Refining an Authentic Solution to Ecological Degradation by David Rizzo

a man wearing a cowboy hat walks across a pasture with grazing cattle and lamb.

 

If we do not improve our current food production practices, there will be potentially irreversible consequences for future generations. Knowing this, some of us are fearlessly supporting a transformation to regenerative agriculture so that our children are not doomed. The Land to Market program was designed to provide recognition and bring value to the farmers and ranchers whose practices have been regenerating lands for years, the believers who are adopting the change to regenerative management styles, and the millennial newcomers who are bucking the system and saying they want to become regenerative farmers. These amazing people are change agents, going against conventional agricultural practices that degrade the quality of our soils, contribute to human-driven climate change, and deplete the planet’s natural resources.

 

In the 2017 Impact Journal, we introduced the Land to Market program, which was and still is the only product seal in the market based on regenerative outcomes rather than practices. Since that publication, we have seen a significant uptick in the use of the term “regenerative agriculture.”  It continues to pique interest and infiltrate into conversations across many sectors (consumer products, credit markets, climate change, policy, politics, science, etc.). The terminology used often leaves the consumer searching for a deeper understanding of what regeneration really looks like.

 

Land to Market is proud to lead the way in measuring outcomes at the land level to represent regeneration through our Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) protocol. In the first year a baseline (year 0) of data is collected from the land that measures both leading and lagging indicators such as soil health, soil carbon, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions. From this baseline, we go back annually to see trends in the leading indicators (years 1-4), which help inform the land managers if the decisions in their management approaches are supporting regeneration, rather than simply stating that certain practices have been adopted and assuming the best from those practices. Depending on what those leading indicators show, the land manager has the ability to pivot and/or enlist support when deemed necessary. Every fifth year, we remeasure the lagging indicators like soil health and soil carbon, which can be compared with the baseline data. 

 

The science inside Land to Market and Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) was developed by a cadre of scientists, agronomists, and land stewards from around the world who have been validating regenerative agriculture techniques well before their rise in popularity. In 2018, we published version 1.0 of the EOV protocol with the expectation of continuous improvement. Now, after just over a year of seeing version 1.0 in fields around the world, our team has finalized version 2.0 in 2019. Continued improvement of EOV ensures the rigor of the protocol to capture regenerative outcomes as well as the quality and consistency of the data collected, all while keeping EOV culturally and contextually relevant everywhere on the planet.

 

Beyond the core science of EOV, Land to Market has continued to branch out into the other facets that create value for all who take part in this paradigm shift. One of those core components was the development of technological platforms (that includes web interfaces, mobile apps, and mapping and supply information) that will support our field professionals who are out on the land setting up EOV and verifying regenerating land. The information being gathered and aggregated into the platform simplifies the process for brands who seek to source EOV-verified raw materials, all while being able to see the data on regeneration specific to the producer and the land it was produced on. The new technology provides transparency back to the land with an accelerator for the creation of more Land to Market products.

 

In our first year, we had the goal of getting 100 producers baselined with EOV and surpassed that number. We are on track to at least double the number of producers in 2019, along with completing the platform beta testing that will house all of the leading and lagging indicator data we collect. This aggregated data will provide opportunity for differentiation at every point in the value chain, providing land managers an Ecological Health Index (EHI) score which will support decision-making, backing up claims with empirical data such as the number of acres/hectares that are verified as regenerating, carbon sequestration volumes, water availability, wildlife habitat, and overall ecosystem function. Because EOV measures indicators like water retention, the data can also be used to support correlations on how regenerative agriculture can defend our ecosystems against natural disasters (i.e. floods). There is also work to showcase how regeneration of soils help improve the nutritional values of our food and the health of our people.

 

a group of people gather up and collect soil samples. A woman walks in between carrying a handful of notes and examining their collections.

 

There are ranchers across the world who have been focusing on landscape health for decades, but there was no way to differentiate their products in the marketplace,” says Spencer Smith of the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management. “Our products went into the commodity market and were lost amidst generic agriculture goods. With the advent of Ecological Outcomes Verification, we can now track the impacts of our management on ecosystem health,”

 

Finally, EOV and Land to Market will allow us to tell the stories of these farmers and ranchers who deserve recognition for managing their land in a way that produces positive impact.

 

Beyond the technology used, we root our processes and evolution of the program on the guiding principle of authenticity. We believe that authenticity as a core value allows us to act as who we are, grounded in the common goal of facing change for the better of the whole planet. All that we do with Land to Market has to come from our genuine belief in the good of humanity. We also believe that authenticity leads to an unprecedented transparency that consumers are seeking now more than ever. What we can do authentically is tell our story with unwavering conviction, help our Land to Market partners tell their stories, and do it with transparency through documented data and outcomes. The brands who carry the seal on their packaging are showing their commitment to land regeneration and transparency backed by real empirical science. Through this, the Land to Market seal gives us as consumers the opportunity to identify brands and products on-shelf who believe in authenticity and transparency. Engaging in ways that support better food production systems is a part of the real solution to reverse ecological destruction. We are making that participation for consumers easier and hope that we as consumers can do our part to stay involved, curious, and empowered to make choices that support positive outcomes.

 

David Rizzo has been engaged in entrepreneurial startup development across many sectors including information technology, consumer product goods, and nonprofits for the past 20 years. Deeply rooted in holistic thinking and earth-conscious values, he has helped provide transformative leadership throughout the organizations he has been involved with. His strong desire for continuous improvement on all levels is balanced with mindful strategy—both of which allow him to contribute to positive change.

 

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