What I’m stewing on
Living in Tennessee for the month of February was transformative. I was in town for AgLaunch, a program to help start-ups who are bringing new technologies to row crop agriculture. I had some fun road trips, got to sit in on drums in a few blues jams, and realized how much I had to learn about agriculture. Here’s a tweetstorm with some photos, reflections, and musings from my month.
At one point in the program, I was having a discussion with someone who used to work at a large agricultural company where people ACTUALLY said: “we’re like a parasite that wants to suck just enough blood to not kill the host.” It floored me. It speaks to the reality of farm debt being at an all-time high (almost half a trillion dollars) and how companies who sell to them create astronomical profits at their expense. The comment made me think about creating change in any new industry. I’d found myself throughout the program saying “carbon is the new crop.” But for this crop to flourish, the idea must work with and for the people producing the crop, not just create systems to extract the crop. That is not to say these parasitic companies are the enemy. If these companies could shift their strategies to reward farmers for practices that improve the health of their soils and the bottom line, then the paradigm can shift.
I wrote a long article using fruit as a metaphor to explain ecosystem service markets. I found it helpful to distinguish alternatives to the options currently in practice. In today’s “fruit” markets, middlemen have created rules that profit them, but neither the producer nor the buyer benefit. This means that the fruit in question is at risk. Therefore, four things need to happen for a flourishing fruit market: 1) the seller needs to see the buyer eat it so it can’t be sold multiple times or counted more than once; 2) the price the fruit consumer pays must be transparent; 3) there must be clarity on how the fruit is produced; and 4) fruit producers selling one type of fruit should have the opportunity to sell other types of fruit (other ecosystem services beyond carbon removal) thereby making their fruit basket more profitable. If this intrigues you, see the interview of RFD TV’s market day report where I spoke about carbon credits. I may have gotten got too pedantic (and/or fruity) about the distinctions between carbon removal and reduction (both fruit).
Content in the ether
It was a pleasure to invite Jigar Shah president of Generate Capital to kick off season two of the Reversing Climate Change. He’s got his own podcast, so he knows how to keep things packed full of punditry, but also light. It was fun to talk to an architect of the Power Purchase Agreement — a new way to finance solar energy—and apply this lens to accelerating carbon drawdown.
I had the pleasure to spend a night at The Farm, an almost 5-decade old “intentional community” on a 1,000 acre plus property in Tennessee. The history of the place—founded by hippies with dreams to change the world—is impressive. This is a place where your ideas can be challenged. Certainly one feels this power through the permaculture designs and walls of strawbale impregnated with biochar. If these sorts of things resonate with you, you can visit the farm, or support Albert Bates’ work on Patreon.