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Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 114 - Elizabeth Whitlow, Executive Director, Regenerative Organic Alliance

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Elizabeth Whitlow, Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, discusses the recently launched Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) for farms, food, beverage, and apparel products. Integrating three key pillars: soil health, animal welfare, and farm worker fairness, the ROC is the most comprehensive and holistic third party certification available.

The ROC was established through a collaborative effort by Dr. Bronner’s, Patagonia, and the Rodale Institute, all three of which are at the forefront of the global regenerative movement (see episodes #111, #89, #70, #69, and #63 for more information). Acknowledging that “What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves,” and the ancient Hippocratic maxim, “Let food be thy medicine,” Elizabeth discusses the connection between soil health and well-being, and the converse, soil-toxicity and disease (including diabetes, heart disease, and myriad cancers). She also acknowledges the foundational contributions of George Washington Carver to the contemporary regenerative organic movement.

Elizabeth Whitlow’s role as the Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA) is the culmination of over 20 years working for systemic change in agriculture systems. Whitlow began her career as an advocate for shade-grown, fair-trade, and organic coffee growers in Central America. Since then, she has worked across the spectrum of elevated certifications, both in farming and ranching. She is now leading the charge for regenerative organic agriculture, managing the holistic and high-bar Regenerative Organic Certified™ (ROC™) standard. The ROC is the North Star of certifications, building upon the USDA Organic label through the pillars of soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. She resides in Sonoma County, California tending to her micro-farm and an array of animals, promoting community-driven, local food systems.

Regenerating the living crust of the Earth has been Elizabeth Whitlow’s mission since she was first exposed in the 1990s to the harmful practices of industrial agriculture and the power of building thriving food systems. Thus, began the long journey of examining the deeper systemic policies of agriculture and advocating for programs that reward holistic farmers. Now, as the Executive Director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance, Elizabeth is overseeing the launch of a revolutionary certification program, Regenerative Organic Certified.

RESOURCES:Web: regenorganic.orgInstagram: @regenerativeorganic


(Automatically generated transcript for search engine optimization and reference purposes – grammatical and spelling errors may exist.)

Welcome to the YonEarth community podcast. I’m your host, Aaron William Perry. And today we’re visiting with Elizabeth Whitlow, the executive director of the

regenerative organic alliance, hi Elizabeth. Hi there from hen right there nice to see you Aaron. Good to see you too for having me.

It’s a pleasure that had you on the show, and I’m really excited to dive into this conversation with you. And it’s a very important one. And before I share with folks just a little bit about you and your background I want to encourage folks to like subscribe and follow our

our podcast on YouTube and on your podcast channel of choice.

And yeah, we’re going to dive in and talk about regenerative agriculture and the new

regenerative organic certification here. So let’s dive in. Elizabeth Whitlow’s role as the

executive director of the regenerative organic alliance is the culmination of over 20 years

working for systemic change in agriculture systems. She began her career as an advocate for

shade grown fair trade and organic coffee growers in Central America. Since then, she has worked

across the spectrum of elevated certifications, both in farming and branching. She is now leading

the charge for regenerative organic agriculture, managing the holistic and high bar regenerative

organic certified standard. The ROC is the north star of certifications building upon

the USDA organic label through the pillars of soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness.

Now, in the approximately 37 seconds it took for me to read this brief bio, we have lost the

equivalent of 18 soccer fields of living top soil on our planet. And Elizabeth, it feels like

that is exactly the right place to kick off our conversation. Can you paint the picture and just

tell us a bit about what’s going on with soil right now? Yeah, then that’s and thank you so much

for the introduction. And that’s why it that bio ends with that really startling statistics. Like

it makes it so tangible for all of us. In this little moments that we get to say hello and talk

to each other, we’re losing field after field of top soil is blowing away and being destroyed

due to industrialized agriculture. So that is really where we can begin. And there’s a lot of

interest right now in soil, a lot of learning going on. It’s very emergent kind of topic where people

coming to this awareness of the fact that we’ve got more living beings in one teaspoon of soil

than we have humans on the planet. Another startling statistic that is kind of mind-boggling when

you try to get your head around that. That 85% of those living beings in that one little teaspoon

have not yet been identified. And all the different complex interactions that are going on between

all these living beings are still to be learned. We have so much to learn about what’s going on in

the soil. And so I think it’s just a really important and great starting point on why it is

important to farm in a way that preserves the soil. What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves.

It is the bedrock of our civilization, our culture. And I think the time for soil is now

the year of soil was a couple of years ago. I don’t know if you recall this, but it’s only

wonky kind of folks like me probably who were paying attention to that. But now it feels like a lot

more people are paying attention. And so I’m really grateful for the time to come and talk to your

audience. I know your listeners already are so up on all these topics and are probably very

well aware of what’s going on. But happy to jump in and elaborate on any points. So thanks, Aaron.

Yeah, you know absolutely. And we’re all learning together. And even if we’re hearing something

again, I think it really helps us absorb and understand even more deeply when we hear

additional perspectives on these same topics. And I’m encouraged to note that this is now

the decade on ecosystem restoration with the whole community through the United Nations. And of

course, soil is central to all of that work. So yeah, I mean, soil is so remarkable. And let’s

just talk a little bit about what you guys are doing with the certification and why

you chose the three pillars that you chose. Yeah, that’s the great starting point. So

I’m so lucky to be the executive director of the Regenerative Organical Alliance. You’ve had

several founding members from the ROA on your podcast that you had some great interviews with

my dear brother, David Bronner and Garo and Jeff Moyer. And you know, these are the founders

of the ROA along with the Patagonia company, Patagonia and not just the clothing, but they’ve

also got a food brand. And so these four founders or three really Patagonia, Rodale and Bronners,

came together and created the Regenerative Organic Certified Framework because they were

concerned about what they saw as kind of a weakening of the organic kind of the way organic was

being implemented on the ground. A weakening of the standard, there was this allowance for

hydroponics, which was a huge deal within that sector in 2017. On top of the Trump administration had

removed any provisions for animal welfare from the organic programs. So therefore, we were

ending up with kind of more factory style farms in the livestock realm for organic. And

yeah, there were just a lot of different concerns that were kind of coming up, bubbling up around a

weakening of the organic standards. So the founders came together and they were like, all right,

wait a minute, we love organic. We believe in organic. It’s the highest label out there. It’s the

highest designation you can earn as a farmer. It’s a lot of work many times. But we want to add to that.

We want to add on these additional provisions around soil health and around animal welfare.

And then also a really important and often overlooked. Critical component is the humans who work

in these systems. So they added this social fairness pillar to the framework and this is meant to

ensure fair treatment to farmers and to farm workers. And so those three pillars are the central

tenants of the programs, soil health and land management practices, animal welfare, and then

fairness to farmers and farm workers. And can you tell us a bit about some of the farmers and

ranchers that you’re already working with? And I know that you’ve got not only the incredible

accomplishment of putting this certification together and that is no small fee to maybe we can

dive into some of the details of the framework in a moment. But now you’re in the process of

implementation. And I imagine there’s a long line of farmers and ranchers who would like to

get this certification. You know, what does that look like, you know, sort of boots on the ground

and behind the scene? Yeah, we are super busy. We have been busy since the day I started.

It’s never slowed down and I keep getting to grow my team and get more people, but we seem

busier every time I don’t know. I keep thinking like, okay, we’re going to finally catch up now.

We’re not because I think everybody wants this. Everybody is reaching for this kind of ideal

of some things that would, you know, they can really feel good about in their purchases. And I

think one thing like just to kind of set that stage around agriculture as a huge problem

in this world. It contributes like up to 25, 30% of industrial kind of emissions, greenhouse

gases, but agriculture also has this huge potential to be a solution. And so how do we make this?

How do we help farmers get along this journey and farmers implement these practices and then

consumers learn to recognize and reward these farmers and pay the premiums that they deserve?

Those are all kind of really important aspects of this. The Rodale Institute has been looking

at regenerative organic farming for quite some time. In fact, Jeff Moyer is the CEO and ED there

at Rodale. And he founded this concept around the roller crimper. Long like I can’t remember,

I saw him first speak about that Aaron at the conference we were talking about where we’re going

to see each other in January the eco farm conference. So I saw Jeff speak about that roller crimper

there. And it’s just a really, there’s some fascinating work being done on the ground as far as

implementing new regenerative practices. There’s a whole contingent up north and west of you

up there in the Dakotas and Nebraska who have been doing a lot of incorporation of regenerative

practices. And so we really have to start there and we start with like how do farmers adopt these

practices a lot, a lot to be learned. But the basic principles, if you want me to outline some

of those principles really aligned with the regenerative, the more kind of general regenerative

movement is minimal soil disturbance. You keep the ground covered at all times. So that’s precious

soil doesn’t blow away. You keep living roots in the ground as long as possible or like vegetative

cover on the ground, a little armor, a protective armor for that soil. You incorporate diversity

into the soil into your planting theme and support biodiversity in that way. You bring animals

back into the farm and bring animal manure into the farm and grazing and all the kind of benefits

that that can bring to land. So those are just some of the key principles for generative.

So I’m sorry if I rambled on that. No, it’s really great and I’m scribbling some notes here,

you know, trying to keep up to do this summary in the show notes when we’re finished.

That is great to hear and it helps paint a picture of what’s happening on the farms. And I

was curious. I know many of our audience are familiar with this term regenerative, but I was hoping

you could a define it for us and also be speak to the potential risks we’re seeing of that term

itself, being watered down if we don’t have robust certifications like the ROC. Yeah, no, thank you

for asking that. I think that’s a really important part of this like the intentions of the founders

was number one, like they put the established regenerative organic certified in a link regenerative

to organic. And that’s key and that is putting a stake in the ground keeping organic from being

further weakened. And also to protect the term regenerative, the founders were really concerned

about this potential greenwashing from corporate interests. And they wanted to create this high bar

standard that would demonstrate and clarify what regenerative can and should be. And this is a

holistic type of agriculture that regenerates resources and considers all players in the farming

system from the soil microbiome to the animals to the waters. So we believe regenerative

organic always go together. And this is just something I think that is hugely important right now

and we’re seeing already in three years since I’ve been in this position. We now have very large

corporate interests. Everybody’s excited about this concept of regenerative and it’s becoming a

buzz word and it’s potentially getting weakened when we see that Walmart wants to be a regenerative

business. What does that mean? And when people are claiming regenerative by whose definition?

What is, you know, and so this is something where the founders put this framework out, got public

comment, 400 public comments came in and that’s when they were like, oh boy, we’re onto something and

they hired NSF International to be the program manager. And NSF took, they are an international

standards bearer. They have like 165 different standards they implement around the globe. So they

came in and they were brought on. This is before I was hired. They were the program manager and they

took in all that feedback. They worked with all these different task forces and advisory groups

on deliberating and through that feedback made recommendations to a second version of the framework.

The first version that came out said no till. And as you can imagine, you’re familiar with farming

and farmers were all like, what do you mean no till? That’s not going to work. So we want minimal till

or conservation till, but no till isn’t practical. And so there was a lot of, you know, feedback,

and critical feedback that was incorporated and addressed and built into that new second version.

That’s about when I came along. And we then did the pilot program. And so I’m maybe getting ahead

of myself. So I won’t go into the pilot. Maybe you want to talk about that in a bit. But just,

you know, as far as the term regenerative agriculture, this term was actually first

introduced by George Washington Carver. And then it was popularized by Robert Rodeo.

It was made pretty well most well known people we think perhaps because Rodeo’s our founder.

But it was made more well known by Robert Rodeo. And it’s a collection of practices that focus

on regenerative soil health and the full farm ecosystem. And I just want to acknowledge that

these practices, they come from traditional and indigenous practices that have been

searing land for millennia around the globe. And so, you know, I don’t want to underestimate

that contribution or make it seem like this, you know, the modern concept. It’s really old ways

of farming. So what’s old is new. Yes, it’s a thank you for acknowledging that and mentioning that.

And, you know, I think one of the one of the keys here that not everybody has a full appreciation

for quite yet is the degree to which we have toxified our agricultural soils and the waters

being used to irrigate those soils. Right. And, you know, this is this is one of the linkages

that has not only created massive dead zones, thousands upon thousands of acres of dead zones

at the river delta is the Mississippi and other great rivers around the world. But increasingly,

the medical community is linking this toxicification to our own cancers and other

severe diseases and ailments. And so, you know, there’s not only the climate imperative and the

biodiversity imperative, but this is very much about our own human health and wellness, right.

Totally. Food as medicine, you know, there’s food can be our medicine and should be. And we,

you know, we have an epidemic here of diabetes and heart disease. All these diet related illnesses

that we suffer here in the West and particularly in North America, I, you know, these are a result

of our reliance on our concept that our belief that we deserve cheap food, that we have a right

to cheap food. Number one, that one, I’m sorry, people may differ with me on that, but I just like

I really don’t believe in cheap food. Farmers should be paid cost money to grow food and to

tend to food in this way. And we have this false concept of like, oh, we should have dollar

dozen eggs and we should have all this abundance of corn and soy, which is used as just processing,

it’s just processed foods. And so cheap food is definitely not better. Everybody deserves access

to healthy quality fruits and vegetables and good grains and not like these massive kind of the

winter wheat, the soft winter wheat that a lot of people are developing the gluten, they have

problems with the gluten and digesting that same with the milk, the dairy that is mass produced,

same with the corn, all these people with diabetes, like these are all a result of the way we’re eating

and the way we’re producing our food. So yeah, it’s a bit of a, probably a bit of a soap box

that I can try and step off of. Yeah, no, it’s so important to connect these dots and I had the

opportunity to interview a brilliant young lady who happens to be my daughter about illness as

the eyes of the medical community. And she said that basically all illness boils down to

inflammation and toxicity. And you know, what we’re not going on especially in this country

is a super toxic food supply that is also highly inflammatory in many cases. So we’re sort of

getting the double whammy here, especially in the United States. Have you seen a new book

inflamed? I’ve seen it. I haven’t read it yet though. Medicine and the anatomy of injustice.

So Raj Patel, of course, probably most people know and Rupa is an amazing doctor and as she calls

herself Farmer’s wife, she’s right here in the Bay Area and she and her husband have known him

a long time, an amazing farmer and they’re doing some really amazing work here with some other

farming kind of ventures. He’s doing the farm the rooftop and they’re doing a lot of fantastic work

around this whole concept of helping indigenous people come back to their land and farm

traditional foods. And yeah, it’s it’s pretty powerful stuff. There’s also Daphne Miller

down in San Francisco. She’s done a lot of work on this topic. I don’t know if you know of her.

They actually do not at this point. So it would be fun to connect with her. Oh, yeah, she’s great.

Let me look and see what her book was. It’s pharmacophia. Farmer copia with an F. Yeah.

And she did a lot. She learned a lot from working with a lot of farm workers who Rupa and Daphne

both working with farm workers who were exposed to the toxic pesticides that you just were talking

about. And we’re talking about those dead zones and you know, you all are keenly aware of water

issues there. Colorado, what happens to that water is it keeps going down further down river

and getting more and more runoff goes to it and then it gets more concentrated by the time it gets

down south. It’s like just a trickle of toxic soup and who can grow food on that. And so there’s

an equity issue that is just so apparent to some of us and so not apparent to others. It’s really

challenging to think about solutions to that. But yeah, truly, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Your comment about cheap food made me think of some statistics. I came across a few years back

that really shed some light on the situation and go something like this. Here in the United States,

we spend apparently only somewhere around 5% or GDP on food and something like 15 to 20% on health

care. Yes. In many other parts of the world, I’m remembering French statistics. It’s actually

the inverse, right? 50% on food and more like 5% on health. Thanks for that reminder. Yeah,

I forgot about that statistic. It’s really super revealing, right? Yeah.

And look at our health care costs and look at what’s going on in health care. And I think

it’s that pusher or farmer’s footprint who talks about this, like the trillion dollars that we

spend on health care. What if we just sent it on good quality food and grew, you know,

made healthier people? Exactly, right? And yeah, there’s a lot of opportunities for us to turn

this around. That’s the thing that I feel like your message. And when I get from your work,

Aaron, and Wiener, and what you and your community have been doing, like, let’s look to the hopeful

solutions. What do we need to do? Turn this around. And so, you know, there’s things that are very

impactful, very evident. We don’t have to prove the science on this. We know it. It’s been proven.

So let’s just go. Let’s make it happen, right? Yeah, I love this Elizabeth. And you know,

I think one of the secrets that hopefully is getting out more and more is that those of us who

are fortunate enough to be already engaged in this kind of lifestyle in the communities of

incredible farmers and leaders who are forging the way here, you know, there is a,

there is a quality of life experiencing that we get to enjoy. And I remember when you visited

Elk Run Farm just a few weeks ago, and we said, let’s not record a podcast quite yet. Let’s just

hang out and chat. So fun. You know, it’s so fun. And before you took off, we had traded all kinds

of ferments. And you gave me this amazing powder of beneficial herbs and roots and fungi that I’ve

been using in my smoothies and use some things. And it’s that there’s this this cultural experience

that I think our ancestors all had in their life ways, but we’ve really lost in this modern

industrial society of ours. And I think one of the real silver linings in all of this is we get to

not only restore soil and water, but also restore our own quality of life, basically. Yeah,

and that’s really beautiful. And it’s so true. Like that exchange is just really it’s so powerful.

And so so gratifying to just kind of like roaming through your your cabinet. Wow,

look at all this stuff. This is amazing. It was really fun. And your art and all your books,

yeah, it was really great. Yeah. I hope you enjoyed the Mulberry Strab. How’s that going?

So well, I mean, everything that you share. Yeah. Yeah, it’s great. I’m I’m curious if you could maybe

tell us just a little bit more about your partners. And I know you mentioned some of the three

founding partners, but you’ve also shared with me a number of other organizations who are involved in

the work you’re doing. And it might be nice to do a bit of a kind of survey and shout out to them

if you’d like. Totally. Yes. Gosh. So we have the other members of our board, amazing organizations

doing some phenomenal work. There’s textile exchange. And so like there’s there’s a huge

level of interest coming in from textile world. And so I feel like you and I are mostly talking

about food farming for food, but oh my gosh, the potentials with textiles and the interest coming

in from fashion sector is way up here. And so that’s some really cool stuff. And now you want to

think about cops and hemp, wool, cashmere, hides from leather. So there’s a ton of potential there.

And a lot of from high fashion to fast fashion, the fashion industry is really turning it around

and looking at itself and like, whoa, this is a very dirty polluting industry. And I think there’s

a lot of changes happening and that’s been pretty exciting to see. So we’ve got the textile exchange

representative. We’ve also got compassion in world farming. Amazing, really knowledgeable, technically

kind of super knowledgeable folks there who are helping us navigate the animal welfare standards

and find a way to let farmers, of course, raise livestock and incorporate livestock onto the farm,

but being reasonable about it and, you know, ensuring that animals who are going to be farmed and

raised for me that they get, I know it’s a little bit ironic, but that they have a really high

quality of life. Their entire life lets them live and express their natural behaviors up until

that one last bad day is my former board member, Will Harris, always said. The one the last bad day,

the only bad day they had was that day, you know, when they got to this slaughterhouse.

We also have David Bronner as a leader in a long time vegan and, you know, he’s a huge advocate

for for veganism, for less better meat. And so that is infused throughout a lot of our work.

Yeah, so we have others fair world project and Dana Geffner advocates on behalf of farm workers

all over. She’s doing a lot of work with the dairy sector here domestically and has always done

global work and then we have a new board member who I am just so gaga over is a Dave Romero

Breonis and she is from First Nations and she runs their sustainable food program and does a

lot of work around food sovereignty for indigenous peoples and she also was a former NOSB member.

So she knows the law, she’s trained as a lawyer, was formerly a judge, she’s just phenomenal

and and then Paul Dolan, another member of our board. He has always been a real leader in

the wine grape growing sector and we’ve had a lot of interest coming in from wine. And so Paul

was the leader who took the Fetzer wine label Fetzer company to organic in the 90s and then he

went even further from there, went and did up in biodynamics and he just keeps evolving and so

he’s gone from the organic biogenomics to now regenerative organic and he’s the chair of my board.

I think I caught everybody, oh no Alfred Grant, we have a farmer in Europe and he’s on the EU

mission board for soil health. He’s an infectious farmer crazy for worms and soil and all kinds of

good things. I think that rounds out my board and then what you and I were talking about was some

of our recently certified entities and I was talking to you about Poconos organic. I had just

been out to visit them and they’re just a ray of light in this work and really amazing folks

committed to food as medicine, the founders there, the founder of Poconos organics had some

health challenges that she was able to address by changing her whole eating style into an organic

now regenerative organic kind of lifestyle and she’s a big advocate for that and Poconos is,

this is the family, this is the Poconos race weight okay like I don’t know if you ever watch

NASCAR, I personally didn’t and I don’t but my dad raised NASCAR. Yeah and my dad was also an

NFL football player and after his football career he was racing cars and when I was home after I

saw you I was in Georgia and I had to go bury my my sweet dad that you know after losing him

last year but my brother was like Elizabeth dad raced at Poconos that was where I was with him

and that picture was white in his head off and it was kind of cool because I had no idea that my

dad was at that racetrack where I was just a week before but anyway that’s I that’s a side definitely

segue. Poconos organics doing amazing work and I had just been to visit our friends at organic

India they’re in Boulder and they have just recently become allies of the ROA and they’ve got

a couple of different farms in India in the that they’re applying for rock and so you know I

hope to see some sort of organic Tulsi tea from them in the coming year and they’re just amazing

folks they’re going to be opening up a really cool flagship store they’re on Pearl Street in Boulder

I’ll probably be out there to visit when they open in January so I expect to see you there.

Absolutely you know we’ll have to celebrate for sure yeah they’re going to do some really great

events there like educational events around you know healing of herbs and different aspects of

that and all right regenerative organic and yeah it sounds like it’s going to be a really neat shop

that is so cool yeah let me ask you know as consumers as all of this is

growing in scale and scope what is it we can be doing as consumers to help support all of this

and where can we find you know the the food companies and and fashion and clothing companies who

already have the certification yeah that’s a great question so one of the last emails I had

tonight was from my wonderful certification manager and she’s working in our database I’m

getting this almost ready for publishing we hope we’re expecting before like we leave for the

Christmas holiday that we are going to have the rock search directory live and running on our

website so you can go there and type in a type of commodity and you can get a search extension to

show you where you can get those types of crops or you know where those farms are located so that

might not necessarily mean you can walk to the store and buy that product right next year and

the second iteration of our farmer directory will include brands and products that are on the

market so that’s one thing I would point you and your friends to our Instagram page where we just

did this we had a whole series of titles we kind of like after my trip across the Midwest and seeing

all that corn and soy I’m like oh my gosh it just felt like so desperate we’re crossing this beautiful

prairies that have been converted to GMO corn and soy and this is awful and so we did this whole

like disturbing content post and we got a lot of interest and a lot of people saying oh my god

what can I do so we did a whole series of posts of what can I do as a farmer what can I do as a brand

what can I do as a consumer so there’s like 10 different things on each of those posts so

that it’s great and if you want I can say some of them out loud right now if you want I’m just

I just open it up let’s do it yeah let’s do it okay so as a consumer first of all um to buy

from farmers that’s the first thing is you know buy direct go to your farmers and get you know

be in touch with your farmer and buy direct and ask them how they farm right we don’t want to assume

that they don’t farm in ways that we would value and so um I just think you know having the

conversation is really important um also asking of your retailers and your brands that they are

carrying these types of products like it’s um pedagonia had a great ad campaign recently

to it was like demand more um demand more from your brands and consume less by the way

right and so like that’s that’s another one and um just educate yourself there’s so many

resources there’s so many ways to to support this movement to learn about the movement the

kiss the ground folks they’ve got a great soil advocacy training they’re about to embark on

a really cool project that we’ll be helping with and we’re going to try and you know help

anyway we can is regenerate America and it’s going to be all about the next farm bill and so

that farm bill you know we have this historic opportunity to influence change for this upcoming

farm bill the farm bill is why people eat the crappy food here in this country because of

snap because of the food stamps that drives people to purchase really cheap food that isn’t good for

them and so like getting more provisions in that farm bill to help people access healthy

foods and vegetables and help farmers to support farmers to access the land from marginalized

farmers to access land there are so many ways that we can turn the farm bill around so that it is

not just one giant sucking subsidy from on santo and cargo and all of the massive corporations who

have like 1400 lobbyists in Washington DC they get all the money they’ve got all the lobbyists

they get all the money and so the consumers people need to step up speak out and get that farm bill

turned around and so that’s going to be a great opportunity in the coming year to really activate

on that so that’s um those are a couple tangible things as a consumer that is super helpful

let me uh take advantage of this as a segue to uh to say that your instagram handle is at regenerative

organic and folks can also get a lot of additional information at your website which is regenorganic.org

and we’ll have these links in the show notes i want to take a quick moment to just remind our

audience this is the YonEarth community podcast i’m your host Aaron William Perry and today we’re

visiting with the executive director of the regenerative organic alliance elizabeth witlow and

want to give a huge shout out to our uh supporters who make this podcast series possible and this

includes earth coast productions the lich family foundation purium earth hero vera herbals growing

spaces soil works joyful journey hot springs spa earth water press doctor browners and

ecoversity and of course uh waylay waters is also a supporter and uh we have a wonderful uh

individual supporter program that you can join as a listener go to why on earth.org slash support

and sign up at any level that works for you uh on a monthly basis and if you would like to

sign up at the thirty three dollar level uh waylay waters will send you a jar of the regeneratively

grown uh have been fused organic coconut oil aroma therapy soaking salts as a thank you gift

so that’s um part of the win win win uh regenerative uh economic relationships we like to build

in the movement and of course just want to invite you again to like subscribe and follow

on youtube and on uh stitcher spotify apple podcast google podcast wherever you get your podcasts

that’s all very appreciated and uh yeah elizabeth i guess you know we’ve got uh in the coming year

a lot of very exciting uh things on on deck and getting on to the docket so to speak in addition to

the farm bill are there other initiatives and campaigns that that you’re aware of and that

you’re plugged into that you think we should know about um the american sustainable business council

does a really great job with this um i you know they um definitely keep up with policy and

upcoming policy bills to vote on and i you know i think the biggest one right now is that we just

passed with this infrastructure bill and let’s see how that goes um but there’s there was

initially a lot in there um to be happy about from choree booker and from others in this space um

so i’m not sure how much of that was intact i kind of lost track of it and all the

oh my gosh all the machinations yeah all the all that sausage making as people

wow yeah that was horrifying to see that sausage making but yeah it did make it and now let’s see

how it does with um when it gets to senate but um yeah that’s my opinion sustainable business council

has they do some great work on that so if you’re not involved with them that might be a good resource

for you that’s great yeah you know and i i want to share with folks too that uh you you were just

on this really amazing tour uh driving all around the country visiting all sorts of different

farms and organizations and i was wondering if you might just tell us a little bit about your adventures

yeah um and and we’re actually posting a bunch on our insta about it and actually i wanted to

also tell your folks if they wanted to get more information and learn more about regenerative we’re

developing out some really great resources and if you sign up on our mailing list we’ll send you a

series like three or four like the welcome email and then like some other emails with some great

resources and reading material and suggestions for how to educate yourself more about regenerative

organic and about these practices and what’s going on um all over the world and that’s the really

exciting thing too and as this is so global it’s actually we’re probably busier on the international

front than we are domestically and we’re really busy domestically so it’s crazy um so some of the

highlights of my trip i mean honestly one thing i really i had some reservations feeling like

okay here i come with California plates driving around the country in this big van and people

like we’re so politicized and people are so angry that nobody’s going to be nice to me you know

or like people are giving you your welcoming especially maybe like the west coast left coast

kind of liberal coming into the center of the country where things people are more traditional

and in fact i just sound quite the opposite i found this such a warm reception and so much kind

of graciousness and kindness and i was just really um it it just kind of filled my heart in a lot of

ways um in in that and visiting these farms was fantastic people really really need to see each

other and that i felt everywhere i went we were all just like you couldn’t get enough of like

having visitors and having people on site to see the farm and talk about what they were doing

because we’ve all been operating in this vacuum and you know gosh let’s hope that we’re going to

be coming out of it this year but um who knows who can predict um but yeah those are some of the

highlights um some really innovative farms and cool stuff happening that was great to see on the

ground i was hit about the most perfect time it was really harvest time and colors were changing and

by the time i left you and was heading west actually from you i went down to Denver and we had

this workshop with um we did a training for for N.O.P. auditors i think that was after i saw you

wasn’t it yeah yeah i think you wouldn’t tell us what N.O.P. stands for just sorry me and i my neck

acronyms in this industry at national organic program yeah that’s a federal law that oversees

tells us how organic works and then there are certifiers who do that work and so all the certifiers

any of the certifiers that we are working with at the regenerative organic alliance we have this whole

new territory which i spoke of earlier this social fairness component of our pillar and

typically the organic auditors have really in this in domestically don’t have any expertise

in this topic if you go to the global south or go to the international front where organic

auditors are all very accustomed to doing organic and fair trade audits at the same time because

that is like it’s been developing for 30 years in places where we see human trafficking and child

labor and all kinds of horrific things more commonly so here domestically it’s more hidden it’s

in the shadows and it’s not as as obvious to people that these things are happening right here under

our nose people are like oh but we have employment law we have OSHA but actually that doesn’t protect

the most vulnerable among us it doesn’t protect the undocumented individuals who make up 65% of our

agricultural labor so the social fairness component is really key in helping auditors learn

how to approach an audit in like it’s it was a very trauma-based approach to auditing trauma-based

kind of training and we did it in Denver with a wonderful group equitable food initiative

and their trainer from Chile who works with horses a lot and so we did part of our training at

an equine equine assisted facility for rescue horses and it was really all about body language

and learning the importance of reading like the body language of somebody who has been traumatized

in some way or another and learning how to be sensitive to that and how to handle it and in a

way that doesn’t further endanger them and so yeah it was a really powerful couple days there

that we spent together and and then from there after the training I just was head and west

yeah back to the west coast back to home and how far east did you get on your trip?

well I got to I drove all the way to Georgia but then I ended up leaving my little dog who you

met she wasn’t loving the trip so I left her in Georgia and I went up to Pennsylvania I flew

up there to get to Verdeo Institute and then to Poconos and then I came back and drove the van

up to Indiana and then started back across the country visited some really cool spots in the

Dakotas and in in Iowa at the Verdeo Midwest Center and yeah wonderful I was like such a cool adventure

it was really fun to be able to be a part of your kind of final stretch there you know part one of

my other highlights I could just share is because it’s really where I got my start in agriculture was

way too long ago back in the early 90s I was at the Prairie Institute or the Land Institute for

the Prairie Festival and that’s in Kansas and so I was really struck by the work that West Jackson

was doing then and still so like just reviewer that man and his work and the work that’s happening

at the Land Institute and so it’s interesting how this whole thing kind of came around full

circle for me because I also have always been a long admirer of a vanchenard and a vanchenard

was the one who got a hold of the Crenze grain and took it to excuse me to provisions and said

ask Bergett like let’s do something with this and that’s when they decide to make long route a

I have something in my truck just a minute. Sure.

Pam. You okay? I think I’m going to live. Good.

To the water. Oh yeah. A little tea. A little tea to get me through. It’s the end of day here,

almost six o’clock. It’s dark there too. Oh yeah. Evening hour. Yep indeed. Yeah. Well I am

just so happy Elizabeth that we could connect and record our conversation for our podcast audience

and before we sign off I just want to make sure to give you the floor. If there’s anything else

you’d like to say to our audience in general or any specific calls to action you might want to add

to what you’ve already shared with us. Gosh I mean I think I’ve been talking a lot and I would

just say like you know please learn what you can learn as much as you can about this movement and

support farmers who are incorporating these methods help farmers get on the trajectory so that

they can get to this type of farming. It does take a lot. Farmers are operating at very thin margins

and there’s a lot of volatility in it. Not only do you are you with the whims of like nature and

climate change floods and fires and all kinds of things but then you’ve got the market over here

and so it’s really tough. Tough road to hoe. So support your local farmer learn as much as you can

to support those farmers. Support the ROA if you like what we’re doing. Gosh we’re a nonprofit

and we could always use more support and when you support us we support them and so you know just

yeah feel free learn more about us and I think I’ll just leave it at that Aaron and thank you. I

can’t wait um can’t wait for the next uh I’m not sure if you can cut me off I’m not supposed to talk

about it. No we we’re we can think of by and uh you’re good. This is the great teaser for our audience

I don’t know where you’re going with this. Well we can ask about this thing that I’m so excited

it’s going to be coming out from you. Oh yeah we can talk we can talk about that in big terms

that’s a great teaser actually. Okay cool that’s not excited about and I’m excited about seeing

you in January. So I’m going to send you the conference um the schedule just to and text you

further so you get signed up. Yeah so Elizabeth is referring to I know some of you know this

we’ll be talking more and more about this in the next few months. I just finished writing

an epic eco techno thriller novel about these times that we’re living in and there are some

really exciting revelations and calls to action and so on and Elizabeth and I are talking a little

about this before we started recording today. So um yeah it’s going to be it’s going to be a blast

to drop a lot of teasers in the next few months and then finally share the book with folks

in the springtime when it’s published um but yeah Elizabeth and it’s so wonderful being connected

with you and having already planted many seeds for collaboration knowing that you know there’s

so much more work to do and that we get to enjoy collaborating and creating together.

Thank you there’s so much to do so much to be done and I know we’re going to get to

there together. I love that so thank you Aaron thank you so much for your good work.

I want you to do the I want to do the YonEarth kind of like YMCA thing but I’ve got the backdrop

on so I think my arms disappear. We’ll figure something out there too with Chris dance. Okay

Perfect. Thank you so much. We’ll see you around. Bye. Bye bye.

The YonEarth community stewardship and sustainability podcast series is hosted by

Aaron William Perry, author, thought leader and executive consultant. The podcast and video

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