Written by Chris Kerston - Co-leader of the Land to Market program at Savory Institute
The number one question we get asked at the Savory Institute - especially after our founder, Allan Savory, gave his watershed-moment TED talk on regenerative grazing - has been, “What can I, the average person, do to support this?”. For 50 years, our movement of Holistic Management has served ranchers and livestock farmers in helping them step up their performance - to farm in nature’s image. Consumers want in the game now too - they want their purchases to matter - to have an impact - to contribute towards solving the world’s biggest problems like climate change, world hunger, water insecurity, and struggling local economies.
Over the last 10-15 years, there has been a consumer awakening to the nuances surrounding the ingredients in the foods we eat and the fibers that make up our apparel. This consumer revolution is sometimes called the “Beyond Organic” or Regenerative movement. Personally, I believe that Michael Pollan’s bestselling book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, was a massive tipping point moment to the collective awakening towards concepts like “industrial organic” and that in order to garner positive environmental impact from our food and clothing decisions something additional was needed.
Ecological Outcome Verification
We are big believers in the old saying, what gets measured gets managed. For 50 years, Savory taught producers how to look at ecosystem processes on their property and to assess first hand whether their land was improving or declining. About 6 years ago we started working to add empirical impact metrics to that protocol.
This new comprehensive measurement protocol is called Ecological Outcome Verification. It measures an aggregate of environmental outcomes: soil health, sequestered carbon, water, and biodiversity. The qualitative measurements make up what we call leading indicators that influence refinements in grazing management. The quantitative metrics in the protocol, which usually require laboratory analysis, are what we call lagging indicators and they help reinforce the value that the leading indicators generate by . Since it’s launch in late 2018 this EOV protocol has been deployed on over 2 million acres around the world and is growing exponentially. This initiative serves as a much needed voice for the land in the marketplace.
To add additional credence to the notion that properly managed livestock can and must be a part of the solution, we participated in a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) done by Quantis that looked at additional impacts throughout the value chain. It found that for every kg of beef produced at the Savory Hub, White Oak Pastures, 3.5 net kg of carbon were sequestered. This LCA included additional impacts like fuel usage and packaging in it’s calculations.
Land to Market (L2M)
The Land to Market program focuses on facilitating connections between EOV verified regenerative producers with the most progressive brands. It is the world’s first global regenerative sourcing solution. We work with brands to help them 1) build relationships directly with verified regenerative livestock producers, 2) to set and meet their science-based impact targets, and 3) to celebrate the role of the farmer in their education and communications.
This puts us in touch with a spectrum of different industries and allows us to cultivate new synergies between them. We are currently working in:
We have started cultivating synergistic relationships between seemingly unrelated businesses. Usually, this involves bringing together a meat buyer, a bone and organ meat buyer - often a pet food company, and a hide buyer for leather products. When these types of players come together we can often build a program that utilizes more than 95% of the animal. This means the brands can buy the whole animal from the producer and they don’t get stuck with different parts and pieces and have to start new direct marketing enterprises in order to move it all. This increased utility brought together at the beginning of the supply chain also creates new value streams for the grower.
While it may sound like a simple change, these collaborative buying deals unlock huge amounts of regenerative supply that currently is ending up in the commodity supply chains. The commodity system is not designed to capture values like environmental impact - but rather reduce everything to its lowest common denominator. Most agricultural producers are not close enough to markets, have the necessary infrastructure, nor do they have the interest in selling their products directly to the customers. The travesty of this is that there are massive amounts of meat already being raised regeneratively that never get the recognition for it. The brand who buys it never knows, the consumer who eats the product never knows, and certainly the rancher received no benefit for it. However, by linking the right buyers together we can start to change that and reward regenerative ranchers for the great work they do to benefit all of us.
Brands that lead on Regenerative Sourcing
Land to Market works with brands that have the goal of creating positive outcomes baked into the core of their DNA. These are organizations that are deeply seeking to be part of the bigger solutions for all the right reasons. We work with brands of all sizes from early startups to large established multinationals who recognize that the old extractive business models will not only eventually fail them but are actually accelerating the global ills that we’re all fighting to address. We believe that under the right management, business can be a significant force for good. Markets move exponentially faster than public incentive programs and can dramatically accelerate the good work in regenerative agriculture that’s already happening.
What can you do?
Our primary goal is to ultimately serve the two disenfranchised ends of the value chain - the agricultural producer and the end consumer.
The farmer and rancher have always made up the peasant class of society, yet society is now collectively acknowledging that healthy soil and good land management can mitigate so much of the global scale problems threatening civilization. This means that ranchers and farmers are our ambassadors to that solution. Consequently, we believe that their role in society needs to be elevated to represent such importance. We can do this by identifying and rewarding positive outcomes.
And similarly, the common person has repeatedly been bamboozled and intentionally held down historically. Information has categorically been withheld from them or drastically minimized for the benefit for a few at the top. Now though, for the first time in history someone can go to a store or shop online, see a product with a Land to Market seal on it, and know with hard data and empirical science that the product made the land better as a result of how it was grown. Our aim is to bring a new reality to the old adage of vote with your dollar - to empower the consumer to do that effectively and to make environmentally beneficial purchases. We believe that this transparency and traceability will foster a new food and clothing democracy the likes of which the world has never seen before.
So when you ask, “what can I do?”, you now are armed with options. You can now help send the signals to the farmers, through incredible brands like Force of Nature, that you care about the plight of the agrarian and that you want to support their efforts to heal the vast landscapes on which we all depend.
Chris Kerston has dedicated his life to helping connect innovative ranchers and farmers with progressive brands in ways that create true synergistic value for both sides. Chris managed ranches and farms full-time for nearly 15 years before joining the Savory Institute. In that time, he developed thriving and profitable markets for a number of different niche products. He has been a practitioner and advocate for regenerative agriculture for his whole career. He has a strong desire to contribute to better systems that meet the consumer’s wants and needs. Chris also utilizes innovative media production in concert with traditional marketing techniques to help ranchers share their stories and build long lasting relationships with partners based upon common goals. He now co-leads Savory Institute’s Land to Market program – the world’s first verified regenerative sourcing solution.