Regenerative Skills

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

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Episodes

5 days ago

A couple weeks ago I was invited to speak on a panel discussion about soil health for the release of a new issue of REVOLVE magazine. 
Established in 2010, REVOLVE inspires climate action by keeping you informed about the circular economy, ecosystem restoration, the energy transition, sustainable mobility and water resources. 
Their latest episode focuses on the importance of soil and how to restore the health and function of soil through the perspective of researchers and practitioners. Along with Teresa Gimeno a forestry researcher with the Centro de Investigación de Ecologia y Aplicaciones Forestales or CREAF here in Catalunya, and Carlos Ortiz who works with the department of climate action at the Generalitat de Catalunya where he leads the office of fertilizers and manure treatment, were interviewed by Marta Castillo who is a journalist and communications officer with REVOLVE media. I’ll leave it there since Marta gives a great introduction to the panel and each of us as speakers right at the beginning. 

Friday May 10, 2024

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.

Friday May 03, 2024

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.

Thursday Apr 25, 2024

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

Friday Apr 19, 2024

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.

Friday Apr 12, 2024

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.

Friday Apr 05, 2024

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.

Friday Mar 29, 2024

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. 

Friday Mar 22, 2024

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.

Friday Mar 15, 2024

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.

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Oliver M Goshey 2023

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