Linda Poole

NCAT Regenerative Grazing Specialist
The Growing Hope Conference winds up tomorrow, with the last of six 2-3 hour sessions. Yesterday focused on the health and happiness of producers, and keynote speaker Dr. Elizabeth Heilman shared volumes on the topic. Her presentation is available now on NCAT's YouTube channel. Below, Dr. Heilman answers a couple questions that arose during the conference:

How do we find support for this work?

We need to keep growing this movement. The book I will finish this summer is called "Heroic Healing," It encompasses emotional ecology and healing trauma, the nature of healthy work practices and relationships, and how to grow the communities we need to support policy and well-being. I include the balanced relationship with other living things we need to have and how to fix the land and ecosystems. Specifics of what agriculture and our material relationships to the planet need to look like will be co-written with Dale [Strickler]. My book will be about 20% agroecology and 80% human development.

I also am making a free community guidebook modeled off of weekly 12-step meetings so that a group has clear action themes to talk about in weekly meetings. Emotional health is not separate from our contexts. I envision people working in autonomous support groups to support emotional well-being, learn effective social action, and share ideas about regenerative agriculture, local food and health, community-level ecosystem repair, and local economic development towards regional autonomy.

Dale [Strickler] is writing his next book, "The Solution is Under Our Feet," placing the nuts and bolts of regenerative agronomy in the context of policy and climate change solutions. Dale will also include specifics of what sort of community development, social action networks, and emotional healing is needed to support this work co-written by me. Dale's book will be about 80% agroecology and 20% human development.

What is essential in the next decade?

We have to move beyond the individual farm focus. Creating more agile communities that are good learners is essential because the climate will continue to worsen while we must work steadfastly, hopefully, and heroically with top-notch agronomics to keep healing and improving our lands. Despair is a luxury that heroic farmers cannot afford. It is normal to be super hopeful and super worried. There are so many great innovations happening and many rural communities are revitalizing. But we will quickly face new challenges in farming at 2.0 degrees global warming. For example, there is consensus that newly warmer lands in the northern USA, Canada, and Eurasian taiga will need to be farmed as aridification overcomes parts of the planet. How do we manage these wetlands and degraded boreal forests to reduce methane from permafrost melt and also grow food? That question still needs to be adequately answered. That will be Dale [Strickler's] fifth book. We just bought 181 acres of high-water table, high organic matter muck soil land in Wisconsin's driftless area to create a new kind of pasture and grow organic vegetables with something like chinampas beds. We aim to grass finish our Kansas cattle there.


Elizabeth Heilman, Ph.D
Professor, Wichita State University

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