Regenerative Agriculture

Reader Contribution by Chris Kerston
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Recently, Carter Bo Wallace, of the Institute of Urban Ecology interviewed me for his show “Focus on Food” on 90.7 KPFK Los Angeles. With regular visits from well-known heavy-hitting guests such as Vandana Shiva, Geoff Lawton, and Paul Wheaton, “Focus on Food” is a stellar program that regularly discusses issues such as environmentally sustainable agriculture, homesteading, food preparation and agricultural politics. Foodie fads come and go but “Focus on Food” cuts through all that and gets down to what is best for the eater and best for the land.

On this episode their team visited us at Chaffin Orchards. We gave them a farm tour and then did a quick interview about how our farm strives to mimic nature’s cycles and rhythms to minimize inputs. We talk about what role livestock can play on both the farm and the plate. Nature utilizes animal impact in nearly every ecosystem and there’s no reason that farms and homesteaders shouldn’t be following the same principles in their management. One of our other managers, Kelsey Maben, also joins us in the discussion and she talks about creating a connection to your food and how that relates to minimizing waste in the kitchen.  

During the interview I also talk a bit about my feelings in regards to killing animals for food. I have a strong reverence for all life, but I also believe here in the western world we tend to overly fear the act of death itself. As livestock farmers we see a lot of death first hand and I’ve found that there is a very spiritual aspect to that. First and foremost slaughtering animals for meat should be quick, respectful, and as painless as possible. After literally being part of this process thousands of times, I’ve come to believe that when looking at the bigger picture life is not as much about quantity of days as it is about quality of existence. It’s about whether beings are comfortable and happy during their days and able to express themselves in their natural environment. We have a motto here in regards to raising animals, “All good days, only one bad.” The end of life is not the enemy; it’s more about how the life was lived and I believe the same holds true for all self-aware creatures.

We also talk about regenerative agriculture and Holistic Management principles in regards to how grazing animals can be managed to sequester atmospheric carbon, build soil fertility, increase both soil water percolation and water holding capacity, and ultimately build stronger healthier grasslands to perpetuate the cycle. And then we talk a bit about food culture and how we can create positive realistic changes for future generations of farmers and eaters.

Carter is one my favorite interviewers and we had a great conversation.  I think you’ll enjoy the show …
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Chris Kerston is a managing partner at Chaffin Family Orchards, a permaculture-based 2,000 acre farm in Northern California that is famous for the way they integrate grassfed livestock with orchard farming. 

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