We're all in this together
This is a week to give thanks for so many reasons including the fact that summer's around the corner, Moorlands Lamb is back and in fantastic condition, fresh Grasslands Sommerlad Heritage chooks are in, we made some Bacon Jam, we have 4 cassoulet kits left for the seasons and there is an abundance of gorgeous produce available.
But, like everything this year, it's not straightforward and there are many trials along with the tribulations. Consider yourself warned because, in the writing, this newsletter turned into a rambling soap box that contains the U word and, possibly, even the P word. There is also some fist pumping.
Trials and tribulations and more trials and more tribulations
It doesn't matter who we speak to, wherever they are in the world, the stories tumble out, telling of 'unprecedented' challenges, disasters and tragedies but also acts of courage, creativity and agility. It's harder and harder to tell the line between Netflix and life.
At the beginning of the year, award-winning regenerative apiarist Tim Malfroy told us that, over the previous 12 months, he'd experienced FIVE record-breaking weather events including fire, flood, heat and drought. That was before the pandemic joined the conga line.
For years, evolutionary epidemiologist, Rob Wallace, has been talking about the problematic relationship between people and ecology and the potential for our industrial approach to nature - embodied in practices like factory farming - to unleash chaos. As far as he and others were concerned, it was only a matter of time.
A month ago, the regenerative US winemaker, Mimi Casteel, wrote a heart-wrenching piece about the climate-triggered trials she's facing at her Oregon vineyard (you must read this). This week, we spoke to another Oregon-based American, an award-winning butcher friend who has spent months working 100 hour weeks alongside a host of other volunteers who are repairing the devastation wrought by the recent fires that owed their ferocity to a cocktail of human mismanagement of natural assets.
Yesterday we spoke to a NSW farmer we've worked with for 11 years who farms in a traditionally fertile area with high rainfall. He told us that, despite the welcome rains three months ago that offered relief from the three year-long drought, he's only had once inch since and everything is drying up again. This means they're not getting precious spring rain and it bodes ill for the coming year.
So, while farmers in some areas have had consistent rainfall over the last six months, others have had very little or only intermittent falls. We in the cities have this idea that the drought has broken and farmers are back to 'normal' but this is not the case for everyone. As Gundooee Wagyu farmer Rob Lennon explained last year, 'normal' is now more frequently dry than not, farmers need to manage for a different normal.
And every week we speak to friends with retail or hospitality businesses that have been shredded by the pandemic who've been 'pivoting' (there it is) like there's no tomorrow, until they're so dizzy they can barely tell which way is up, hoping that soon things will return to 'normal'.
Some days I feel overwhelmed by it all and don't want to get out of bed.
But then, two weeks ago we visited a cheerful Vince Heffernan at Moorlands Biodynamic Farm and marvelled at the abundance and transformation since our previous visit 12 months ago when the dry grasses crackled underfoot and Vince was drawn and worried. (But even then, after three years of drought, Vince's careful regenerative management meant there was always protective ground cover that fed the microbes in the soil, kept the temperature down, retained moisture and allowed the farm to drink in the water and spring readily back to life when it did finally rain. Meanwhile, the neighbouring farms were eroded dust bowls and, when it came, the rain didn't suck into the soil but instead sheeted off the top of the compacted ground.)
Last week we got a call from a conventional farmer in WA who happened to hear Mrs Feather interviewed about our book on ABC Radio Overnights on 18 September. He'd been mulling over the conversation and decided he should read our book but he first wanted to talk to us directly about his growing sense that conventional farming methods are no longer working and that change, no matter how hard, is inevitable. (There was a lot of undignified, Hewitt-esque fist pumping in the Feather and Bone office after that call and the words 'come on!' may have been uttered.)
Also, last week, Monday's ABC Australian Story was about regenerative farmer, Charlie Massey and Kiss the Ground , a celebrity-studded documentary devoted to the importance of soil and regenerative farming, was released. And yesterday, the Daily Telegraph called us for a comment about a piece they're running on regenerative farming! Suddenly, regenerative farming is everywhere.
So, while we sometimes feel that we've been bellowing boringly on about the same things for over a decade, we know that this regenerative movement - for the restoration of our ecosystem - is increasingly urgent and every moment counts. Every one of us, chipping away at a corner of this problem, is playing a critical part.
Thank you for reading this, for choosing to be part of this conversation, for putting your money where your mouth is and buying produce from regenerative farms, whatever you eat, wherever you live. Whether we like it or not, we're all rising and falling on the same tide and we're all in this together.
Right, that's enough earnest, sobering chatter. Time to eat.