design and management system a little in some previous episodes with my friend Jacob Evans, but there’s so much more to explore.    First pioneered by renowned farmer Ernst Gostch in Brazil, his integrated approach of dense planting and timed pruning and intervention to accelerate natural succession and replace outside inputs for both ecosystem regeneration and nutrient dense food production has sparked an interest in many people to adapt the concepts to their own climates and contexts.   From what I’ve heard however, adapting syntropic methods to temperate climates has proven more difficult than many people originally thought. The plants that thrive in these latitudes have different growth cycles with their long dormant period and many compete for light more than their tropical counterparts. Luckily I was able to find someone who has not only studied with Ernst closely in Brazil, but has also been pioneering syntropic systems in Germany who was able to share some key learnings from the first couple years of trial. Renke de Vries studied International Forest Ecosystem Management, and works as an agroforestry designer and consultant and in arboreal maintenance. From 2019 till 2023 he has been responsible for the design, establishment and management of syntropic agroforestry systems especially at Gut and Bosel, the famous farm in Brandenburg outside of Berlin in Germany. In this interview we go into the learnings that he brought from his formal studies in forestry and forest management and how they juxtapose with his learnings from Ernst in Brazil.  We also dig into the systems that he has been  designing and planting and the crucial learnings in his ongoing attempts to use syntropic principles in temperate climates. Though there is still so much to learn and experiment with, I’ve been very interested to see the different iterations of what I’m convinced are very wise and widely applicable principles of ecological management from the syntropic concept. Hopefully this discussion will spark some interest in some of you to start your own agroforestry experiments.