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John: Great to be here, Katie. Thanks for inviting me.
Katie: I am excited to chat with you because I have known you for a long time as the founder of Nutiva but you have also been doing a lot of work in another area that I think is so important right now. And that is in the area of regenerative agriculture. And you were the executive producer of the documentary, a really phenomenal documentary called Kiss the Ground. So, we have a lot of directions we're gonna go under the umbrella of regenerative agriculture and we're gonna bust some myths. But first, talk to us about Kiss the Ground and what was the impetus for that documentary?
John: Yeah, well, thanks. Soil health is such an important topic. And about seven years ago, I was actually in Missouri, and one of my longtime friend and a mentor, Will Alan, gave a talk. He's an organic farmer in Vermont. He gave a talk about agriculture and its role in climate change and how bad you know, synthetic fertilizers are to the climate. And I was like, Wow. Yeah, I'm a longtime advocate of organic foods and better farming, but I had no idea that agriculture had such a major impact on climate change and how soil health was a great solution to addressing climate chaos. And that really, kind of, opened my eyes up to the potential of regenerative agriculture. And then I noticed that virtually no one was talking about that in the organic farming movement. No one was talking at the natural products industry, food companies, even though climate change back then was a major issue. So, I said, Well, why don't we make a movie and educate millions? And then I met the filmmakers and, of course, I had known the folks from Kiss the Ground, Ryland, Finian, and their team. And the rest is history as they say.
Katie: I think this is a really important point because I think there's been a lot of information, especially in a lot of mainstream sources about climate-related problems. And a lot of them seem to focus on livestock and cows specifically and largely ignore a lot of other types of really potentially bigger problems in my mind. Where we used to live in Kentucky, we actually backed on to a big farming area. And I saw firsthand the amount of chemicals that were sprayed on these corn and wheat and soybean crops all the time, and then potentially all the problems resulting from that with water runoff and things like that. But I feel like so much of the discussion has just centered on cows and methane. But you do such a great job of really delving into how much more widespread this problem is and how we might actually, kind of, be cutting off our nose to spite our face with some of these measures. So, walk us through some of these other massive problems that we're seeing when it comes to agriculture and the environment.
John: Yes. One of the things is it can be a little complicated and it's nuanced. And, so sometimes people want simple, you know, check a box, they got it done. For too long, the environmental movement and the climate movement and the climate scientists have essentially the message for the last 25 years is coal and oil is bad, solar and wind and electric cars is good, full stop. And we've been doing that, following that mantra. And every year, carbon dioxide increases. Every year, there's more intense rain events, storms. And, you know, we're not necessarily getting to a great solution. And now in the last five years, they've decided to make it even more simple, you know, in terms of addressing the food and they go, you know, Cows are bad. Plants are good. Plant-based is good. And kind of oversimplificatio. And part of what's driving this, both the focus on solar and wind or cows are bad, you know, Impossible Burger is good is it can be monetized and people can make a profit in Wall Street, whereas the film Kiss the Ground goes into, really the solution is restoring nature is to mimic nature. And that means we need to change our food system. And it's not so neat and tidy and put into a box.
Also, there was a film called Cowspiracy that was done about 10 years ago, that is basically 8, 10 years ago, is, you know, half of the movie that says that industrial raised, you know, confined animal feedlot for agriculture is a real problem and it's horrible for the environment. They got that right. But the other half, they got wrong and put a lot of misinformation. And the idea that we could be growing soybeans in Brazil, you know, spraying all sorts of toxic chemicals, ship those up to the United States, then crush them and process them using hexane, a byproduct of gasoline, which has significant environmental impacts, not only for worker health but for the environment, then take that meal and then ship that around, and some of this now is being done in China, the same process, and turn it into soy protein isolate, and then ship that back to the United States to a manufacturing facility, you know, by truck, and then trucking then to a distributor, and then a distributor, you know, to a retailer. And that's gonna be better for the environment?
Whereas for those who want a high-quality protein, what I like to joke, what I put in that article was this, you know, true plant you know, that's really a chemical base. Like the Impossible Burger and these fake foods are really chemical-based because they're using lots of chemicals, whereas the 100% pasture beef done in a holistic grazing, and we'll get into a minute what holistic grazing is, but that's really plant-based because the cows are really just converting They're running on the energy of the sun, driving photosynthesis in grasses, the animals eat the grass, which were not able to digest as well, and then we consume the meat. So, that's a much more natural and more regenerative process. But what you read in The Guardian, or in Bloomberg, or New York Times, etc. is that cows are bad and that we should convert to plant-based and that's the future. It's a misnomer for sure.
Katie: Yeah, there's definitely a push for that right now. And to your point, I think it ignores some of these really big issues, which are things like these commercial fertilizers and how they're affecting everything down to our water supply. And from what I've read in articles that you've written, there's a very direct impact of these affecting our rivers and also the ocean in different ways. So can you walk us through what we're seeing in our water?
John: Yeah. So, I wrote an article recently called Make America's Rivers Blue Again, because before agriculture and really the water, actually the color isn't blue, but it's a reflection of...