Aaron Perry


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  • Episode 70 – Jeff Moyer, CEO, Rodale Institute, on Regenerative Organics


Jeff Moyer, CEO of the Rodale Institute, provides exciting insights into the brand new Regenerative Organic Certification rolling out in 2020, and how each of us plays a role in healing our entire world through food, beverage, and clothing choices!

Understanding that HEALTHY SOIL = HEALTHY FOOD = HEALTHY PEOPLE, as well as the soil-carbon-climate connection, we each have the opportunity to become potent drivers in the establishing and scaling-up of sustainable, regenerative, and stewardship-based solutions – in our own homes/neighborhoods and world-wide! Citing the 70+ years that the Rodale Institute has lead the United States in science-based organic agricultural research, Jeff describes how “regenerative” implies continuous improvement and restoration of the biological vitality of soil, ecology, and communities. Calling the Rodale Institute a “human health” and “solutions based” organization, Jeff emphasizes the connection between heart health and farming practices in particular. He also discusses how L-ergothioneine, naturally occurring in healthy, organic soils, has been shown toe fight cancer, and to inhibit neurological diseases and conditions such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Autism, and Alzheimer’s.

The Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) is a robust, multi-disciplinary, third party certification that takes environmental stewardship, land use practices, farming techniques, carbon sequestration, human welfare, animal welfare, labor standards, and community impacts in to consideration. The “Eagle Scout” of food, beverage and clothing/fiber certification, ROC embodies an entire constellation of “merits” that are found in other certifications such as organic and fair trade. The ROC is being developed and deployed by the Regenerative Organic Alliance, a collaboration among several companies and organizations, including: Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s, Demeter, Applegate Farm, Dannone, and the Rodale Institute, to name a few.

Jeff has been on staff at Rodale Institute for over 44 years. He spent over 30 years as Farm Manager/Director, was appointed as Executive Director of the Institute in September 2015, and became CEO in September of 2019. Jeff was project leader on the highly acclaimed Organic No-Till project and is the author of the book on this subject: “Organic No-Till Farming – Advancing No-Till Agriculture Crops, Soil, Equipment.” He is a past chair of the National Organic Standards Board and currently sits on the boards of Regenerative Organic Alliance as Board Chair and the Soil Health Institute. Jeff is a founding board member of Pennsylvania Certified Organic and past Founder and Board Chair of The Seed Farm, a new farmer incubator project.







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

Welcome to the YonEarth Community Podcast. Today, we are visiting with Jeff Moyer,

the CEO of Rodal Institute. Hi, Jeff. Hi, Aaron. How are you today? I'm doing great. How

are you doing? Good. Pleasure to be here. Well, I'm really excited for our conversation.

I know we've got a lot to cover for our audience. And before we dive in, let me tell them a

little about you and your background. Jeff Moyer is the Chief Executive Officer of Rodal

Institute and has been on staff at Rodal Institute for over 44 years. He spent over 30 years as

farm manager director, was appointed as executive director of the Institute in September of 2015,

and became CEO in September of 2019. Jeff was project leader on the highly acclaimed organic

no-till project and is the author of the book on this subject called organic no-till farming,

advancing no-till agriculture crops, soil equipment. He is a past chair of the National Organic

Standards Board and currently sits on the boards of regenerative organic alliance as board chair

and the soil health institute. Jeff is a founding board member of Pennsylvania Certified Organic

and past founder and board chair of the seed farm, a new farmer incubator project. So Jeff,

wow, it's just an amazing career that you've had already thus far. And I know you have a really

important perspective to share with our audience and we're going to talk there today. We're going

to get dirty here. So let's just dive right in and then want to ask you, what's the big deal?

What's the big deal about soil and regeneration? What does this even matter?

Wow, the whole idea of regenerating the health of the soil is key to our survival as a human species.

You know, we have to go back in time a little bit to really get into the ground and dig up the dirt

on regeneration and what we're talking about. Our founder, J.I. Rodel, way back in 1942, he wrote

some words on a blackboard. He said that healthy soil equals healthy food equals healthy people.

So he was really, you know, I don't know if he was a visionary. Some people say he was. I don't

know if he was a genius. I don't know if he was just lucky. It doesn't really matter. You know,

he stumbled onto something that has really captured the attention of people as he began to tell us

as farmers that our role was not to produce food. And it wasn't to manage the soil is to make people

healthy. Now the tools that we use are the soil and the food, but how we manage that,

the end goal has to be to make people healthy. So he would say if the goal, for example,

of farmers is to kill weeds, then Roundup is a great tool. But if the goal is to make people healthy,

it's a terrible tool. There's no way you can use Roundup to make people healthy. It just doesn't

move you in the right direction. So he began to look at and discuss this production paradigm

that he called organic agriculture and is sort of caught on. But it was moving relatively slowly.

His son, Robert Rodel, took over the Rodel enterprises in 1971 when Jerry Rodel passed away.

And he was a little frustrated with the speed at which organic practices were being adopted.

So he was an early proponent of sort of giving the standard or creating a standard within the

federal government and working with the USDA. Many people were upset then. Many people are still

upset, you know, 30 years later, that that's what happened with the word. But he saw it as an

opportunity to move farther and faster. Because if you had a word that is sanctioned by the USDA,

certainly it carries a lot more penache in the marketplace than things will move farther

faster and they have. But he was also pretty smart and he recognized that when you give something

away, you lose control. So we lost control of the word and we gave up a lot of concepts that were

originally part of organic, for example, the idea of continuous improvement. That kind of shelved

early on in the conversations with the federal government because they wanted to put our organic

standard under their marketing division and how does an ag marketer certify continuous

improvement, you know, it just was too esoteric for a fairytale for them to be grasped. So they put

that off on the side. There was always this idea of that organic was supposed to be good for

the soil. And so there's a little bit of language in the law about soil, but it's really not very

strong. There was always a concept in the organic farming community that dealt with animal welfare.

But the standards in our NLP program are relatively weak on animal welfare. And then the organic

standard, the way it's written today in our national NLP regulations, national organic program

regulations. There's no language all around human health or social justice or any of those

community kind of activists or activism components. And so he was really interested in figuring out

how do we magnify the word organic and make it mean what it really should mean and embody all

of those tools. So he came up with the new word regeneration. At the time he was talking about that,

that was late 1970s, early 1980s. He was talking about regenerative agriculture and everybody sort

of poo-poo'd that idea and said, no, we're going to really gravitate towards this word sustainable

and sustainability. The problem with the word sustainability, and that's never been a rodeo word,

it's a relatively weak word. It's not a strong action word. Now it's a simple word to understand,

because people understand what sustain means, but you can sustain a bad system with enough inputs.

And some systems and some processes really should not be sustained because that's not what we

want to do. So if somebody said, how is your life, and you said, oh, it's sustainable,

they'd be kind of sad, or how's your relationship with your spouse or your significant other,

and you said, oh, it's sustainable. Yeah, just like you're smiling, and I am too, people

chop them up. Yeah, that's not a good word. I don't want to sustain it. And if you talk to good people

in the international community, particularly people that are struggling financially or struggling

with their farm operation, because they don't have enough inputs to do what they want to do,

or don't have access to markets, and you say, how would you like to sustain what you have,

they said, no, we want to improve it. So he was looking for a word that showcased this concept

of improvement, continuous improvement, and he latched onto the word regenerative. And to me,

it makes a lot of sense. What we've done now at Rodeo Institute and working with some major

brand partners is we've linked those two words together. And so now we talk about regenerative

organic certification, regenerative organic cooling practices, because we really believe that

organic is a baseline by which we really should be farming to get the chemistry, and synthetic

chemicals out of our food production system. Going back to that original paradigm, trying to make

people healthy, we've got to get those chemicals out of the system. And then we can launch from

there into a regenerative model where we really do include animal welfare, social justice,

and then, of course, focusing on healthy soil. Absolutely. Yeah, that is such an important and

central discussion that affects all of us. And one of the things I noticed when we're doing the

YonEarth work and events all around the country is that a lot of folks still have this impression

that organic agriculture is somehow this new thing, or even a fat or some sort of marketing

invention. And so I often have a lot of fun on a stage going clear to one end and say,

let's create a timeline and start maybe with the Egyptian Empire and walk our way back through

a few thousand years of history, all of which basically was organic agriculture right up until

about a century ago. And what I think is so important for folks to understand, to really understand,

is that this chemical and synthetic form of agriculture is the aberration. It is the

thing that is absolutely outside of the norm of how we ordinarily tend to do agriculture as a

species. And I wonder if you come into that sort of encounter with folks not really understanding

the context the way it needs to be understood. Well, we certainly we do. I would say that the

timeline that you defined is exactly correct. The current industrial agricultural model that we

have in place, not just in the United States, but globally around the world is a relatively new

phenomenon that was really designed around this concept that what we need to do is focus all of our

energy on tons of output. We focus very little on true quality. Now every farmer wants to produce

a quality product and I'm not suggesting they don't want to do that. But the measuring stick by

which we judge success on farms or that we incentivize farmers to operate is based on yield.

It's a little dissonuous to suggest that the true sum of our ability to survive on the planet

comes down to tons and tons of commodities. Obviously we have to produce food because we have

billions of people to feed and I'm not suggesting that that's not important. But it's not the

sole measuring stick. We should not say, well, farmers are judged only on their ability to produce

tons and tons of this yellow stuff that we call corn and they don't even see it as producing food.

Most of the farmers across the Midwestern part of the United States don't really see themselves as

food producers. They're commodity growers. They grow commodities of corn and beans. The corn could

be used for ethanol. It could go. There's probably corn in this vast. I have no idea. There's corn

and soy beans in everything. They don't really see themselves as food producers.

When we separate the concept of agriculture from food production, we've disincentivized farmers

from paying attention to what their real goal is. At the same time, what we've done is we've

said we're willing to sacrifice our soil and our environment and our ecology for the sake of that

yield. It doesn't matter what you do to the soil. Farmers aren't judged on that. Do whatever you

have to do. Get as many tons as you can, produce as cheaply as you can, and try to survive on the

margins. That's really an unfair system. Farmers have always done what we've asked them to do.

Unfortunately, we've asked them to do the wrong thing. Where I disagree with the timeline is that

when we look at organic agriculture or regenerative organic agriculture today,

what we do look at the past to see what farmers did that was good. We've also modernized it.

So when we pay attention to modern ag-engineering, we pay attention to modern biology.

So we're using good plant genetics. We're not suggesting that what we do is go back in time and

put a few million bison on the Great Plains for the few creative Americans out there to manage them

and say that's organic agriculture. That's where we should head. That's not the direction we're

heading. We're going to take advantage of precision agriculture. We're going to take advantage of

robotics. We're going to take advantage of all the tools that are at our disposal. So long as they

don't interfere with our ability to make people healthy. So those tools that we incorporated in agriculture

that don't lend themselves to human health, we're going to sit on the shelf and say they no longer

have a role to play in food production. It's more fiber production because they're destroying the

soil, they're destroying the animals and the biodiversity on that, that live in that environment

in ecology. And then we're also unfortunately making ourselves sick. And that's kind of where we're

stuck. We understand that there's a big business that's pushing the current model. And there's a lot

of a lot incentive out there in the business world to keep the status quo going. Change is

expensive. Change is difficult. Even positive change can be challenging and difficult. We understand

that. You know, you graduate from high school, you go to college, positive change. Still struggle.

There's tension. We understand that. You're single. You get married tension. We understand that.

It's a positive change. Well, the same thing happens when you move from a chemical-based system to an

organic system. Their stress is in there. What we need to do now is a society is figure out,

certainly we have to agree that that's where we want to go. And if we do agree with that,

then we have to work with those producers and farmers out there in the countryside and ranchers

and say, how can we help you navigate this tumultuous transition period?

Yeah. You know, one of the things that you are spearheading and innovating on is the regenerative

organic certification program that's in the process of being rolled out this year 2020.

And I am so thrilled with my own personal background in the food and agriculture arena for

many, many years. I am so thrilled about this step that we're now taking and about the

both opportunity and imperative for us as consumers to do really all that we can do to support

with our dollars for those food purchases, those beverage purchases, those fiber clothing purchases,

as much of this emerging regenerative organic certified method of production as we can.

I'm thrilled to dive into that and really to share that as a very hopeful and groundbreaking,

you know, no pun intended development this underway as we speak. And I want to hear from you.

What are you excited about? What are the challenges? And how does the general public fit into helping

this thing move forward as quickly as possible? Well, I'm glad you brought up the model that we're

creating around regenerative organic certification and the alliance that we built to move that model

forward. It's a real exciting time. I mean, one of the things that Rhode Island Institute

prized itself on is that we are a solutions-based company. There are a lot of organizations out there

non-profits, activist groups that are really, really good at pointing out problems.

We tend to be really, really good at pointing out solutions. That's what we're all about.

You know, we don't want to sit here and say, you know, it's easy to say, round up is bad.

Okay, what's the alternative? How do we give people solutions to work around that?

That's what Rhode Island is all about. The other thing we're really good at is putting science

around this story. We are a science-based organization that focuses on soil, soil health,

and food production with an end goal of having healthy populations. So we see ourselves really

as a human health organization, although we work in the soil. So it seems a little odd, but I was

meeting with a cardiologist yesterday that was talking about heart health and how he traced the

heart health back to dental health, which traced back to breathing. And he said, but at the end

of the day, heart health steps with how farmers treat the soil. And it was an enlightening moment

for him when he came to that conclusion that he said, what I really need to do is get people

to eat a healthy organic diet. Of course, they need some exercise. That's part of heart health.

What he said, if they don't feed themselves properly, and if we don't take care of the soil

properly, it's impossible for people to have human health. So that's really an amazing link

that we've been able to make through this scientific enterprise that Rhode Island Institute

saw about. Now, what we've done is we've tried to create a certification model so that we can

bring customers, consumers, and the average person into this dialogue. Because as you just alluded

to, we all vote with our dollars for a particular food production system. We vote sometimes three

for five times a day. It depends on your eating habits. But we vote constantly with our dollars.

And people aren't really always paying attention or aware of what they're doing with those food

dollars. So what we've done is we've partnered with a bunch of brands that produce food and fiber

products and said, how do we orchestrate a new certification system that consumers can rally around

so that they can purchase products that incorporate a whole suite of values that they come to the

marketplace with. Most customers or consumers come to a grocery store, a restaurant, or wherever

they purchase their food or if you're buying fiber products. You come with a suite of values,

not just one. Some people are single issue voters. Most people have a whole suite of issues that

are of concern to them. Same thing is true in the marketplace. So for example, one of our concerns

was if somebody wants to come and buy a product that is organic, that's great. But somebody else may

come and say, well, I'm really interested in social justice. So I'm looking for a product that addresses

my social justice concerns. And then we have people that say, why can't I have both? Why can't I

have a product that both embodies my values around getting the chemicals out of the system and having

an organic sleet certified product as well as a product that has a social justice component to it

or an animal welfare component or carbon sequestration because the climate's really important to me.

Why can't I have all of that? We believe you can. And you should. And people deserve that. And

that's the rallying cry around which we hope consumers begin to focus as we roll out our

regenerative organic certification and seal. I've talked with a farmer. I like to deal with

visuals because I'm a visual person. And this farmer said to me, I feel like a Boy Scout

with a slash full of merit badges because I have so many logos on my product that I'm trying to

sell because I am animal welfare approved and I've got a social justice label and I've got an

organic seal and I'm halal and I'm, you know, kosher and I'm all these things. He said, couldn't I

just find, you know, to continue with that Boy Scout theme, he said, you know, when you get enough

merit badges, you become an Eagle Scout. And that's the only merit badge you use. You just showed

everybody, oh, I'm an Eagle Scout. And people, even if they weren't in scouting, they recognized that

it took a lot of work to get that. And there's a lot embodied in that one merit badge that you got,

which is the Eagle Scout badge. And so the farmer said, can't I have one seal that says I do it all?

Everything that's important to people on this planet in terms of their health of the climate

or the environment, I do it. And I do it really well. Can I get a seal that sets a high bar

standard that means I do that? We think you can. We think you should and we're developing that.

Now, art are certainly our goal with creating this standard, which is called the regenerative

organic certification or ROC, the ROC seal, which will be rolling out in supermarkets in the next few

months. Our goal is not to be the one percent of the one percent. Our goal is to set a high bar

standard that leads everybody in the industry to the next level of production. People follow

leaders and they follow groups that move in a positive direction. And nobody wants to be left behind

and said, yeah, I'm going to do it the old way. There's no cars that get made today with drum brakes.

They all have disc brakes because it's such a much better mode of stopping a vehicle. I mean,

you get a bicycle that has disc brakes on it now. Not the old little rubber things. It's got

disc brakes. Perfect. It works. So everybody wants to move to that next level. And we understand that

there aren't any farmers, even in the conventional model, who are deliberately trying to mismanage

their soil. But unfortunately, that's what's happening. And so what we want to do is encourage

processors and producers to buy products that are produced under the regenerative organic seal.

And that way, we know that the labor on the farm was treated fairly. And the farm could be

international. This is an international certification, not just domestic certification. So people who

are buying a food product that came from India or Argentina or any other country in the world,

you'd like to know that the people who produced that food, who processed that food were treated

fairly or that fiber, a fiber product that were treated fairly. Any animals that were involved in

the system were treated fairly and that the soil is improving with time. So whether we sequester

carbon in India or in Indiana, it's all the same to the planet. We just got to drag that carbon

out of the atmosphere and get it in the soil. And this regenerative model actually does that.

Yeah. Yeah. It's absolutely beautiful. It's a race to the top right instead of a race to the bottom.

Yeah. Yeah. It's so potent. What are some of the brands that you're excited about that we as

consumers will be able to buy here in the coming months? Well, I would encourage all of your

listeners and viewers to go to the regenerative organic alliance and check out the brands that

have signed wrong with us. It's changing daily. So I don't want to leave anybody out when I call

out specific brands, but two of the leading brands that have been involved with roto from the very

beginning, and I've taken a real leadership role, are Dr. Bronners from a Dr. Bronner's. So

because they use a lot of organic ingredients in their products, and then also Patagonia.

Both Patagonia fiber and Patagonia provisions are really excited about what we're doing here

because they want to bring the finest highest quality product to the marketplace at a fair and

reasonable price. And they know their customers and their clientele pays attention to what they're

doing with their company and their organization. But there are many. I think there's 42 brands.

Denon is on their Applegave Farm is on there. There's just a load of brands out there. Again,

I hesitate to because I don't have a list in front of me. I know I'm going to upset somebody if I

don't mention their name on your podcast, but there's a lot of them. So I would just encourage

your listeners again to go to the regenerative organic alliance, look up all the alliance members,

and of course, support those brands that support the ideas, the values, and the mission statements

and vision that all your listeners really admire and adhere to. That's what we're going to survive

is if people say, yeah, that's important to me. It's important to them. I'm going to support them.

I'm going to buy product anyway. Let's buy that product and move the needle. Like you said,

it's the high bar standard. Lifts everybody up. Everybody's going to have to move,

and routes is it to work towards that goal. Yeah, it's a great point. And I'll be sure to include

the regenerative organic alliance link in our show notes when we publish this episode. So folks can

find that very readily right there in the show notes. And yeah, I really appreciate the shout-out

to the few that you mentioned and that there are many others that we should all know about.

So I'll even go in and look for the list and list several beyond the few that you've mentioned

here. And Jeff, one of the things as you were talking about how we vote several times a day

when it comes to buying food, three, four, five times, having... I'm voting for Flot.

Well, this is something I've thought about a lot and actually wrote about in the book YonEarth,

having sold food products to restaurants in particular, I've come to understand that actually

often each meal is 10 to 15 or even 20 votes because we're bringing together all these different

ingredients, we're bringing together spices and oils and so forth. And so each one of those

components is a single signal going out into the global marketplace. And if it's from a conventional

chemical-based agricultural production system, we're basically telling the global marketplace,

we want more of that. Whereas if it's organic and regenerative, we are telling the global marketplace,

we want more of that to be made. And so I really emphasize for folks the immense power that we each

wield with our consumer demand decisions and that whether it's the groceries we're buying to

bring home to prepare foods or our choices to eat out at places like restaurants, these are

having very real impacts on soil and water and people all around the planet.

Yeah, I was just talking. I mean, part of it is education and knowledge of what we're doing.

Yeah, some people say, oh well, organic or regenerative organic. When I vote with my dollars,

it's going to cost me more dollars. The problem that we have is isn't that organic food is over

priced or too expensive. It's that conventional food is undervalued and the true cost of the

production is externalized. So you don't pay for it at the point of purchase when you buy food,

but you pay for it down the road. I was just talking to a woman today in a meeting who a

professional person who said she was struggling with some autoimmune diseases. And her doctor said,

get on a more plant-based diet and try to reduce your weak consumption, which she did. They also

tested her for glyphosate contamination, which she had some, but when she switched to a more plant-based

diet, her glyphosate levels went up in her body because she never made the connection between

how the food was being produced and the food she was consuming in her health. And so what she

found out was she had a switch to an organic plant-based diet. And then those levels came down

and her health came back. And it's like, yeah, the way we produce food has a huge impact

on its ability to sustain or improve or regenerate the health of our individual cells.

So we remember people look at that. So she was saying, yes, I was I was buying food and was

cheap food and it was still vegetable. So you think, oh, I eat more fruits and vegetables,

that's good. It is and it isn't, you know, because of the way we're producing things. So you either

pay the doctor or you pay for EPA to clean up the chemical spills or you pay to clean up the

river. You know, we have to dredge the Mississippi River every year because we wash topsoil and

because of the way we farm. If you stop farming that way, you wouldn't have to pay for the dredging,

but you'd have to pay the price of food would go up. But then you wouldn't have to pay for dredging.

Now I'm not trying to put dredgers out of business. That's not my my suggestion here. But

we have to really look at all those external costs that we've incurred in our food production

system. Let alone the the climate impacts that we're all seeing where we're sending carbon into

the atmosphere so the keeping it the soil where we need it. We have to pay for those prices somewhere. And just simply changing

the way food that we eat is produced could mitigate so many of these problems. That's where

the solution lies. You know, I absolutely love it. It reminds me of a wonderful and pithy quote

from the great regenerative farmer, cum philosopher and comedian Joel Salatin. And I recall him

saying something like, if you think organic food might be a little bit expensive, have you

priced cancer lately? And you know, when we look at the whole system, when we look at our

own lives and the lives of our friends and family loved ones, to really understand these

interconnected points and impacts, I think it's so important. And you mentioned glyphosate,

which is of course the active ingredient in a very potent pesticide that's in products known

as Roundup and others. And it was just a couple of years ago, 2018, when the producer of Roundup,

Monsanto, was found liable for the non-Hochkins lymphoma of a groundskeeper, a guy named Dwayne Johnson.

And it was ordered to pay $289 million in damages. And since then, there have been a whole slew

of lawsuits, including class action lawsuits around this. And the truth, the bottom line in this

is that here in the United States, in particular, although it is global, we've been the unwitting

guinea pigs of a massive chemistry experiment. And it's been in many ways destroying the gut microbiome

in our own bodies, which has absolutely been impacting our immune systems, other health issues

like cancer, et cetera. And even science is emerging, making connections to cognitive performance,

behavioral performance, these sorts of things. It's a really important issue. And I'm just thrilled

to know Jeff that you and your team are helping to connect these dogs for folks in a way that's

again very focused on the solutions and on the actions that we can be taking.

Yeah, there's so much that the soil does for us that we don't understand.

We just became aware a few years ago of an amino acid that's produced by soil funguses.

And of course, our scientific team would say certain bacteria that act like funguses in the soil,

that produce an amino acid called ergo thionine. And I would encourage all of your viewers and

listeners to Google search when they're done or being searched or whatever search engine you want to

use, search the word ergo thionine. Turns out that we've known that ergo thionine exists since

like 1909 or something like that, but we didn't know where it was produced or how it was produced,

and we didn't really know what it did. Well, it turns out that it helps the human body

gain height off certain cancers, colon cancer being one of those, and also certain neurological

diseases like attention deficit disorder and autism and Alzheimer's. When you look at what's

on the rise in this country, it's attention deficit disorder, Alzheimer's, and autism.

Rates that cannot be explained simply by diagnostic testing. Yes, I think we've broadened the

spectrum of what autism is, or maybe attention deficit disorder, or even moved on from saying normal

dementia is maybe was misdiagnosed and should have been Alzheimer's. I understand that, but not

to say we went from one in 10,000 people to not one in 25 people having autism. That's insane.

You can't say that's diagnostic. The world hasn't changed that much. We produce our food

has, and so we've eliminated, if you look at ergo thionine levels in the food, they have been

dropping steadily over the last 50 to 100 years. I understand correlation is not causation. I

understand that. You start to hold up all these models one after another, after another, in front

of a kindergarten child, and they're going to go, okay, I can see the picture that this is painting,

or I can see how the pieces of the puzzle make a picture, and the picture is clear to me. I don't

need 7,000 studies, and 30 years of work like we did with the tobacco industry to prove that smoking

isn't healthy. Again, when a kindergarten kid, when you ask them, just sucking smoking

your lungs make you healthy or not, they're going to go, no. But of course, we spent 30 years in 7,000

studies to showcase that, yeah, that was bad for us. It's not a good practice. Now we show

people who smoke, and that's certainly their right to do that, but no doctor in the world today

says, well, if you smoke one pack a day, if you want to get healthy, smoke two. That doesn't happen.

They're going to say, you stop smoking and reduce that intake. That's not good for you. We're

doing the same thing now with soil. We're saying you can't have healthy soil when you spray millions

of tons of roundup or any other pesticide on it. You can't use poisons to make people healthy. It

doesn't work. It doesn't work to make the soil healthy, and without healthy soil, you can't make

people healthy. So these are all linked together. We don't have to do studies to see that. You know

that? I know that. You're the listeners know that. How do we begin to encourage farmers to do what

we want them to do? Because they will. Because they want to do what we ask them to do.

Absolutely, Jeff. Let me. It's pretty simple, but yet it's pretty complicated.

Oh, yeah. We got a lot of work to do clearly, but it is simple. So let me remind our audience that

this is the Wyanders Community podcast. I'm your host, Aaron Perry, and today we are speaking with

Jeff Moir, the CEO of Rodal Institute, which is part of a consortium that is helping launch

the new regenerative organic certification. And I want to give a special shout out to some of

our sponsors who make this podcast series possible, along with the rest of our community mobilization

work for climate action, soil regeneration, and cultural healing. And that includes Earth

Coast productions, Patagonia, the Lich Family Foundation, Purium, and Waylay Waters. And I

also want to give a huge shout out to the folks who have joined our monthly giving program,

which is also key to supporting this ongoing work. If you haven't yet joined and you'd like to,

you can go to wyanders.org slash support and join at any level now in a special partnership with

Waylay Waters. If you choose to join at either the $33, the $88 or the $133 levels, you'll get

monthly shipments of our special CBD hemp-infused soaking salts to help with your own health and

well-being. And you can find info on that at wyanders.org slash waylay dash waters. That's W-E-L-E-Dash

waters. So a huge thanks to all our supporters. And Jeff, I'm just, I'm, I'm got to admit to you that

when I first heard about what was being put together with the regenerative organics certification,

I was overjoyed because having worked for 20 plus years in the food and agriculture of Rina,

I was seeing that there was a really important missing link for the consumer demand pathway

to get further activated around this whole host of positive beneficial attributes in agricultural

production. And I guess I'm curious just to get a little bit of the, you know, the backstory

that behind the scenes, how did this all start to come together with your friends at, you know,

Patagonia and Dr. Bronners and others out there? Oh, well, yeah, obviously this was a journey.

It is a journey. It's had some beginnings and I don't know where to land, but we're still in

the midst of the journey. Let's see, I mentioned how we started with the history of those words.

The word organic and the word regenerative were always rodeo words. They've been rodeo words

for seven decades as we've moved on this path. And so when organizations like Patagonia and Dr.

Bronners were interested in trying to expand their vision of how food was produced, it was only

logical that they reached out to rodeo institute. We initiated a conversation that branched out into

a giant listserv. I'm going to guess eventually there was at least 100 people or organizations

on this listserv. And the conversation got really spread out. It got really far and wide as

people were talking about how can we be regenerative without being organic. And it's a little bit

like saying, I want to be an athlete, but what I really want to do is sit on the couch and eat

potato chips and smoke cigarettes. You can say you're an athlete, but it can make you an athlete.

So we, you know, a group of us, we kept, we sort of pulled back and I said to the group to

I'm not going to go on your folks and Bronner folks, let's pull this back. We've heard

everything that people are going to say. We've heard it all and now there's just all this fighting

between everybody trying to prove that they're right and that there's multiple paths to regeneration.

And I don't just count any of that conversation and I wouldn't say that there aren't multiple paths

to a regenerative system, but they all pass through the word organic because you can't be regenerative

and still use pesticides on a soil. And there are people say, well, I'm regenerative and I

improve the health of my soil. I just use a little bit of chemistry, just a little bit.

It's like, yeah, that's just a little bit too much because you know, it doesn't take much to kill

microbes and to kill that many life in the soil. You know, I was talking with a fellow who said,

well, and he was a soil scientist and he works in the area of fertilizer enhancers.

One of the problems that we have with fertilizer in a conventional system is we put nitrogen

fertilizer out on the field and it's basically a salt. When you put salt and water, it just dissolves

and goes away. Some of it will volatize and go up into the atmosphere and some of it will just

leach into the into the soil. So they chemistry, you know, we're pretty smart as people and the

chemists have figured out a way to encapsulate that fertilizer granular in a way that the way

fertilizer decomposes in the soil is the microbes attack it. So as soon as you put that fertilizer

on the ground, the microbes attack it, it leaches into the soil and it's gone. So if we can stop the

microbes from attacking it, it won't decompose and we can essentially have a time release fertilizer.

So if we're planting corn, we can put all the fertilizer on in spring and it will release

slowly over the course of the season as the plant needs it. Perfect. The problem is what you

do the only way to do that is to kill the microbes in the soil so they don't attack the molecule.

So you encapsulate it with a fungicide and a bacteria site that kill all of the microbes that

are happened to be near where that fertilizer pellet landed on the soil and then you have a time

release fertilizer. So this person was saying, well that's regenerative. How can you say, well,

we're going to use less fertilizer. I said, yeah, but you killed all the microbes in the soil. He said,

yeah, but just for a little while, eventually they come back. So it's like saying, well, if you had

chemotherapy once a year, it would be okay because yeah, we're going to destroy all your gut biome,

but you'll recuperate, but as soon as you recuperate, we're going to do it again. And we're going to

do it again. And we're going to do it again. And we're going to do that for decades and centuries.

And that's crazy to think that we can improve the health of the soil that we need to survive

by treating it that way. You just can't. So in a more regenerative organic model, we're saying,

no, that kind of chemistry, those tools, while they're fascinating from a scientific perspective,

they don't really work. And we're going to focus our energy on those tools that do encourage us

to be healthy that do encourage soil health and help us regenerate the planet, regenerate our

climate, be able to live in a farm in a climate which is drastically changing. We see that almost

every day in every part of the country, everybody says the weather isn't the way it used to be.

Unfortunately, our grand productivity scheme of trying to focus on tonnage was based on

cheap oil and a very steady climate. None of those exist anymore. So the model is no good.

We need a new model. Regenerative organic is that model. And we're excited to move that forward

with our partners who have, like I said, they gravitated to rodeo because we've always been there.

We have a reputation for being, as I mentioned, a solutions-based company, but also an organization

that's seen as a voice of reason in a very chaotic world. We are not activists, although we try to

incentivize change, we do that by inspiring people to greatness not by chastising them or beating

them up. So we would never suggest that any farmer is doing something wrong. We're just going to

point out a better model and hope that they gravitate towards it and then support that gravitation

towards that model with consumer demand. Absolutely beautiful. And folks can go to

rodalinstitute.org. It's our O-D-A-L-E institute.org. And can folks make donations there as well

to support that work? Oh, they sure can, Eric. Yeah, we are a 501-C-3 nonprofit. I can tell you,

there is only one organization like us in the world. And that's because it's expensive to run a

research organization that is not tied to product sales. We don't sell a product. We've got the

worst business model in the world. I tell everybody to give it away. You know, we produce science,

we produce information, and we give it away. We give away training, we give away our expertise,

because that's what our philanthropic dollars allow us to do. So yeah, I would encourage all of

your listeners if they can, if they're able to go to our website and figure out a way to donate

to us, to take an action step. Even if that action step is simply buy more organic food.

Obviously, that doesn't help us directly. But yes, you can donate to us, our app, our phone app,

our smartphone app, no matter what kind of system you use to do that is very easy, one push a

button, and you can donate to us. And we appreciate every donation that we get. We treat it with

the greatest of dignity and respect and put it to good use. Yeah, beautiful Jeff. And I

know that you guys also have a strong social media presence with Instagram, Twitter, and others.

And we'll be sure to include the links in our show notes for all of that as well so that folks can

find you and like and follow the work that you're doing out there in the social media realm.

That's great. You can see from my image that I am not a millennial. And so I don't have our

social media addresses buried in my head because unfortunately, or fortunately, I don't use social

media as well. Facebook, Instagram, we tweet, we do all those things. And it's important that

people know that because we're trying to get the information into the hands of folks that can

make a difference. Absolutely. Well, that leads me to one of my final questions here, which is

with respect to the growing YonEarth community. And we've got folks in communities throughout

the United States, throughout North America, and increasingly worldwide. And in particular,

our growing network of ambassadors, what's an additional call to action? In addition to buying

organic, looking for the regenerative organic certified products, and in addition to supporting

Rodel, what else would you encourage people to do, to do more of, to do in their communities

to help with this big picture that we're all working on? Well, I think anything that folks can do

to share information and share this story, which is a positive story. And I think that's what's

important for all of us to understand that because of the science that we've been doing here at Rodel

and other places as well, we've been able to document very clearly that all is not lost.

Yes, soil is degrading. Worldwide, the United Nations will tell you that the soil degradation

is happening everywhere on the planet. It's either being covered in salt, it's being

turning into desert, it's being built on, it's being flooded, so many things are happening,

and we're losing that productivity of the soil. But the beauty of it is we can turn that around.

By changing the way we farm, nature wants to work with us. They want to see that happen.

It wants to see that happen. And if we apply different practices to the soil, we can make a difference.

And so it's a positive story that everybody can share with someone. Why would you keep a positive

story to yourself? Share that information, talk to people, organize around that, talk to your

politicians. You know, policy has a lot to do with how we farm on this, in this country in particular,

but of course all of North American and much of the world. Decisions that are made in Washington,

D.C. impact the way we farm in Iowa, which impacts the health of children in Boston.

It's all connected. So we got to get to politicians and say, we want to encourage you to support

farmers that want to transition. How do we encourage bankers to give low interest loans to farmers

that want to do something good rather than penalize them by giving them high interest loans,

because they find it more risky. How do we absorb some of that risk through our policies? We know

we can do that. It's something we want to do as a society. There's room for everybody in this

messaging platform that we're talking about. If you're a storyteller, tell the story. If you're

a podcaster, do a podcast. If you're simply a consumer, consume smartly and wisely and support

that. If you're philanthropic, make those donations. Wherever you see your skill set fitting in,

help that happen. It doesn't matter where you are on the economic spectrum. We know that in our

local communities here, some of our ethnic groups that are Spanish-speaking communities,

they're interested in human health. They've got families. They want their children to be healthy.

How do we create mechanisms that make these foods affordable for them? Here in Pennsylvania,

for example, where Rhode Island Institute is housed, we've worked with our state so that we've

created a double snap program. So if you buy organic food through one of our CSA shares or

membership organizations, which we take to underprivileged communities, you get double snaps.

So you get the food at half price. It's not like we can't afford to put this food where it belongs.

It should be in schools. Instead of having just regular old fruit that's contaminated with

pesticides, why don't we have organic fruit in every grade school across the United States

and the cafeteria? We can do that if we make that decision. A simple decision, like saying,

I want organic milk or organic apples. Everything else starts to change. People start to question,

say, well, okay, let's start with apples. Let's start with milk. How do we go to the next level?

And it encourages the industry to grow and farmers are going to say, hey, this is what people want.

This is what I want to produce because it's really what I wanted to do anyway.

So everybody has a role to play. Everybody has a voice, whether you're buying fiber,

bio-organic fiber. But bio-organic fiber, where you do your homework and understand how the people

who produced that fiber were being treated. Was it organic cotton from Turkey that was harvested

by school-aged girls? That could happen. And that's not what we want. So we want to have to do our

homework, use your technology. I was just in a local store here in a small town with a store

owner that I know. And he just said, you know, we were talking about smartphone technology.

He said, it used to be if I upset a customer, I'd probably upset six customers or potential

customers. Now if I upset a customer, by the time they get to the car, 6,000 people are upset with me.

That's the power of social media. And so I think everybody should get on, everybody that listens

to this podcast, tell six people, or tell six thousand, but tell people what you heard. Don't

keep it to yourself. Everybody can do that with a push of a few buttons and encourage other people

to hear this story, hear this message, which is positive, which is action-oriented, and they can

do something about it. Yeah, it's absolutely beautiful and so important, so pertinent, Jeff.

And as you're talking, one thing comes to mind that I want to be sure to hit on a little bit more

before we sign off for the day. And that is the carbon sequestration piece of this soil regeneration

puzzle and how essential that is to dealing with our climate crisis and to stabilizing our climate.

And when we look at the trend of carbon loading in the atmosphere going from 280 parts per

million to well over 400 parts per million in a handful of generations, we see in the global

carbon cycle that an increase of soil carbon of 10 percent worldwide is equivalent to sequestering

all of that carbon increase we've seen since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

That doesn't mean it's necessarily easy. That doesn't mean that we're not dealing with complex

systems and that we need an entire slew of strategies at all scales. But what it means to me is

there is a very, very hopeful message in all of this, which is through soil regeneration,

we actually have a very real shot at reducing the carbon concentration in the atmosphere

and stabilizing our climate. And I'm wondering if you can speak to that for a minute.

Well, for sure. If folks go to our website, we do a climate white paper, a carbon white paper

on our website that explains all the science behind that and that's very well cited and documented

so people can actually look up the research papers that support that science. But you're absolutely

100 percent correct. The only tool that we have available to us to sequester carbon and pull it

out of the atmosphere is photosynthesis. It's the only tool we have and it works and it works at scale.

If I had invented photosynthesis or you did, we'd both be Nobel Prize winners and it'd be the

greatest thing since sliced bed. But because we have it and it's free, people ignore it.

If you take a teaspoon and most folks have an idea of how much a teaspoon of soil is,

there's more microbial life in that teaspoon of soil than there are people on the planet.

We're over 9 billion microbes living in that teaspoon of healthy soil. If it's desert sand,

that may not be the case. But a good healthy organic soil, there's more life in the soil than

there is above the soil. That life in the soil is all made up of carbon. As we expand that life

in the soil by treating it by not poisoning it, by treating it differently, we drag carbon out

of the air through photosynthesis and store it in the soil. It's the way all the carbon that we put

into the atmosphere got there in the first place. It was all stored in the soil. As it percolated

down and got pushed down, we sucked it up as oil and coal burned it and put it back in the

atmosphere. Now we get it back down and the only tool that's going to do that is photosynthesis.

So we've got to get more plants on the ground and we've got to get the ground covered with

something green and growing organic and regeneration organic does that. For example, if I get it in an

airplane, well, it's the snow starting to melt across the Midwest and I were to fly from here to

California. Everything I would see would be brown. That is wrong. It should be green.

Farmers should be planting cover crops. When they're not using the soil, cover it with something

green and growing so we can sequester carbon out of the atmosphere. Unfortunately, we as people

all have said, well, but that adds to the cost of food, so we're not going to pay for that.

Or maybe we'll allow, we do have equit funds through the USDA NRCS office that will reward

farmers for planting cover crops. But at the very best, it's a break-even operation for them

financially. So why do any of your listeners get up in the morning and work for a break-even job?

I wouldn't do it nobody. There's no incentive to do that. But we can't ask farmers to do that either.

So we have to change and incentivize them to do what we want to do. So by setting this high-bar

standard that we've created with regenerative organic, we're going to force every farmer in the

world to cover crop. That's going to, once they're carbon out of the atmosphere and put it in the

soil. Because when there's something green and growing, carbon is being pulled, photosynthesis,

carbon dioxide comes out of the soil and when it comes back out, it's oxygen and the

carbon is left behind. And it just does that for free all day, every day. It's the only tool

that we have. It's the best tool we have and we have to put it to work. You know, when we had

the Paris Climate Accord, the only organization that was there to talk about soil was Rodeo

Institute. Soil was not mentioned. One of the reasons is people said, well, we don't want to

pick on farmers. But if we don't see farmers as part of the problem, we cannot see them as part

of the solution. Agriculture is part of the problem. It has to be part of the solution and it can be,

and it's a very positive way to solve this problem. And it's done by people just simply changing

the way you purchase food. It's amazing. It works. And yes, it's simple. There's a lot behind it,

but we know that we can 10% of a carbon increase isn't that much. We can do it on almost all the

soils of the world. We can't we can't magnify it by 10 times, but carbon is such a small part

of a huge volume. So it's like a giant swimming pool. We're just saying, if you put two drops in,

put 2.2 drops in. That's what we're saying. If that's 10% more and we can do it, we can make

that change and we can do it by changing the way we farm. It's so wonderful, Jeff. And I'm going

to quote you, photosynthesis works at scale. I love it. It works at scale. Yeah, fabulous. I have

a little factoid in my head that photosynthesis is utilizing a little over 1% of all the inbound

solar radiation that comes to our planet. And my goodness, that chlorophyll, what an amazing and

elegant molecule for it to be able to do what it does with those photons coming from the sun.

Yeah, nature is not very efficient, but it is very effective. You know, if nature was efficient

an apple tree would have one flower. But instead it has thousands of flowers. Some drop off,

some happens here, this happens, that happens, and it still produces fruit. So yeah, only 10%

of the energy is captured, but look at the magic that that 10% has in its effectiveness to sequester

carbon. So you're right. It does not have to be efficient to be effective.

Right. Yeah. Beautiful. Well, Jeff, before we sign off today, I want to thank you for taking

the time to visit with us. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience

on any of this that we've discussed today? Well, I would say that the one thing I want people to

continually think about and maybe do some homework on, and if I've challenged you to do anything,

it's going to look at some of the science that we're talking about. Because we're not just,

there are many storytellers out there, and I'm not suggesting any of them are wrong or bad.

I'm just saying the story that we're telling, the story that we're trying to put in front of people

is based on science. Science is very important. Agriculture moves on the back of science.

Consumers want to know and deserve to know that what they're doing is based on science that we have

good scientific information and data to support what we're talking about, both on the human

health side and on the climate health side, on the soil health side. All those pieces can be

substantiated with science. It's proven, it works, and people can support it. There's mechanisms

to do that through our certification processes that people can go to the store today and buy

organic product and know that people who are farming that way have made a change. In this

country, maybe I'll end on this if you want, but only 1% of our farmland is farmed organically,

yet 6% of the food that we consume in this country that's organic is organic. That means it came

from somewhere else. It came from international trade. Why do we have farmers in this country that

are refusing to change to a more productive, more environmentally friendly, more profitable system?

The only reason is that they're not encouraged to do it. We need to encourage them. We need to

incentivize them. We need to address the barriers that are stopping them, break down those barriers,

and bring people on board. Unfortunately, we have six times as many farmers in this country over the

age of 65 as we have under the age of 35. What's the incentive for them to change? Not much.

But what we do know is that even the federal government here says that over the next 20 years,

over 50% of the land that's managed in the United States will change management. And it's

going to be a younger generation. Younger folks want to farm organically. They want to get involved

with soil health. They want to do things that are right. They need support in the marketplace.

There's a lot of things. The sciences there, consumers are there. The piece of the puzzle are

right. You just have to put it together to paint the picture we want for the brighter future that we

all deserve. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Jeff. It's a real pleasure to be able to visit with

you today. Oh, it was exciting to be here. If anybody wants to get more information, they can

contact me or the institute anytime. We'd love to talk to them. Excellent. Take care. 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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Y On Earth - Podcast Cover
Stewardship & Sustainability Series
Episode 70 - Jeff Moyer, CEO, Rodale Institute, on Regenerative Organics

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