We used the link to last week’s story in the newsletter this week. We apologize for that. Caryl and I are driving back from New Mexico after an excellent Quivira Coalition conference where we got to share stories with other regenerative agriculture producers from all over the world. Now on our long return trip back to the ranch, hotel room construction of a late night newsletter was probably not my best idea! Anyway, here’s the appropriate link to Melanie’s lovely story about her horse and partner…
Thanks for putting up with us! -Glenn
I cooked burgers in Georgia this week. Not just any burger mind you; these, of course were Alderspring burgers. I was visiting one of our store partners in Atlanta—a huge farm produce store called Your DeKalb Farmers Market. They are our largest wholesale customer. The owners, Robert and Barbara Blazer, rolled out the red carpet for us and welcomed us like family. They buy many whole beeves a year from us, every two weeks, and have done it for 13 years.
They are great customers. And I needed to go down there in the flesh and find out why.
I could tell they weren’t used to someone cooking in their broad aisles. I had a bee swarm of a dozen or so out of the 600 employees helping me get staged and setup. There were Ethiopians, Kenyans, Jamaicans and Chinese employees, to name a few. I had yet to meet a white person; it was fun to carry on conversation through all the accents. This, I realized was America. A melting pot, indeed.
They were super helpful and got my cooking stand set up and grill hot, and then disappeared into the sea of color in the gaping vastness of the store. There were thousands of people in there.
And then the grill smoke and burgers started flying off the grate, and many, many of the multitude of YDFM customers put on the brakes on their way to meat and dairy and stopped to sample the flavor of distant high mountain pristine pastures.
They loved it. And so did I.
This was so far outside of any previous sampling experience that I’ve ever had. There were hundreds of nationalities and cultures. I heard more languages than in the Amsterdam airport. I was a little blown away. It was quite beautiful.
And they all wanted to try our beef, and as they did, many of them opened up about their personal journeys—in search of wellness.
Some were recovering from Crohn’s or had IBS. Others had autoimmune joint issues. Many had been in cancer treatment. Mothers were in search of good food to feed their kids. Others were simply in search of flavor; their palates had been insulted too often because good food was hard to find. Not a word was spoken or question asked by the hundreds I served beef to about the climate, carbon, or sustainability. They were here for food. For their wellness. For flavor.
That was it. It wasn’t because of their anti-environment politics; they were far from a conservative stronghold. I heard quite a few discussing and wishing that the Obama era could have continued; politics often was the subject of conversation; after all, Election day was not too far past. One gentleman whispered in my ear that he was a conservative as if he was going to get in a fight by announcing it (I always keep very neutral in these discussions and spend a lot of time listening—and learning).
As a Caucasian male, I was certainly in the tiny minority. I was unexpectedly thrust on the fast track to learning about their why. Some had driven many hours to get here, on a food pilgrimage of sorts. This store, YDFM, was truly a “whole foods.” Unlike the store of that name, YDFM had no boxed, canned and packaged grocery store center. There was a relatively tiny section devoted to a few canned produce items, chips and snacky things along one wall, but that was it. The rest was from farms, fishermen, and ranches.
YDFM stood in great contrast to the last store I had demoed in: The Boise Co-op in Meridian, Idaho. There, customers also came for food, but they also came for consciousness. They asked questions about carbon, the climate and water quality. They wanted to know we were taking care of the land, the planet.
They wanted to know about our carbon footprint. I had just started to crank out some of my numbers—so I had answers. I told them that Alderspring was carbon negative and had captured over 9300 metric tons of carbon over the last 10 years. This number means that Alderspring is carbon negative by 20% (I’ll admit that I’m still honing our numbers; there are assumptions I made that I’m guessing are overestimates and others that are underestimates). Our petroleum use is miniscule; 15 years ago we had sold all of our big tractor and tillage equipment. Our animals—our beeves, hogs, chickens, and sheep harvest the grass. Even counting our contract hay harvester’s petroleum use, it is still less than 4% of the carbon we put in the ground.
Our rangelands are in full regeneration mode, I told them. I had pictures, before and after photos that many observed.
And they tried the beef. Melanie told them that the unique flavors they perceived were from wild mountain pastures that had never seen herbicide or a plow.
And the exciting thing is that we were meeting both the food pilgrim’s needs. Of the Atlanta folks, so many of them I spoke to had come from the land; they were indigenous and ancient practitioners of agriculture. Several I spoke to were from tiny African villages—they had cattle and goats. Many were brought up around domesticated meat and milk animals; they were still in touch with their roots. What we did, what they saw in the pictures I had on my banner and my brochures resonated with them. There was a rightness in what we did from a husbandry standpoint.
They had lived in it.
Those wonderful Boise folks were maybe a generation or two removed from a husbandry history. But they knew the new lexicon of the planet—those things, those metrics of agriculture that marked it as regenerative. Words like humane, carbon, organic and climate friendly meant a lot to them. Like the Atlantans, they needed a final proof. In numbers, pictures and finally, the flavor.
They too, were humans. And both sets of humans let their palates have the final say.
They knew that Alderspring was good food. I needed to say nothing about that. And you dear friends, have already found that out. Thanks for keeping us on the land, the living soil, producing it. Our own version of Whole Foods.