Ryland Engelhart – Solutions For Healthy Soil

Content by: Ryland Engelhart

Watch the full interview below or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.

Stu: This week, I’m excited to welcome Ryland Engelhart. Ryland is an entrepreneur, a restaurateur and social activist who co-owns the super popular plant-based restaurants Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre. He’s also co-founder of Kiss the Ground, a nonprofit increasing social awareness and educating millions of people about the extraordinary benefits of healthy soil. In this episode, we discuss the fundamentals of regenerative agriculture and discover what we can ALL do at a community level to cultivate global regeneration… over to Ryland.

Audio Version

downloaditunesListen to Stitcher Questions asked during our conversation:

  • How do you define regenerative vs degenerative agriculture?
  • Is it too late to be considering sustainability?
  • How important are animals in the soil health conversation?

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Full Transcript

Stu       

Hey, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and welcome to another episode of The Health Sessions. It’s here that we connect with the world’s best experts in health, wellness, and human performance in an attempt to cut through the confusion around what it actually takes to achieve long-lasting health. Now I’m sure that’s something that we all strive to have. I certainly do. Before we get into the show today, you might not know that we make products too. That’s right. We’re into whole food nutrition and have a range of super foods and natural supplements to help support your day. If you are curious, want to find out more, just jump over to our website, that is 180nutrition.com.au, and take a look.

Okay, back to the show. This week, I’m excited to welcome Ryland Engelhart. Ryland is an entrepreneur, a restaurateur and social activist who co-owns the super popular plant-based restaurants Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre. He’s also co-founder of Kiss the Ground, a nonprofit increasing social awareness and educating millions of people about the extraordinary benefits of healthy soil. In this episode, we discuss the fundamentals of regenerative agriculture and discover what we can all do at a community level to cultivate global regeneration. Over to Ryland.

Hey guys, this is Stu from 180 Nutrition, and I am delighted to welcome Ryland Engelhart to the podcast, Ryland, how are you?

Ryland

00:01:50

I’m feeling great. Thank you so much. It’s been great to get to know you a little bit before we jumped in here. And yeah, grateful to share love and information. That was kind of my mom’s declaration of what there was to do in life, was to share love and information. And so it’s always a delight to be invited to speak on a podcast, to share with new audience about what I’ve learned over my life that could potentially be helpful for others.

Stu

00:02:23

That is awesome. Well, that is what we are super excited about diving into today. But first up, for all of our listeners that might not be familiar with you or your work, I would love it if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself and your background, please.

Ryland

00:02:35

Okay, beautiful. So professionally over the last 15 years, I’ve been working within a family business, a restaurant business on the West Coast of the United States called Love Serve Remember. It is a management company that oversees two different restaurant chains. One is called Gracias Madre, which is organic plant-based Mexican food. And one is called Cafe Gratitude, which I know many Australians who have come and visited California have come to Cafe Gratitude. You guys have been a big international group that has been big fans of Cafe Gratitude. And really, yeah, we’ve been a family of, I would say, entrepreneurs really driving health and wellness and plant-based lifestyle.

15 years ago when we started the Cafe Gratitude, there was no such thing in the general lexicon of understanding of what cold brewed coffee was. No one was eating kale. Quinoa was not pronounceable. And almond milk, there wasn’t almond milk on the shelf. It was just a completely different time. And we had the amazing opportunity of understanding as a family. We had been vegetarian for most of our lives and really got into healthy, organic food, and wanted to provide that for people through our restaurants. But I would say the bigger mission of our restaurant company was about spreading the consciousness of gratitude and really, how do we create a public domain, a business, a commercial venture, where we invite people in to that space, and we not only nourish them with healthy food, but we actually also curate healthy or meaningful or purposeful or grateful conversations. And so really, the food was the kind of carrot to get people in the door, but really we were more after having people be centered in a grateful place.

What we saw was when you’re grateful, you are more present and you’re also more loving and kind. When you’re full of great, you’re not trying to get stuff from the world. You’re not trying to be a consumer, more and more and more for me, me, me, because you’re in gratefulness. You’re in the spirit of gratitude. So that was a a long intro, but yeah, the Cafe Gratitude’s been around for 15 years. We have restaurants in the Bay Area on San Diego and in Los Angeles. So that’s kind of been my professional world for the last 15 years.

And then I ventured out about seven years ago actually to start my own nonprofit called Kiss the Ground, which is kind of my current passion and focus. And really, that’s focused on education advocacy for healthy soil and regenerative agriculture as the basis of a healthy civilization. And that if we really trace back a lot of the problems that humanity faces, it comes back to a destruction of the ecology that serves all of life coming from that earth, and that if we could get our relationship to soil, right and if we could heal our soils, we could actually heal a lot of our human health challenges. We could heal a lot of our ecological degradation. The big kind of aha moment was, oh my God, there’s actually a solution to how we can reverse and bring the carbon out of the atmosphere that’s causing climate change. We can actually draw enough carbon down into the soil, such that it actually provides something of value in soil so it makes a problem into a solution when that carbon comes out of the air into the soil, and that everyone who eats could be potentially catalyzing that movement.

So I started a nonprofit called Kiss the Ground to really advocate and educate around regenerative agriculture so that we could scale that up to what the new norm in agriculture. Because looking long and hard at the future of humanity on planet earth, I didn’t really see how the current sustainability framework or model could actually make a difference. It just seemed like kind of ideas that were less harmful that made us feel good in the now moment, but really weren’t actually going to make the difference that makes the difference, and that we were just going to slowly drive off a cliff. Now I have a son who’s two, and so it makes me even more passionate about how we can heal and regenerate this beautiful, precious one of a kind planet in the universe.

Stu

00:08:02

Fantastic, and really timely as well. I think this conversation specifically in light of the current pandemic and what we’re seeing from a planetary perspective with the reduced carbon emissions coming from the cities during lockdown, and we’re seeing cleaner oceans, clearer skies. I’m intrigued and interested to learn about your definition then of regeneration versus degeneration from an agricultural perspective, because I know that many of us are aware of the fact that the media is saying that soil quality is poor. The nutrients that we’re getting from our fruits and vegetables these days are no where near what we used to get 50 years, a hundred years ago, because the nutrients, minerals, are just not in the soil anymore. And I think that a lot of people myself included don’t really understand how we can fix this, because we’re growing as a population minute by minute.

And I know that there is, on the flip side of that, vested interest in terms of big food, big pharma that perhaps just want to sell more packaged and processed industrialized food. So if you had a solution and said, “Well, look, let’s forget about sustainability because we’re too late for that. But we actually want to regenerate the soil and make this soil as abundant in nutrients as it could be for everyone across the globe,” where would we start?

Ryland

00:09:58

Well, that’s what I’ve been working on for seven years.

Stu

00:09:58

Exactly right.

Ryland

00:10:03

Yeah. So I just want to tip my hat to a fellow Australian who was the inspiration for my whole life going down this soil journey, a gentleman by the name of Graeme Sait, who has a TED talk called Humus Can Save the World. And yeah, really where we’ve begun as seeing this possibility of a real solution, a real pathway of how life could get better in the future versus just getting slowly worse. And that really is a paradigm shift of … I think most people, and I would say most … Yeah, I’d say the majority of people, the context of human interaction with nature, with an ecosystem, with the life on planet earth is that our interaction is inherently degenerative and destructive. Most of our consumerism, most of our waste, most of our industries are all having a downstream negative effect on the biological and ecological functions of planet earth.

And so I think that again, to kind of put a point on the sustainability thing, we oftentimes will say that sustainability is ahead of its time, because you can’t sustain something that’s broken. Or you can, you just sustain a broken existence. So if your arm is broken hanging, and you sustain your broken arm, there’s no heal, there’s no repair, there’s no renew, there’s no restore in sustain. You’re just not fully destroying. But we’ve already broken so much about our living earth that we need to follow a pathway of regeneration. Again, that was the paradigm shift of, okay, wow, sustainability is not going to cut it. And what is a real, tangible example of regeneration and this whole notion, or this whole pathway, of regenerative agriculture and regenerating soil health is a very clear model to follow.

And well, we are starting with soil and agriculture because one, it’s the biggest impact. It’s the biggest way that human beings impact the globe. Deforestation and agriculture is the biggest impact. So it’s the one industry that could actually go from a total destroyer to one that actually could be the great redeemer. And so obviously, there’s so many barriers to just making that happen. But where we started was we started with … We started in my living room, like many, and then into my garage, like many great organizations and companies, but essentially, we started with how are we going to build a critical mass? How are we going to gain early adopters? How are we going to create a new narrative that this is possible? Because if we don’t know that something’s possible, we don’t take any actions towards it. Right?

Stu

00:14:00

Yeah.

Ryland

00:14:00

So that was the first compelling notion was like, oh my God, this is possible. We got to get everybody to know that this is possible. And so we started a storytelling and media company, because one, we found ourselves in Los Angeles, we found ourselves very connected to the entertainment industry and a lot of influential people in Hollywood. And we thought, “All right, why don’t we work on thought leadership and create content that we can put in the hands of thought leadership?” And that story can become an emergent story as I like to say, an idea whose time has come, the idea that regeneration is the idea of the eclipsed sustainability, and then as we started to understand what that meant, businesses, policy, government started to navigate to support that direction.

And what’s amazing is within seven years we went from not even, at least in the circles that I was aware of and the people that I was connected to that were exploring how to forward this movement, there wasn’t even an agreed upon term like regenerative agriculture was like this is the term. And now seven years later, Whole Foods puts out 2020 health trends, and regenerative agriculture is the number one health trend of 2020 by Whole Foods. So clearly the concept is becoming emergent and is starting to catch hold. And now it becomes the journey of how do we actually have this actually happen, it doesn’t just become, greenwashed like so many good intentions do. But really, as I said, where we started was we started with building awareness through creating really beautiful … And again, this actually came from when I first got back from New Zealand,

Ryland

00:16:00

After seeing Graham state speak, I looked online and looked at what the gallery of YouTube videos that were telling people about this possibility and the content was so bad. And Oh, my God, no, one’s going to watch that or learn anything from that. It really was like, okay, we have to solve that problem, we have to solve that content and create a really great storytelling company to have that story become adopted. I think a lot of people would have given us reflection that we have been a really great information, inspiration, education source for the regenerative movement and for it to grow. So, again, just kind of where we started was in media building awareness and then we thought, “okay, how do we really support?” Because we had farmers going, “wow, we love this story that you’re telling, we love this narrative and this possibility and this promise of regenerative agriculture, but how do we do it? Farming is hard, it’s scary to make changes, we don’t have the money to get this education.”

So we started a program called the Farmland Transition Program, which is building a scholarship fund that pays for farmers to go through an in-person, really rigorous, high quality in-person or online farmer training course. Then we have sort of a coach or consultant and a ton of resources that we can help that farmer through a three-year transition, while paying for soil testing at year one, and potentially at year three, if they would like, to actually see their progress that they’re making on their land. So again, that program’s relatively new within the last two years and we have 30 producers in that program that are heading in their direction of transition.

The other thing that we’ve been really working on is advocacy because, really, what we saw is we got word of a new piece of information that changed everything and we started communicating about it. We started advocating, we started inspiring and we thought, “wow, if we’re able to change CEOs, brands, politicians’ minds, celebrities’ minds, if we’re able to get a lot of people to buy in, if we could duplicate ourselves, we’d be much more powerful and much more effective in catalyzing this emergent conversation called regeneration and giving people the education and talking points that took us seven years to develop. We could get people schooled and inspired and in action in their communities, in their jobs, in their areas of expertise much quicker.”

So we built a soil advocacy training called the SAT course, Soil Advocacy Training and we’ve trained over 2,000 soil advocates in 25 countries all around the world, who are now taking on different projects in their own unique communities. The other course that we’ve been offering, which is between farmers and just advocates, is really those that are wanting to do this at a small scale within their backyard, in their gardens, so a regenerative gardening and lifestyle course that allows people and empowers people to understand the principles of regeneration and apply it at a small scale within their home and backyard context.

Stu

00:19:58

Wow.

Ryland

00:19:58

The other thing that we’ve been working on is, we’ve been building a feature length film for the last seven years. I’ve been working on a documentary film with some amazing award-winning filmmakers, the folks who made the film Fuel, which was a film about alternative fuels, came out at Sundance as Audience Award for the best documentary film. That film is called “Kiss the Ground”. And we are in negotiations with some big digital streaming platforms and we’re hoping that’s going to be coming out to the general public to 186 million homes in September, depending if all goes as planned. That was a [crosstalk 00:20:49] the world of Kiss the Ground and yeah, it’s again.

Stu

00:20:56

Boy, oh, boy. I was going to say, can you do any more? Like, “that’s enough stop, you’ve done enough, like, you’ve left your legacy no more. Go and have a cup of coffee.”

Ryland

00:21:10

But yeah. So that’s really what we’ve been successful at is really being a powerful, inspiring and catalyzing voice for the regenerative movement. That’s really caught on and created a lot of adoption and a lot of actual change in people’s minds, in people’s infrastructure, in people’s business. And we had a really successful screening with the secretary of agriculture in the state of California and other heads of boards of natural resources in Sacramento. And we were able to show the film to Gavin Newsom, the mayor of, I mean, the governor of California and got his excitement behind the project. So we’re really using media and communication to change minds, which then changes policy, changes consumer behavior, changes demand, which then changes business models, which then changes so much of the infrastructure.

Stu

00:22:17

Yeah, Changes the world. So I’m intrigued then, around the strategies, principles, and practices, perhaps that, let’s say myself as a farmer would learn and adopt, if I was wanting to make radical change from my conventional way of farming to make huge impact on soil health, what would I learn and what would I do differently than perhaps the things that I’ve been doing all of my life as a farmer.

Ryland

00:22:50

Totally. And I always like to preface that I’m a city slicker. So as a farmer listening, don’t be appalled by my enthusiasm and arrogance of not being a farmer. I’m just passionate about being an advocate for something that I have seen many farmers accomplish. So forgive me for my advocacy, it’s my passion, it’s what I love to do, and it’s inspiring and it has been inspiring to see farmers make the transition starting off many like, “I’m not so sure about this”. And then seeing success and a liveness not only come back to their lands, but actually to their lives, because they start to feel like what they’re doing is actually generative and actually is healing and there’s life coming back to the farm.

And they’re not just… I’ll say one more thing before I get to the practical, what we were talking about, but yeah, they’re not just defending their land against pests and weeds and it’s kind of fighting nature versus regenerative agriculture is working with nature. And again, that could sound very, “Oh, how, how convenient, how, how sweet, how airy fairy.” But no, really, there’s something very practical, about 500 million years of nature’s research and development, understanding how to have an ecosystem, whether a Prairie or a forest, not need any inputs, and yet it continues to cycle abundance and life and food for all the multi-species of things that are dwelling in that world, including in some places, people. And I could go so many places.

There’s an amazing, amazing book and an author who I would love to have on your podcast, The book is called “Call of the Reed Warbler” and it’s such an amazing, amazing Testament of one man’s journey of being in Australia and seeing at some of the largest scale landscapes being regenerated, turning from complete desertification back to vibrant, alive ecosystems. Back to the simple, the practical question, which is, what are the practices that are going to be employed and, happen on land? And again, it’s not formulaic, it’s not a mechanical one size fits all, it really is starting to think about the way that your ecosystem works and nature functions and start to work and manipulate and interact with the farm in ways that we’ve observed patterns of nature, fertility cycles, water cycles, nutrient cycles, how those cycles interact on a piece of land in a specific region and starting to work, to support the enhancement of those cycles.

For instance, right now, most agriculture, we leave the soil bare half the year, we grow a cash crop and then we till it and we leave it bare until the next… And that’s just what we know agricultural land looks like. We drive up the freeway and we see either, if it’s a grain crop, and it’s not in production, it’s tilled and it’s dusty and it’s got, it looks like quarter Roy and it’s just… In nature that never happens, why? Because that is the cycle towards a dead landscape, that is literally the pathway to desertification.

A covered planet is a healthy planet. Soil is alive, soil needs to be fed and what is it fed? It’s fed sugars from plants that are photosynthesizing, every green leaf is photosynthesizing, which we all know a little bit about photosynthesis, but many of us have forgotten from sixth grade science that photosynthesis is, a plant that is using the sun’s energy and with the sun’s energy it’s pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and it’s building its body with that carbon and it’s pulling hydrogen water from the ground, it’s combining that carbon and hydrogen making carbohydrates and again, it builds the tree trunk, it builds the leaf out of those carbons. But what we didn’t know is that it sends somewhere between 30 and 60% of those carbon sugars into the ground and feeds micro organisms in the soil and when those micro organisms feed on that sugar, they give minerals back to the plant and that’s the big exchange of geology into biology, into ecology. And the minerals that are a geological stone, a little piece of copper, a little piece of mineral, the plants root can’t necessarily can just get to that mineral.

It actually needs biology, it needs the microbiome of the soil to actually be able to receive and assimilate and digest that mineral. And when we till the soil, we destroy what some like to call the original internet, the mycelium network of Mycorrhizae fungi that is connecting roots with minerals, and water, and carbon, and this whole soil food web that is underneath the soil beneath our feet. It’s a world as complicated, and as diverse, and as complex as the universe and the stars, and yet we know almost less about it than we do the Milky Way. And basically the… Back to the practices. We would stop tilling our land as just a default. Sometimes a little bit of tilling here and there is unavoidable and is necessary, but really going to and understand that every time we till the ground, that’s going to require us to have more herbicide, more pesticide, more fertilizer, because it’s actually eroding the health of the soil, which ultimately is going to make farmers spend more money.

And as someone who recently said, farmers are, yes, they’re stewards of the earth, but they’re business people, they’re people who are making their living from the earth, from cultivation of food. And it’s a business, it’s how they survive. And when farmers start to get… Really their biggest expense is those inputs oftentimes, and if they can start farming in a way that doesn’t require those inputs, then there’s actually less dependency on fertilizer companies and chemical companies, and there’s actually more independence on their land, they’re actually more… Have more dominion over their lives because they’re less handcuffed to the system of more chemicals

Ryland

00:32:01

… which leads to worse soil health, which leads to more chemicals, which leads to more needs for more herbicides and pesticides and more fertilizers, which is this unvirtuous and degenerative cycle. So again, not tilling or tilling less. Cover cropping, instead of tilling and leaving the soil bare, you always have roots in the ground because roots in the ground are pulling carbon into the ground, they’re pumping sugars as carbohydrates into the ground, and each plant has unique sugar or what are called exudates and they’re feeding because they’re unique. Each plant has unique exudates that they’re pumping into the ground that creates a more biodiverse web of life or biology in the soil. I think for your audience, your audience is very kind of, “I want to be healthy. I want to live my best life. I want my best life for my children,” and so really, soil health is the OG, original spot where you’re getting your microbiome health in your gut for your best life.

When we start to see that the microbiome of the soil is actually the transference and the genesis or the origin point of a lot of the good biology that we need in our gut microbiome, it starts to become much more important how farmers are treating soil and what they’re doing to that soil. Because if we’re sterilizing and denuding our soil’s life, then we start to destroy and denude the life of our gut microbiome. Specifically, things … and you probably have gone into this deep with certain experts which I’m not an expert on, but the glyphosate and Roundup ready crops … glyphosate has been so much, so many studies showing that it destroys the gut microbiome. By destroying the gut microbiome, that’s a lot of consensus around a lot of autoimmune diseases. All of the food allergies that have just come like, hey, in 1970, no one had a food allergy.

Stu

00:34:18

Exactly right.

Ryland

00:34:19

Now, one out of three has a food allergy.

Stu

00:34:21

Yeah.

Ryland

00:34:22

Then that also speaks to why, “Oh, why did I go to Europe? I could just eat all the bread that I wanted.” That’s because they’re not using glyphosate to spray because again, that’s an important factor to understand, glyphosate was originally a weed killer and they just kind of use it as like a spot, killing weeds that were unwanted in the field. But now they’re using it on many grain crops because basically, if a crop is in the field and it’s green and they want to harvest and they want to mill it or process it really quickly, maybe rain’s coming, weather’s coming. It’s like, “Oh God, we got to dry it out quick,” they spray it with glyphosate right before they process it.

That’s why Cheerios and so many of these basic big cereal grain companies, when tested in labs, Cheerios has one of the highest loads of glyphosate out of anything on the market, which is absurd because that’s one of these most benign cereals that we’re feeding to our children. It doesn’t even have that much sugar, but no, but it has something else which is ultimately eroding the gut microbiome at the beginning of our lives, which ultimately cascades into all these other challenges throughout our lifetime.

Stu

00:35:46

Frightening. It’s frightening.

Ryland

00:35:47

So anyways, no till, cover cropping, reduce. And then when we start no tilling and reducing and cover cropping, because the soil health starts to get better, we get to reduce our chemical inputs, which ultimately then there’s less chemicals in our food, better for our health, also better for the soil health on the farm, less expensive for the farmer.

Then there’s obviously, composting is a huge component of, especially for urbanites in the more developed world of, “How do I participate as an individual in regeneration?” One act of regeneration that everyone can do is compost. Facilitating my green waste. What I took from nature, I’m actually going to facilitate going back to nature,” versus “I’m going to put that in a plastic bag in the dump, which then turns into organic and inorganic things, which the combination of which creates an excess of methane gas, which is, I don’t know, 30 or 60 times more potent of greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So our green waste going in the garbage, going in the landfills, no bueno.

It’s funny, out of all the things that I’ve done over the years to create my own compost and to start seeing all my waste become this beautiful black gold of rich fertile, you could smell it, sniff it, and it literally, you could just see that it is the richness of life. There’s something … you know, opening restaurants and all kinds of ooh la la things done in my life, building my own compost and seeing compost, my waste turned into a beautiful source nutrient that’s going back to the earth and creating a regenerative effect is awesome and feels amazing and it’s so satisfying. So yeah, so farmers applying compost, cover crops, low to no till, reducing chemical loads, obviously starting to see the monoculture of agriculture doesn’t work. If we just had one kind of bacteria in our gut, we would be dead in a second. We need a biodiverse ecosystem in the soil of our gut, just like we needed a biodiverse ecosystem on our farms. So we need to change from a monoculture oriented system to a polyculture or a multi-species of food production on each farm.

Then the last thing is we need to bring the animals back to the farm. We separated the two camps, we’d separated the two … so our people who grow grains and row crops, and then people who grow livestock. They kind of got separated in the industrial revolution of chemical ag or the green revolution of industrial agriculture. You can’t have ecological and soil health without animal integration, because there’s never been a healthy land nature without animal integration.

There’s a very inspiring video called How Wolves Change Rivers that I think 40 to 50 million people have seen on YouTube. It basically shows how humans introduced wolves back into Yellowstone National Park after 50 or 80 years of them being killed out and hunted out by man, we reintroduced them. The ecosystem was tanking in Yellowstone pre the introduction of the wolves. When the wolves got reintroduced, they started moving all the prey or all the grass eating animals, the herbivores, they started moving them through the ecosystem because they had gotten lazy and just eating the things that they wanted to eat and they basically were just totally eroding the ecosystem and to where the river banks were degrading and the river was kind of just sprawling and the whole ecosystem was kind of in major decline.

The wolves came back in, and even though they were killing and eating certain species of animals, they kicked this kind of larger circle of life back into order. It was this kind of rotation of the animals being rotated because of the predators kind of chasing and moving these animals around the whole ecosystem that then sort of spread the diversity, spread the wear and tear, and actually the wear and tear became a productive and a regenerative effect. They started to see the life like quintriple in five to seven years. Life just started to spring back.

You spoke about this a little bit about when industry kind of ceased, we saw life kind of jumping back. So we know that nature’s inherent nature is to live and to proliferate and that life begets life. But the exciting context and transformational shift for humans is how do we become a part of nature that actually has a, what’s called a trophic cascade effect. So we play our right role in the ecosystem and because we play our right role, it has this trophic cascade where every layer of the ecosystem is proliferating more life because of our intentional purposeful actions. That is what regenerative agriculture is, is these purposeful actions, interacting with nature in a way that’s observant of nature and actually can catalyze the growth and the rebuilding of soil much faster than we ever thought possible, the rebuilding of ecosystems, lost biodiversity. It’s just really amazing when you start to see life coming back from the dead. I think many of us at a very deep level are looking at like, what is the real purpose of my life? You know, with all things happening, what am I going to do with my life that makes the difference? The idea that human beings could be the species that could divert the destruction of not only our species but many species on the planet. Again, we know the earth will probably regenerate back to something, but no, we are destroying many species that are destroyed. So the idea that we can actually play a role in the regeneration of the biodiversity of our planet is quite a compelling and inspiring call to action for humanity at this time.

Stu

00:43:24

So good. So good. It’s excellent. When you were talking about tilling of the soil, I had a mental picture of the movie Avatar, where you’ve got this beautiful world that is interconnected and intercellular and just flourishing in its own right. And then of course you get the army that come through and they just mowed down all of the forests and these pivotal trees that almost the communicators to everybody in that land. That’s kind of what we’re doing. Then I thought, because you were talking about all of the different steps that the farm was taken. I thought you haven’t mentioned animals. I thought, I’m sure animals would play a part in this carbon cycle, but then of course you did, so brilliant, brilliant. It makes perfect sense.

Ryland

00:44:13

Thanks. I haven’t gotten this excited about this in a while. Thanks for the opportunity to get really enthusiastic about that …

Stu

00:44:21

It’s brilliant.

Ryland

00:44:22

… what I’m up to.

Stu

00:44:24

My question is there are obviously many more non-farmers on this planet than there are farmers. So me, you, and everybody that we know that aren’t farmers can all play a part in this. We spoke a little bit about composting and recycling. What other steps then could we make as the consumer that would be the most perhaps productive in terms of the regenerative process? Because as a global community, if we all manage to do these small things, I’m sure that the knock on effect could be massive.

Ryland

00:45:09

Totally. I would say that at a very, the most simple base level, it’s getting ourselves educated and understanding the power and potentiality of this regenerative promise and this regenerative pathway, and really being the voice for this movement and for this way forward. Let’s just look at Black Lives Matter, for instance. There is a voice and there is a global movement for a problem that’s existed for a long, long time. Now there is … obviously there’s lots of conflicting splintered views, but there is a huge cohort of people who are like, “Wow, I’ve never been invested in seeing if I’m participating in systemic racism or bias. I can see that there’s more participation that’s being asked of me, and I’m going to use my voice and I’m going to start speaking up and I’m going to start being someone who cares about that topic, and I’m going to be an advocate for that community.”

I think that shows that there is … we all get to use our voice. We do live in a world of where we all are telling our story every day of what we’re up to and what we’re thinking about and what we’re talking about and what we’re eating about. I think that at the most basic level, it’s really understanding that … I think all people want to be, on some level, want to be healthy and happy. To be healthy and happy, you need to be consuming things that are coming from a healthy ecosystem, otherwise … It really is, I think, the great awakening that we’ve all kind of wondered in the spiritual age of like, what is going to be the big transformation? I’ve been more and more coming to the conclusion that the big awakening may be the real visceral, experiential, intellectual understanding that we all are connected, that we all are one, and that what I

00:48:00

Do to you, I do to myself. What I put into my body, I put into the Earth, I put into the ecosystem, and really starting to understand that there is this interconnection between all things, and when we are aware of that, what are the actions that we begin to take and what becomes important, that’s unimportant and unseen right now? Again, back to the systemic racism was it was unseen, it invalidated as unimportant, but when we start to get, “Wow, it is all of us”, what I vote for with my dollar, we all have heard this a thousand times, so no news there, but that the idea that consumer culture and sustaining our lives with sustenance, clothing, and building materials could be produced in a way that actually had a regenerative and beneficial impact and effect on the planet, and that we started to yes, consume less, and more intentionally what we were consuming so that we actually knew that we all want to make a difference.

We all want to serve a greater calling, and it’s just difficult to do that because we’re so proliferating, splintered, and business is so oftentimes corrupted with just driving short term profits, but there is an awakening, there is a world of people, entrepreneurs, businesses, health professionals, and thought leaders who are saying, “No, what we want is a life of purpose and a life of intentionality.” The idea that we can start voting with our dollars to consume things that heal and regenerate the planet is a very compelling and huge opportunity for everyone. Again, when I started this seven years ago, there wasn’t really a brand that you could point to. Again, we’re still early days, but there’s a regenerative organic certification coming out that Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s Soap Company, and about 80 other brands have kind of pioneered, and it’s in its inception phase. The next couple of years, there’ll be product coming out that have been certified a regenerative organic. There’s another modeling that’s come out by the Savory Institute, which is a land to market certification where you can buy products that come from livestock; leather products that are coming from animals, leather shoes that are coming from animals that will help regenerate land. There’s another coalition called SSCI, Soil… I’m embarrassed. I can’t remember. Soil, something, SCI… I can’t remember-

Stu

00:51:41

That’s okay.

Ryland

00:51:41

But another verification for companies, a framework for companies to use, to have regenerative agriculture be in their supply chain and for consumers to understand that they’re supporting brands… Actually speaking of Australia and New Zealand, there’s a really cool company that I actually just interviewed the CEO of the company, a guy named Jim Richards from a company called Milkadamia, a mac nut milk that actually it says “R Choice”, and it’s for regenerative agriculture, and they’re growing regenerativity grown mac nuts in Australia to make… I think they’re servicing, I don’t know, 15,000 retailers, maybe 5,000 cafes. It’s just been four years old, the company, but they’re booming, and it’s on your continent; it’s your people rocking it out. So let’s see, ask another question. I’ve gone on a tangent.

Stu

00:52:46

Yeah. No. No, it’s all good. Look, I’m super mindful as well that we’re kind of coming up on time. So for everybody that has loved the conversation and feels inside that they want to be part of this movement, they should be part, they should be doing their thing, their bit, where can we send them to really connect with everything that you’ve spoken about today, and maybe just a hub that points them in the right direction and empowers them to find that change?

Ryland

00:53:18

Totally. Yeah. So glad you asked that question. So Kiss the Ground, our nonprofit has developed a really, really robust resource hub on our website, and the way it’s framed is called, ‘Find Your Path’. Basically, you type in your interest based on a bunch of different tiles that we have there to kind of give you options, and based on your interests, we’ll give you the next couple steps, resources, education, organization, or initiative to plug into so that you can really get compelled to take next step, get yourself more educated, and integrated with where you are, where you are in your life, what you have the ability to change and impact, and get the resources so that you can really be off and running.

One of the primary things I would recommend everyone to become a Soil Advocate, a Kiss the Ground Soil Advocate. It’s like a real badge of honor to be a Soil Advocate, and it’s an amazing program that we offer online. There’s people from 25 countries around the world that have participated in the program. Again, you find that on the hub at Kiss the Ground.

Then we also have a regenerative gardening and lifestyle course, where if you want to do this at a small scale in your home, we have an amazing, amazing online learning course with an amazing farmer educator named Farmer Rishi, who teaches that.

Then just Kiss the Ground, we’ve created so much media. We’ve created, I don’t know, probably over a hundred pieces of media in the last so many years that are really just illuminating and making really clear distilled points around regenerative agriculture because that’s what I’m inviting, is everyone to become the voice of the regeneration. We are the generation that became the regeneration; just like there’s allies in the Black Lives Matter movement, and people becoming like the voice for equality inclusion and uprooting racism, really calling for everyone to become the voice for regenerative agriculture and the regeneration of our planet, and that we can be the generation that stepped up to the plate and really understood.

I just want to again, speak back to kind of origin, source, and credit where credit’s due. This wisdom and understanding of the way nature works in its regenerative principles, that’s deep, deep knowledge that’s been held and carried forth by many cultures that have lived much closer to the Earth; many indigenous cultures in Australia, obviously the Aboriginal cultures had kind of methods of tending the wild. You could call them agriculture. Obviously, they’d be different than we see agriculture now, but they were actually much more sophisticated and they understood a much bigger holism to where the system didn’t degrade over time, it actually would continue to proliferate with productivity over time. So those techniques of… The Amazon Rainforest, there’s a lot of science and studies that show big swaths of the Amazon Rainforest was intentionally planted by humans, so that was actually a cocreation with humans and nature; that canopy of trees, that’s an agricultural project, one could say, or the lands of California, there’s a book called ‘Tending the Wild’ about how indigenous cultures were tending the wild and had a very holistic version of how to cultivate soil health, ecological health, health for the tribe health, and the animal kingdom. Well, the harvesting and the eating of animals was part of that system, but it was done in a way where it still had a regenerative effect. It wasn’t degrading on the system because life begets more life. So I just want to acknowledge-

Stu

00:58:07

Fantastic-

Ryland

00:58:07

Acknowledge yeah, that wisdom and really where we are in the regenerative movement is really the fusing of what some of called the ‘Prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor flying together’ kind of the mind and the heart, the intellect and the soul that there’s like this scientific and technology mind merging with holism, and the indigenous wisdom, or knowledge, and that those coming together actually have the toolkit to really heal and be our guiding principles for how we can move forward and regenerate planet Earth.

Stu

00:58:47

Boy oh boy. So much wisdom in this conversation, and certainly I think that this will wet the appetite for the majority of our audience who know that this is where they want to be, but they just don’t know where to start. So what we’ll do is, we’ll put all of the links and comments in the show notes, so everybody can find out exactly where all those resources lie for them. But no, that was absolutely-

Ryland

00:59:17

Then one last shameless plug, which is the Kiss the Ground, we’re a nonprofit organization, and I’m responsible for fundraising. So yeah. We have a membership program, which inside of COVID, a lot of people losing their jobs, and economy in a very tough moment, we made our membership for as low as $1 a month. People can be part of the movement and support the work that we’re doing. So I encourage if you’re inspired and you want to support the work, $1 a month would mean the world of difference for our organization [crosstalk 00:59:55]-

Stu

00:59:54

Totally. Totally. With the price of a cup of coffee over here, I’m getting up towards $5 a day, I think that would be a worthy contribution to that cause for sure, so we’ll make sure that we illustrate that on the website too. But Ryland, thank you so much for your time today and all of your efforts as well. It is profound to hear what one person with an idea and a passion can achieve. Unbelievable. So really, best of luck with everything. I’m intrigued at the movie as well. Cannot wait to hear more about the release state of that, and sit in and understand. I think often times when you actually see something presented in movie form as well, it’s just so much easier to understand and grasp the principles that are underlying in that, so I’m really looking forward to that as well. So thank you so much, and I hope that we’ll connect with you at some stage in the future as well.

Ryland

01:00:58

Awesome.

Stu

01:01:00

Okay.

Ryland

01:01:00              T

hank you so much, Stuart.

Stu

01:01:00

Thank you. Bye. Bye.

Ryland

01:01:01

Bye bye.

Ryland Engelhart

This podcast features Ryland Engelhart. He is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Kiss the Ground. He is also a co-creator of the award-winning, transformational documentary film, “May I Be Frank.” He is an entrepreneur and activist, and works to inspire more "gratitude" into our culture. He speaks on... Read More
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