Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

267 Farmers’ Philosophy series! Dayana Andrade, farmer at Amadeco and author of Vida em Sintropia

December 05, 2023 Koen van Seijen Episode 267
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
267 Farmers’ Philosophy series! Dayana Andrade, farmer at Amadeco and author of Vida em Sintropia
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This is a conversation between Koen van Seijen, host of the Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food podcast, and Dayana Andrade, researcher, author of Life in Syntropy | Vida em Sintropia and farmer at Amadeco Syntropic Farm. A deep dive into syntropic farming, companion crops opposed to the olive monoculture afflicting the Apulian region, in the South of Italy.

Dayana shares her personal journey, explaining how the lessons and practice learned with Ernst Götsch altered her view of landscapes and challenged traditional notions of competition and scarcity in nature. We also discuss the transformative power of human intervention in nature, exploring the latest findings in soil science and plant growth. Finally, we explore how finding our habitat and understanding our role in the ecosystem can be a fulfilling journey.

This episode is part of the Farmers’ Philosophy series.
We can learn so much more from farmers than how to restore soil. Regeneration goes much further and deeper. That’s why this is the second episode of the Farmers’ Philosophy series, where we make time with farmers who are pushing the boundaries of regenerative agriculture, we sit down with them and take time to explore more than soil health. We discuss what we can learn, what we can see, what we can observe when we get in touch with life again and understand we’re all an ecosystem.
---------------------------------------------------

Join our Gumroad community, discover the tiers and benefits on www.gumroad.com/investinginregenag

Support our work:

----------------------------------------------------

More about this episode on https://investinginregenerativeagriculture.com/farmers-philosophy-andrade.

Find our video course on https://investinginregenerativeagriculture.com/course.

----------------------------------------------------

The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

https://foodhub.nl/en/opleidingen/your-path-forward-in-regenerative-food-and-agriculture/

Support the show

Feedback, ideas, suggestions?
- Twitter @KoenvanSeijen
- Get in touch www.investinginregenerativeagriculture.com

Join our newsletter on www.eepurl.com/cxU33P!

Support the show

Thanks for listening and sharing!

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Farmers Philosophy series, where we make time with farmers who are pushing the boundaries of regenerative agriculture. We sit down with them and explore the world of regeneration beyond solar health. We also film these episodes, so please have a look on our YouTube channel or the link below if you're interested. For now, make a cup of tea, find a comfortable place to listen and enjoy.

Speaker 1:

Welcome to another Farmers Philosophy episode. Here, in a very special place. We're going to hear some background noises which are perfectly fine. Here. We're going to hear a lot of birds as well. Insects, because we're in a very, very special syndropic field. We're somewhere very special. Diana, thank you so much for having us here and for agreeing to film this episode in a beautiful, relatively early morning, which is going to help us to beat the sun, because we're in summer, which means it's going to get hot here, even though it's a very thriving ecosystem very wet around us, because it rained this night. First of all, thank you so much for having us here, for agreeing on this. This is not your normal habitat to have the camera on you, usually on the other side, and so I'm very happy to have the chance to take two chairs, sit down with you and have a little chat this morning.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for inviting me. I'm happy to be here.

Speaker 1:

And to start with, what are the shapes we see around us? We see a lot of hay, a lot of straw, basically, but they're not in straight lines, as you might see, or actually usually you see straw in different, in bales and in different forms. But let's start with a bit of the surrounding that we see around us. We're sitting on some wood and I see some of these nicely curved lines. Can you walk us through it?

Speaker 2:

Yes, well, we are among nests where plants grow, so the hay is what is more visible, because it's the top layer, but underneath we have some wood chips and in the center of this nest we have the consortia of plants that we always grow together.

Speaker 1:

And is it the liberty you picked? I don't know if you picked the word nest, but the word nest for this. I mean, it looks a bit like the bird nest, obviously, but we mainly only use it for birds. Yes, and you pick it for a consortia and we're getting to a consortia in a second, but consortia of trees.

Speaker 2:

Yes, it was not me that decided this name. It's a suggestion by Ernest Gitt, who developed this kind of agriculture. He used this term in Portuguese. He used the term ninho or berço, which is similar to nest or cradle, and the idea behind it is to oppose the word that we normally use in agronomy to the place where we plant trees, the place, especially in Portuguese, the name that we use for the place where we are going to prepare the soil to plant the tree. It's called cova, and cova is grave in Portuguese, so it's.

Speaker 1:

That's a heavy word in Portuguese. Yeah, Okay.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, because you're digging like up to, you're digging the soil, digging the hole, and you are supposed to plant the tree inside that hole. And I think Ernest wanted to break this idea and bring the idea that to plant life you need a nest, not a grave.

Speaker 1:

Which seems soothing absolutely.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, but other than that, the shape helps. The name is also important because it brings the idea of organizing the organic matter in this special shape of the nest, which brings some benefits in terms of water retention, and it has this logic behind the word, but also the practical side of it.

Speaker 1:

But then let's move on to what we're sitting on, not the chair, obviously, but the paths. There's a very deliberate design and use of material. Let's say there as well.

Speaker 2:

Yes, here we are in a system that we designed to have very high diversity and also to have this aesthetic component, so we decided to make this path not a straight path but a curvy line. So we are over these logs of wood that we cutted from the trees that were around here. Some of them were falling and others were blocking the sun from the afternoon, so we opened that area so we can get more light for the system, and all the wood that we cutted was integrated in the system in this form, so we can walk just here over these logs, because we always have to think on our impact. Even when we come to the system to prune or to do something that is useful to the system, we always have to think on our impact. And compacting the soil while we walk on it it's a huge impact and this helps us to minimize that impact.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you're going to hear a lot of different terms here on the syndropic side. We're going to get into that, but it's also an episode. You could be watching this on video. If you're not, if you're listening to the audio, I definitely invite you to go to YouTube as well and see it. You can see the beautiful lines behind us, but it's also an audio version, so, don't worry, we'll talk as visually as possible. So there are nicely curved lines here, but it's definitely also a chance to see it visually. And then, just in terms of geography and just to give people an understanding, we're not in Brazil. We're sitting in Depressa, which is a small town close to Tricasa, in Salento, in Puglia, in Italy and what land did you hear?

Speaker 2:

first of all, Well, philippi and I, since we moved from Brazil, we lived in Portugal and then in Spain and now we are here.

Speaker 2:

One motive that is behind these decisions of moving is always a challenge, a new challenge and a new environment and new things that we can learn.

Speaker 2:

And here we were invited to work here and it was very interesting for us because we are in this region that is facing a very difficult situation with the chilella fastidiosa, which is the disease that is attacking the olives, and basically the region had this economic cycle of the olives, the production of the olives here, the first oil, lampante, which is the oil of the olives to use to lighten it, and then, I think, around 10 years, the region faced this threat of this chilella fastidiosa that attacked all olives, and we can walk around the region and it's very sad to see that all olives are dying, they are drying and dying and it's changing all the landscape. So in Portugal, we were in a very difficult area as well, in the south of Portugal, in the bas-relentezo, which is an area threatened by the certification In Spain as well, and here it was another scenario like this, which is good for us because we think that when we hit a crisis.

Speaker 2:

It's also a moment of opportunity to suggest some change, and to propose this very different kind of agriculture is difficult when people perceive that we have no problems with agriculture.

Speaker 1:

Things are going well. Why yes, if?

Speaker 2:

things are going well, why should we change? But if things are not going that well, maybe we should be looking for some solutions that are more adapted to the climate challenges that we are going to face.

Speaker 1:

And then when you quote-unquote land in an area like this, in a maceria, which is a medium sized farm with quite a few olive trees and other pieces of land, like this one you deliberately planted here, which is close to the road, as we hear, back then there was no wall, so I remember a lot of people slowing down and looking like what on earth is going on here. What is the first step you do? How do you observe the land or read the land? What's the first thing you do when you get into a new? You know it's a challenging situation, but of course, you don't know exactly where to start and how to approach it. Or what's the first step when you land in a new challenge?

Speaker 2:

One thing that we like to do when we get to a new place is to observe areas that were not managed, areas which were abandoned for a while, and areas even near roads where people don't manage or don't take care a lot, or hills, every place that we don't have the human action, neither the animal grazing. It's a valuable place to observe what kind of plants are growing in different seasons of the year, especially here in the Mediterranean. You have to watch what is growing during the winter and what is growing in spring, what is growing in the summer and what, especially, what can stand the summer, what can keep growing even during the summer, and this is available information for us.

Speaker 1:

This piece of tree grew. We see the color difference. I don't know if you're going to catch it on camera, but there's a significant 25 centimeter growth in summer. You just mentioned pre-interview, which is amazing because it was especially July and August hot.

Speaker 2:

Exactly exactly. This is Lenteeskos. It's a well-known Mediterranean bush, but it's normally not considered to be an agricultural landscape. And this is what we try to do. We try to see around what kind of plants are doing. Well, because we understand that if they are able to grow, it's because they're performing a function in that ecosystem at that moment, at that point, at that condition of fertility of the place. So all these indicators are good for us to understand what is happening in the soil and what we can, from where we can start.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, because you're picking a point like could be like an angle next to the road, somewhere where there's no human intervention and no animal intervention or very little, and then you start from there with a lot of human intervention, like what could happen if we facilitate almost, or is that the next step? You start collecting, okay, during the seasons, what is still able to grow in these harsh climates, because it's not an easy place, and then you collect and is that how you design the nest then? Is that the next step?

Speaker 2:

or it is. I think it's the first important step to understand, because behind that observation, what we have in mind is the concept of succession, and the concept of succession from ecology. We know that is how the ecosystem is being occupied by different kinds of plants throughout the time. So it changed. The communities of plants changed throughout the time. So when we understand which plants are growing now, we understand from where we have to start our succession. But then our role in this sense is to start from those lands and speed up this process. So we understand where to start from, but we know what can happen next and by managing it properly we can speed up what nature would be doing, it is doing, in abandoned lands. We can speed up by adding this diversity, bringing this diversity to grow together, and speeding it up by pruning and doing all the management.

Speaker 1:

So you're basically so taking a picture throughout the year of a specific spot and by doing that you can see where, in the succession, that area is that soil, but also the climate and also the, the weather influences, and by that is okay. That's our starting point, that's where we can start. And then we, and when you came here and you did that, how did that led to the design of these and the composition as well, of these nests? Like, if we look at the nests here, what do we see in there and what do you like the different components? Because it's very busy. It seems very nothing wild, but messy in a good way. Messy usually for farmers is not the the right term. But what do we see in a nest, in a typical nest you've designed, in this part at least of the farm?

Speaker 2:

Yes, here in Italy we always say when Italian comes, we say I know that it looks like a casino, which is a mess, but it's not, it's by design. Yeah, because there is an intention behind it.

Speaker 1:

It could be a t-shirt casino by design.

Speaker 2:

So we add you can see in the nests a lot of Mediterranean bushes and fast-growing trees, fruits trees, trees that are considered just forestry and trees that are considered for production, and we combine them because each one is fulfilling a function and each one is occupying one layer as well. So I already mentioned the succession as one of our concepts. That's behind the decision, or the understanding, and the succession that it's behind the reading of the, the ecosystem.

Speaker 1:

Which means in time it's not a constant. It's not that I plant this plant now, it will be there forever, every year I want. Now there's a ecosystem like has a succession over time, which means there's a specific row at a specific time for a specific plant and at some point that might change and that ends and that's okay, and then there's another wave taking over. It's not that it stops, but that concept goes against everything we do in agriculture, probably at the moment. But that's a fundamental one, and you're saying another one.

Speaker 2:

Exactly, and just to add the succession, it changes and it's changed to the better, always it goes to the next step, like we go to the next ladder, like the next wave.

Speaker 1:

It's more complex, more full of biomass, full of life.

Speaker 2:

The next community of trees of plants are going to be more demanding in soil fertility, and this fertility was created by the previous community of plants.

Speaker 1:

The soil is able to support a more complex, so we shouldn't be sad that the phase ends of this, this consortium, like the next phase, goes there. Okay, yeah, and the second.

Speaker 2:

The second concept is the stratification, because we organize the plants in a such way that they can occupy different layers, vertical layers instead of superpositions. We have the perfect match. So we have different layers that can grow together without overlapping each other.

Speaker 1:

Which means how to capture as much sunlight as you possibly can.

Speaker 2:

Perfect.

Speaker 1:

Not let any sun ray get wasted. Perfect.

Speaker 2:

Exactly If we think about the leaf as a little solar panel. If we were to organize solar panels in the most efficient way, we would organize it in layers, like we organize the trees.

Speaker 1:

And so you design it and it looks very busy. When a layman or somebody who's not deep into centropic looks at these things competition, which we'll get into in a second but thinks, oh my god, that's very busy. And you're saying that's by design, because we need the different layers, we need to capture all the sunlight. One tree would just not be efficient. You lose a lot, and so we need the different layers, you need the bushes. So what else do we see in a nest like that? And how do you make sure you have those different layers and always something growing throughout the season, because you said that's really important here, to have something that survives or that keeps growing in the summer mostly? What's the design there?

Speaker 2:

Okay, so we combine these bushes, these mid-terranean bushes, trees, and also some crops that we can produce something that we want like other annual plants, but the idea is to have our crops, all the annuals that we are used to have as food for ourselves.

Speaker 1:

Tomatoes.

Speaker 2:

Tomatoes, now aubergines, onions, garlic, but always we have them growing together with some evergreen and perennial plant, because the idea is to prepare the soil once. So the first time when we are implementing the area, we prepare the soil from the beginning, but then it's the only time we do this work in the soil and the seasons. We change the seasons and we can plant again our annual crops, especially in mid-terranean, where we have this caducefolia dynamics, when we have in the winter, some trees lose their leaves and we have another opportunity to have light in the lower layers. So we always can plant again our crops, our vegetable crops. But the next season we will not start from zero again.

Speaker 2:

We already have our evergreens, our perennial trees, our perennial bushes growing inside the nest and we work just on the spot where we want to plant this next crop. And the value of that is that the soil is never uncovered again and it's never without root sexudate. So we have all year long photosynthesis occurring in the surface, which means more root sexudates, and we are feeding the soil microbiome. And this is what is important for us, because there it is the immune system of our crops and that is the fertility of our crops and even the water of the irrigation of our crops rely on that soil microbiome. And then when you say, when people come here, we always say it's messy.

Speaker 1:

What's the biggest challenge? Like when you do a lot of tours here, you take people through the system, seeing what it does to the olives, what it does to the land in general. It's very visual, obviously. What do you see as the biggest I'm not saying herd or, but like the biggest challenge to people to to accept this or to accept that this is possible here. I mean, the wall used to be gone and people could actually slow down and see what is happening, and it's been green even in the end of August now, where the rest is relatively, let's say, yellow and gray. But what do you see when people walk through here? What kind of questions? What's their biggest barrier to you and what do you get most questions about?

Speaker 2:

I think the first thing that people get scared about is the management. They always think no, but it's a lot of labor involved on that. I think this is one. The cultural aspect is also huge, especially with the olives. People have this attachment with what has been, what was done by their grandparents and what was done before, and sometimes people think that the solution is to go back to what was done before, and what we suggest is that, yes, we have lots of good things to learn from some knowledge that was lost, but we also have to think what we did back then that brought us to the crisis that we are now, and we have to look back with honoring this tradition but not being blind to what contributed to bring us to the conditions that we are now and what can we do better. I think a good way to honor the tradition is also doing better than that.

Speaker 1:

Especially in a region where people are very attached to the trees. But it also feels almost in a phase of grief as well. The current system is dying. It's very clear you drive through the region, you walk through the region, you cycle. You see endless dead or almost dead and dried up trees, which must be heartbreaking if you grew up here and if you're not to the next phase of succession, where you're like, okay, what can we do? Or we give up and we just move away and we do something else, or is there still hope? Do you see that piece of hope when you see some of these trees re-growing or regenerating? Does that give people hope, if they see it, or is it? Oh no, that's too good to be true. I don't believe there's green leaves that I see.

Speaker 2:

Do you see that as a I think there are these two reactions we can see these two reactions here, but you use the right word like they are grieving. And there is this period, even in psychology, when you just deny the trauma and after that you have to overcome other steps to get into action and to understanding and trying to find other solutions. But the problem is, I think, is that some of people that understand already that it's a moment to change what was done here, some of them are still waiting for a new cycle, like we had here the cycle of the tobacco, we have the cycle of the olives and now that it's finishing the cycle of the olives they are looking for another cycle and I'm afraid that this is not the answer. If we just rely on monocultures and new cycles, we will always see the end of those cycles and the peak of a cycle and the end of the cycle.

Speaker 1:

It's a succession in a downward direction, in the other direction.

Speaker 2:

And a few people are looking to this problem through the lenses of, well, the system. It's not just a bacteria or a fungi that is attacking the tree, but it's the whole systemic disease of the health system of the trees are not going well. So what can we do to enhance the immune system of our ecosystems? And if we try to look to that, instead of trying to fight against the disease, it changes a lot on your approach and I think we shouldn't be looking to a new mechanism, just or at least not just a mechanism to fight the disease, but also trying to find new ways to plant or to have the raised olives and the oaks and all the trees that are beloved here, to have them in a good way, to make them grow well, because we don't only have to plant trees, we have to make them grow well.

Speaker 1:

Which means you see a future here for oaks and olives and figs, or has that period passed?

Speaker 2:

No, I think this is the way this is.

Speaker 1:

That's very dramatic.

Speaker 2:

I think this is where we should be looking for. We should be looking towards this kind of solution where we can integrate and we can rebuild the natural ecosystem which was composed by all this diversity. So, having trees, having fig trees, prunos, figs, but also oak trees and corbezzolos, the strawberry tree, and all of them growing together throughout the year, could rephrase, I would say, that we have to think on restoring the ecosystem, not just focusing on one species or another, but restoring the ecosystem and with all its functions as well, trying to trigger the functions of the ecosystem that are, on its own, sustainable.

Speaker 1:

And when you look at an average olive field here or farm, or an average olive grove, what do you see Putting your biology glasses on and your, of course, syntropic hat on? What do you see when you look at that? An average field? Most people would know, maybe from pictures or from experience, what is relatively old trees, big branches. But what do you see when you scan that?

Speaker 2:

I think the first thing that pops up is that it's a monoculture. It's not anything else than that. It is a monoculture, and we see I see as well the soil being plowed between the trees two times, even three times a year. I see that the roots are. You can see perfectly around the roots the erosion that has been occurring during this year. So it's difficult not to think that something wrong would happen.

Speaker 1:

It's almost a miracle, they're still alive.

Speaker 2:

They are really strong trees, they are the survivors and because of that, maybe we we we mistaken them and we think that they are fine, but they are just being generous with our mistakes.

Speaker 1:

And then does that almost hurt when you look at that as well Trees that are clearly suffering, or clearly, if you look well, suffering from decades, if not more, of mismanagement. I think that we can talk about a tree like that. Is it something you see like? Oh, or does it hurt to your eyes when you see fields like that? Yeah, you ever unsee that.

Speaker 2:

No, you never unsee that and actually we have a friend that he he's mad at us because he said I was much happier before. You explained that to me. Now, every tree I could see around, I was so happy seeing all the trees, the tree is so beautiful. And now I look to the tree and I see, oh, but the tree is alone and there is no companion. And it's really changed the way we look, we learn, we read every landscape that we come across it. It changed completely. Because when you understand the benefits, and especially when you do it, when you try, and when you have the experience by your own hands, it's so powerful to see how the perfect match, the good trees growing together and species not only trees but the species growing together they do better than without this companion. And you really question all the concepts that we learned about competition.

Speaker 1:

I was going to go there. Yeah, is that another big one? That people, because you plant a lot of things together and say, okay, it's messy and management. You said people are struggling with and the scarcity. And the scarcity piece Is that people like what about water? What about the, the, the, the, any, the food and the, the food and the sort of like? How can so many things survive together? What are you adding or like? Is that a question people ask or is it an underlying assumption people have?

Speaker 2:

It is difficult because when they are here, they are seeing something that is not matching with what they they have. They have in their heads, so it's underlying. We always see that they want to question, but they are seeing, so they can't say and see what what they are seeing. But for sure, the first thing when we talk, we can see. When we are talking, we are explaining the system by pictures of when people are not in the field with us. The first thing is but what happens with water? You will have much more demands with water of nutrients. What about the nutrients of the soil? You have to give more nutrients because you're planting more. This is what we have as a default in our minds and only, I think, only doing it by yourself you will be able to overcome this, because it's very, it's like a tattoo in our minds.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you went. You wrote a beautiful book as well with your partner Philippe, only in Portuguese until now, if I'm not mistaken. I have to do read it, if you read Portuguese. I read a bad English translation but it was still very bad. I'm looking forward to the good English translation at some point. But you went deep into the scarcity versus abundance as well and you say a tattoo in our mind, do you like? When? When was that imprinted, that tattoo like at some point that came like I don't think we were. We as species were originally born with that.

Speaker 2:

No, we learned that.

Speaker 1:

We learned that yes. Why and how.

Speaker 2:

Well, let's think where to start.

Speaker 1:

When the series is called the philosophy series. Yeah, yeah, that was about production.

Speaker 2:

No, it's not. I think when we started to think, when we started to put the individual as the center of everything and this is very basic for us with now, everything that we think about and the way we approach problems we always think on individuals and it's funny if I would do this jump. If we go to the biology, the concept of individual is the most philosophical concept, I think, in biology. If you go deep and if you start looking to the microbiology, the microorganisms, and you start to see that the frontier between individuals is very blurry. And this is what happened when we plant many species together, we start to understand that we are not putting individuals together.

Speaker 2:

Here we go Composing an organism. It's completely different. We don't have to think about eucalyptus as one tree that needs this amount of nutrients, this amount of water, because it behaves different if it is planted alone or if it's planted with other species together, if the amount of nutrients and water is different in different conditions. So we are not talking about an individual necessity, but the conditions, how it behaves when it is alone and how it is behaved when it's composing a complex organism. And this is difficult for us to understand, because all the most basic concepts in biology is a projection of our individualism. We project the competition that we see in humans societies. We project this interpretation to the plants, the selfishness of the human beings. We project it in the interpretation of evolution and it seems that we are talking about science, but we are talking about interpretation that was informed before by our selfishness, our individualism and our concepts that are not exactly the best way to understand or to learn about nature. It's difficult to summarize that.

Speaker 1:

Of course it's different because it's so profound, like the whole individual. The image we put on nature and this is an individual tree and all of that is probably just a projection of us and you see it very clearly. When you put a tree in a companion system, it behaves completely different and needs completely different things and thrives completely different, as we can see behind us. And if you plant an individual somewhere with all the same nutrients and water you give, that should give us a clue and probably within those tests with humans, which is very cruel, we are social creatures and somehow we imagine we're individual units. That ends here and that's the.

Speaker 1:

So that tattoo is quite. I mean, you could almost argue it started with the agriculture. I'm going to say revolution, but that's with the agriculture transition, whatever 10,000, 12,000, whatever the number is years ago. So that's a very deep system to unlock and you're clearly saying by doing it yourself, that's the best way to see that power. Are there other ways as well? If you've seen other examples of transformation of people, like actually that or actually X, or actually everything I thought or I was taught in school about not everything, but most things, about agriculture and how trees grow, etc. It turns out to be slightly different.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think different people have different entry points to connect to this kind of knowledge. But while we were talking, I remembered that if we look to the background of many philosophers of science or people that went through deep ecology or that started to question this kind of stuff, you always find some very traumatic moment. For example, val Plumwood, which is an Australian philosopher, that it was really important for me why we were writing the book. Many questions, the ecological view seems plateau. She shows how we are divided and trying to master nature and as a backbone of all our way of thinking. But if we go through her personal history, what was her trigger was a moment when she was almost bite to death. She was attacked by an alligator and at that moment she says that she felt that she was part of nature.

Speaker 2:

It was a traumatic way to understand that she was not apart from it, she was just another piece of life. So this is a one million question, I think. How can we overcome this necessity of awareness, or how can we overcome this individualistic way of thinking to really feel and understand that we are part of nature? Because it's very easy to say, oh, we are part of nature, we don't have to protect nature, we are part of it, or many other ecological slogans that it's easy to reproduce. But how to feel it?

Speaker 2:

And I'm stressing here that by doing it you can achieve this, you can turn on this key in your head. But I think each person has its own way of getting in touch with this connection. I think that's why, when we worked with kids, it was a good experience, because it gave us hope to see how kids can connect very fast with this interpretation and it seems that it makes sense for them more than the other interpretations that they will learn throughout the school years. So it seems that it's not difficult to understand, but you have to try to find your way.

Speaker 1:

That personal transformation, or that moment of not discovering, reconnecting to the app that's passing by. How did that happen for you? Was it one moment, I mean, weren't attacked by an alligator, I hope? What was that trigger? Was there a trigger for you, or how did that process happen?

Speaker 2:

It's funny because when people see now when I talk about this kind of agriculture, they think that I was always completely in love about this universe or that I was always involved with plants. But I have a background that has nothing to do with agriculture, not ecology or anything like that, and my first approach was doubting about it. I was really curious when I got in touch. I had the privilege of being in touch with Ernest since the beginning, so I had this very personal lessons with him. While he is very gentle, very generous on sharing it, I was curious about why that knowledge was not well known by a broader public and, as a journalist as well, I started to think maybe we should communicate better this kind of ideas. So we have more people looking at it and my intention was to have more people different kinds of people looking at it to test it really.

Speaker 2:

To question it in different ways because I felt that I was not able to make the best questions or to especially back them, that I was not in the field or not studying this kind of things. So I wanted to have more people questioning it and people from different fields, not only those that had this directly connection with what Ernest says, because people that already love nature already is involved, already is connected with nature. When he starts to explain this kind of agriculture, they quickly connect to it. And I was not like that and I was wondering what if we bring other types of people, people that are not already convinced about it? How would they behave or what kind of questions they would propose if they see what is happening here? Because materially, I went to Ernest's farm and I could see from the beginning that that ideas worked in the concrete aspect. So they work, but people are not explaining it in different levels. The first adopters of this kind of agriculture. They were already convinced about the importance of it.

Speaker 1:

I was almost secretly hoping people would find holes in it, like in the theory and the practice, like other monoculture farmers or a whole group of quote unquote serious scientists would look at it and would shoot some holes in it. Was that a?

Speaker 2:

I wanted to give it a try to see what was going to happen, because if they see a hole, then Ernest would have the opportunity to improve his method or his theory, and if they didn't, it would be very good to have more people looking at it and sharing it and showing the other aspects that have other backgrounds. They would help us to explain what was happening below the soil or in the eco-physiology or in all the details behind it. That could be better explained in the scientific way, and I was always interested in that.

Speaker 1:

What has happened? Has many holes been found and been, quote-unquote, fixed? Or how has been the journey basically of bringing more eyes to this In general? Of course, you made a very famous and popular documentary, life in Syntropy, that I don't know how many millions of people watched it. If you haven't, don't do it now, but do it at some point In any translation you can find. But so that process of bringing more eyes to this, have you seen serious questions around it? Have you what has been the general response, or the general, not from the people that they said are already reconnected to nature, etc. But from the larger audience.

Speaker 2:

That isn't it was good to see that they pushed what Ernest was already saying. They pushed it further. They helped the argument mature, I'm sure about that. I think it's also the moment, or the desire gazed, because all the science, either the biology or especially the microbiology, it's bringing all the news, the frontier of this discipline is bringing so much more answers to what was observed in the field.

Speaker 1:

Competition piece, for example.

Speaker 2:

Exactly.

Speaker 1:

It's an amazing adventure to study that, because every day we find a new discovery that helps us explain something that we already observed in the practical field, which is an interesting process and comes back to a point we've made many times on the podcast, also with Jonathan Lund and other scientists, that the most interesting things and observations are happening on the leading farms, now on the cutting edge farms not saying leading, because there's no hierarchy but the ones that are pushing the edges of what we know and then it should be observed and written about and published etc. Not the other way around, because people in the field are observing things that according to many current models etc. Are not possible or at least not known. You're saying the scientists are starting to catch up with a lot of things that you and Ernest and others have observed 15-20 years ago Exactly, and is that something of the last years? What do you see there? What do you?

Speaker 2:

I feel that one important improvement that we are observing in the science recently is the transdisciplinary movement, when different disciplines start to understand that they have to talk to each other to find new explanations of some event or some phenomenon. And agriculture, I think, is the terrain of the multidisciplinary things happening, because nature is multidisciplinary. The relations between the relations that are established in the dynamics of nature are very complex. So when you transition from a science that is only the disciplinary to a multidisciplinary science, then you open many doors of interpretations and I think this is good and this is what we are seeing in the philosophy of science. We are going more towards that aspect and I think it's perfect to understand and to find answers to our multidisciplinary problems.

Speaker 1:

It seems very counter-intuitive to think in silos in that sense, but we've been mostly I mean, as we discussed before, we've organized our lives in silos, and thus also science. And so what, like you said, almost daily new discoveries or new things that we've observed. What is one of the latest ones that surprised you, or something you've seen, like I know how it works, but I knew before that it actually works. What is something you saw recently or the last months?

Speaker 2:

A very recent one is about how the when you add nitrogen, how it impacts the amount of water that the system needs because I wouldn't go to the specific explanation of the chemistry on that but I have to study more but the idea is that they are showing when you add nitrogen you increase the necessity of water. So this is confirming something that we observe that in accumulation system, the idea of accumulation system or abundant systems, that we have to transit to abundant system where you have these cycles or these nutrients are made available by the soil microbiome instead of adding it from external input, and how it changes the flow of water and the maintenance of the water available for the plant.

Speaker 1:

Basically meaning, if you the nitrogen in this case is the nitrogen we add to a system Exactly triggers somehow the system to need a lot more.

Speaker 2:

To need more water. Yeah, to metabolize that nitrogen, to make it available to the tree, you need some kind of the amount of molecules of water. So if you don't add, you're sparing that amount of water. And this is being described more precisely recently, which is nice and it's something that we had already observed in practical experiences. And the other one, the region between the root system and the organisms that are in the soil and how they can transit the rhizosphere.

Speaker 2:

The rhizosphere, how they can transit from the soil to the root systems, like it's another way, another explanation on how the individual barriers are being blurred. There's no problem for them to go inside the roots, outside the roots, and transport nutrients and transport water and transport and help the the immune system of the plants.

Speaker 1:

Or not or not?

Speaker 2:

yes, and this is amazing. This is a. This is something that is very interesting for us.

Speaker 1:

And can we see that now? Like, is it made visual? Or how do we even approach in a lab? Because of course, a nest like the one behind you, behind me, is very different than a lab. We had a long time ago now Elaine Ingham on the show as well and she described how she, quote-unquote, discovered the soil food web, partially because in labs they used one growth medium that basically supported one or two bacteria.

Speaker 1:

So everybody thought there were one or two bacteria in the soil until she put some healthy soil under a microscope and discovered there were I'm saying a number, 20,000. And probably we discovered it's 10x more than that. But let's say how we bring something to the lab and how we support it in the lab. Of course, like, how do you bring a living system to a lab? You already altered it by the fact that you brought it somewhere. You already altered it, like you said, by stepping into a system like that. How do we do even research? Like, how do how would you do it? Because that sort of suggests we have no idea what's happening here in a healthiness like that, compared to what you research for a paper.

Speaker 2:

This is a methodological challenge, for sure, but we have to overcome that because we have to explain the phenomenon that we see. It's not the other way around. We don't have, we don't use the science to fit what is happening. We use what is happening, what we can see, the experiences. They have to raise the questions that the science must pursue. And we know less about the soil than we know about the stars, about the universe, about the solar system. If we see from the perspective of sciences, this is good news. Like it's the playground, it's another universe to discover.

Speaker 2:

We just have to overcome this methodological barriers to understand that taking something from the, taking one element and moving it to the lab will not give you the answers of what's going on in the field. And even if we think the change in the soil during the seasons or the difference between day and night, I mean the variables are infinite and they shouldn't scare us. They should be something to make us even more eager to try to understand, because it's an universe, and a beautiful universe.

Speaker 1:

And it gets us to a Another big one. Like our interventions, our as the human species and the I was going to say the fact that, but to say the vision that we can be a net positive species here, we can be a keystone species. Take that role and I feel a big step for many would be on a consciousness level to see your part of nature. But then I think many people are also in almost the grief part of where, the bad part of nature, where the part of nature that it's better to cut away or to minimize the damage we're doing and not look at the potential positive or the management. And that's what we see here. This is heavily intervened, like you're saying.

Speaker 1:

Many questions of people come like how much labor or maintenance does it cost? But you see here the effect of that. This would be very different if you planted and walked away and came back two, three, four years later, that journey of seeing the positive side of intervention and actually that these plants thrive because we prune and because we're involved. Do you remember when that hit you?

Speaker 2:

I think it's gradual and it until you get to the point that you really feel that it's not only that you can help, you can have a positive impact, but you start to feel that you have that role, that we need to. You need to do it. It's almost like, ah, yes, now I have to do this and this makes sense. This puts my abilities, my physical ability and my mental ability. It gives you satisfaction, it makes you feel that, ah, this is what I was supposed to do actually.

Speaker 1:

And here, what does it mean for a field like this? What should people imagine Like, of course, we only walk on the paths. What's the role here? What do you see here that needs to be that you feel like you need to do or like? Your role is here.

Speaker 2:

There is always something to do, and this is the good part. There is always something to take care of and I think this is what is rewarding, because you feel that you are taking care and you feel that system thriving, and this is rewarding in a certain way. And I was never convinced that walking into nature it's something that would connect me to nature, walking in the forest and this is something that we hear a lot, especially here in Europe, and it's strange for me because even what is called forest here it's kind of different of what I think it's a forest, and people think that just walking into nature, having its experiences during the weekend in nature, would reconnect them to nature. But I think this is a very selfish perspective, a very self-centered way to look at it, because you are just putting yourself in the middle of some trees and you are not actually interacting with it and you are not making anything better.

Speaker 2:

Better, I don't know. You are even compacting a little bit of the soil where you were walking. So when you have this connection, you follow the growth of a tree. It's completely different when you feel the happiness of organizing the nest around it, because you already foresee what's the effect. So you almost participate of that flow of life in every little action that we do, if you do it with consciousness, with purpose and understanding this balance of the strata of the succession, and you know that your intervention can speed that process up and make things thrive better. This is, I think, what made me feel connected to something.

Speaker 1:

Not even connected like really part of.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

Just to give people like it's difficult to even imagine this nest without human intervention, or like what would happen if you just planted once and abandoned or let go. What would we see, if you can even imagine that?

Speaker 2:

Nature is very generous with us and they keep trying to. I think those trees would keep growing. Yeah, they are not generous to us. I would correct that because they are not doing that for us. They are doing that because this is how they behave, how life flows. So they would grow, but they would be doing the work of restoring the fertility of a land that we had destroyed. So they would be doing something. They would be correcting some of our mistakes, and I think the least we can do is to be back there and pay our ecological debt, instead of just planting a tree and letting it that we should be there taking care of it.

Speaker 1:

Or even just some arguments of the rewilding or others, like put a big fence around and step out.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

What do you say to those thoughts of because you also look for inspiration in a new place when you get to a challenge, like here, of the abandoned places? What do you say to those theories or those practices of just let it go, fellow by itself?

Speaker 2:

I think it is not fair, because we have a responsibility on that and living the responsibility of correcting our mistakes to other beings, and just I mean, the better we can do is not doing harm. It is very sad that it is very sad if the best we can do is just stop doing the wrong things that we do. We should take on our responsibility of paying the debts, of making ourselves useful to the system. This is the difference. We have to make our presence useful to the flow of life instead of damaging. We have to use our tools. We have hands, we have opposite fingers. We have brain. We have legs. We can prune, we can organize organic matter, we can sparse seeds.

Speaker 2:

We are large animals. This is one of our functions in the ecosystem. We eat because we were supposed to bring the seeds of what we eat to another place and plant them. So let's find our habitat we don't know about. We know the habitat of all animals, the best habitat of all animals. Where is our habitat? Where is the habitat where we have a function, where our presence is beneficial? This is what we have to try to find.

Speaker 1:

I think it's a perfect end to this conversation. I want to thank you so much for having us here and in this habitat. It is very pleasant in the early morning, with some noises, but also some lovely birds, which is amazing Some wind that's picking up and it seems like it's going to be a lovely day. So thank you so much for sharing, for the work you do, obviously, and for coming on here to talk about it.

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much, it was a pleasure.

Exploring Regenerative Agriculture Practices
Understanding Centropic Farming Succession and Stratification
Understanding the Impact of Companion Planting
Human Intervention in Nature
Finding Our Habitat and Purpose