Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

278 Jessica Hutchings - Connecting soil with the stars

January 19, 2024 Koen van Seijen Episode 278
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
278 Jessica Hutchings - Connecting soil with the stars
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation with Jessica Hutchings, a Maori researcher and apothecary, about indigenous knowledge, letting go of old mindsets, our relationship with nature and the deities of our landscapes. A deep dive in the New Zealand food system, indigenous ways to connect with soil and the food web, sound of plants, vibration of nature and much more.

This episode is part of the Regenerative Mind series, supported by our friends at Stray who are exploring systemic investing with awe and wonder as well as our friends at Mustardseed Trust, who are enabling a transition to a care economy that fosters regenerative food systems.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to a very special series of conversations diving deep into the mindset shift needed for the regenerative transition, hosted by Emma Chauw, friend of the show and active in the regenerative space. For a while, she worked with many of the largest food corporations in the world and went on a deep personal regeneration journey, leading, among other things, to a love for cacao. This is the first time we host another voice on the podcast, so I hope you all give her a very warm welcome. Emma, the mic is yours.

Speaker 2:

Thanks, koon. It's great to be back, and this time in the hosting seat. Through six rich conversations with a range of guests, we're exploring the role of the mind. What mindset enables people to serve as regenerative leaders for a radically better food system? What are the common threads across these conversations? Well, we're about to find out. We're looking at regeneration from the inside out.

Speaker 2:

This series is supported by our friends at Stray, who are exploring systemic investing with awe and wonder, as well as our friends at Mustard Seed Trust, who are enabling a transition to a care economy that fosters regenerative food systems. Thanks so much for tuning in. We hope the conversations crack the door open for you and invite you to explore new ways of thinking and embodiment towards a regenerative tomorrow. It's not the practices that need to change, it's the mindset. This is a quote from today's conversation that I absolutely loved. Then the next question is well, what do we need to let go of to really regenerate the mind, and what can we learn from Indigenous worldviews when it comes to being in right relationship with the natural world, particularly through food and agriculture? In this conversation, we travel through many areas, from evolving consciousness to politics, practices you can do at home and tuning into the sounds of soil and plants. Yes, you heard it right Soundtracks by plants. There's technology that can help us do it, and if you want to learn more, then just keep listening. I hope you enjoy.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the show. Today, my guest is Dr Jessica Hutchings, a real leader in Indigenous food systems. She is a Kopapa Maori researcher, author and storyteller, focusing on the environment and Indigenous studies. Jessica is also a Huaparikori, which is Maori organic grower on a small family farm in New Zealand. She's been a member of the Maori Organics Collective for the past decade and is a yoga teacher too. Jessica, I'm really looking forward to our conversation today, spending time it's my evening, it's your morning and continents. I'm in Europe and you're over there in New Zealand, so thank you so much for coming on the show.

Speaker 3:

Kia ora, emma, which is our greeting, and Māori for saying hello or being well. Thanks very much for having me on. I think it's really great that we can find these connections across the continents and the waters to be able to share stories. So thank you, me too.

Speaker 2:

It's just amazing how these invisible threads come together, because it was thanks to a mutual colleague and friend of ours who connected us, and that's thanks to the power of technology, because we've never even met in person. But it's so great and I'm so happy to have these platforms to connect across the world. So you're my last we're finishing on a high note guest of this series, which has been so great to hear these diverse perspectives. I've been starting with the same question for everyone and I'll ask you that now. So we're using this phrase of the regenerative mind. It's not the most commonly heard of these days, but for you, when you hear that phrase, regenerative mind what comes up and this can be abstract images, smells, colors, or it can be phrases that are a bit more coherent and eloquent.

Speaker 3:

Well, visually, I see rhythms and patterns and circles reoccurring, self-regenerating. And then the other thing that came up for me is this beautiful phrase that we have in our culture to describe a Māori worldview, and it was talked about by one of our elders as the interconnected, woven Māori universe. So that's the connections between the soils and the stars. So when you talk about the regenerative mind, I think, oh, that's our interconnected, woven Māori universe, that's our indigenous world that we know, that's the connection between the soils and the stars and our rollers, organic growers or indigenous growers, to make those connections between soils and stars.

Speaker 3:

So, regenerative mind, it's a beautiful, it's a beautiful fical, a thought. That's some. Sorry, I'll try not to jump in and out of our indigenous language too much, but the other thing that springs to mind, emma, to be honest, is that that term has been really colonized and co-opted in so many spaces and so, for indigenous peoples in Aotearoa in New Zealand, we often don't see ourselves in those types of frameworks like regenerative agriculture or organics, because we have other ways of describing and of communicating them.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you for that. There's a few different pieces that I want to come back to. One I just love that trace of the soil and connecting the soil and stars, because that connection to something well A like the universe well beyond that's so infinite and vast, and cosmology, which is not part of the conversation when we're in traditional realms of the regent agriculture movement and the whole regenerative movement at large. So this is part of why we're having these conversations is to expand, I suppose, the view, but also how do we build, like, the integrity of it too, so that we're not co-opting? So I welcome unpacking all these pieces and conflicts that maybe you have with the language for sure, and when you start speaking, what came to my mind was like, yeah, regent mind, this is just a phrase that we're using in these conversations.

Speaker 2:

That is language. We're trying to assert on things that we are already known. It's not something new, it's not something we're creating Like. This is from eternity, from the very beginning and origins, and, at least as I've interfaced with different indigenous people and populations, what's amazing to me is sometimes not everywhere, but sometimes I've witnessed so few words, linguistic words, being used and the language comes through more in feelings and the shapes, like you're just. I love how, initially, you just had these shapes like circles coming to mind and what those represent, and I feel like we're shifting more, moving more towards the other forms of language and communication which we have to do when we're really working with the soil. The soil's not speaking in the writing words to us. So I could go on and on and on rambling, but thank you, thank you for that You're welcome.

Speaker 3:

I think just it makes me think about sound. In our culture, sound was the. In our culture, sound was the beginning of life, and so you know the notion of sound very much tied up in regenerative agriculture, sound and vibration, other ways of coming to know. When we talk about language, it's not just a spoken word. For us as indigenous peoples, it's about connecting them with all of our divine indigenous senses so that we can make sense of things. So we talk about, you know we rest into the notion of language to try and understand and make meaning of concepts and ideas, and you know the reimagining of these new worlds that we need to move to at the end of capitalism. But I think one of the things that we need to connect with is the actual notion of sound and the resonance and the vibration that's created within sound, and so our indigenous language, like many other indigenous languages, is about vibration.

Speaker 3:

Our vowel sounds have a resonance to our atua landscapes or our divine landscapes, our godly landscapes. You know the realms of our earth, mother, and our sky father, and the deity of the wind and the deity of the soil. So even in our vowel sounds of a, e, e or u, they all hold a resonance, you know, and as a grower, they hold a resonance in the soil and the plant and the way the energy moves and in the way that we connect again soil with stars. So I think when we think about language, even starting from that premise, there's quite a Western and colonial standpoint to begin thinking from if we're talking with indigenous peoples, because actually it begins with sound.

Speaker 3:

Aioke te aorangi, you know, is the beginning of the universe for us as Māori in New Zealand, and that's all about sound. The first thing that came out of the darkness for us in our culture was that vibration and was that sound and that's really similar to many other indigenous cultures. And I think, even as a you know, as a yoga teacher and on the Indian side of my genealogy, my mum's from India, we're from Goodrat I think about the vibration and the frequency of the universal sound of all that we chant before we practice yoga, and so sound has a resonance universally across the planet and we don't necessarily need to be in our own languages and own cultures to be able to find that connection. So the notion of sound, I think, is really important.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and thank you for highlighting that. It was just a couple weeks ago. I was on a session with my meditation teacher, who is from the Vedic lineage, and someone was speaking about sound in meditation and they were starting to hear things rather than just see things, and he was saying just this that as you move into more subtle layers of awareness, sound becomes something that you're more in contact with and more aware of. And these aren't just words, necessarily, but these universal sounds that you're speaking of, and that it was the first kind of like, the first thing to enter and the first sense that we were connecting with. So then it's almost the reverse when we're coming into contact with it. So as we develop more and more awareness, as we're more aware of the things around us, the people, the energies around us, the soil underneath us, what is that vibrational frequency and that coming through as a sound that we're receiving through those senses? So that was just an interesting connection for me to make with that conversation.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely, and Emma just very quickly, because I know we've got heaps of things to talk about, which is great.

Speaker 3:

But we've been doing some work recently with the Indigenous biosensory scientist who has a device where we can put probes into the soil and connect clips onto the leaves of plants to be able to hear and to connect with the sound of our soil and our plants.

Speaker 3:

And I've only been involved in the science for probably about two or three months, but it's phenomenal when we can actually hear what the sound of our native plants sounds like or the sound of our traditional medicine plants sounds like and they sound from a healing perspective how you would imagine that they would sound. I think of some of our beautiful healing plants that are used a lot by our people have healing tones and healing qualities and they're gentle and they're gently rhythmic and they're smooth and they're up and down. You know they're smooth and they're intonation and so plants, the earth all has an energy but it all has a sound. You know the sound of what's going on in the vascular structure of plants and then in the microbes in soil. If we had the senses to be able to hear that in our everyday, I'm sure that our relationship with the planet and with the earth and with the soil would be really, really different. So biosensory science, working at the interface of indigenous knowledge, is a really exciting thing that we're involved in at the moment.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that is so cool. I didn't know that work was going on. I know that there were some just people have conversations with plants, which was a bit more novel, but this piece of the different plants. And then I was thinking, what if we could have tracks? It sounds like it's not that far away to have a, you know, a properly organic, regenerative apple versus a conventional tree. Like what would that soundtrack be? Absolutely, we'll have that on Spotify one day.

Speaker 3:

Oh, it's the end. I mean the. I mean what's really amazing working with this technology, and it's all about having a relationship with the plants as well. When you approach the plant and you put the technology, you know the little clips. They do no harm onto the leaves. You know you can really connect in with that plant. But even as you take a step forward or a step back, the vibration decreases or increases. So there's a connection between the plants and us. Of course and I think you know I'm cautious sometimes about technologies and the environmental space you know there's lots of issues with them concentration of wealth and power into the hands of a few, and patents and IP and all of these things but in this case, technology working in the interface of indigenous knowledge is able to bring us closer together with the environment. So I think if we can use technology and tools in that way to help build different ways of understanding regenerative agricultural organics, it has a lot to offer.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, totally, and that's that's a piece right. It's not this black and white thing of technologies, either good or bad, but how do we use it with the right intention and the right application to help strengthen these? This relationality that has come up in all of the conversations that I've had as part of the series is is part of as we're calling regenerative mind is constantly being aware of the systems, the webs that we are part of, and the webs that we're weaving. And what are those relationships? Not only between each node of that web, between me and everything that I touch, but then the more distant pieces of the system that I don't necessarily see or might be invisible beyond me. So I love that.

Speaker 2:

So we've already dove right in. We're just in the first few minutes of this conversation and and you mentioned your mother's side of the family and your Indian lineage and I want to ask, as we step back, what influenced you to think this way? Was this something that maybe your parents brought you up with, or was there a moment, perhaps at any point in your life, that shifted? There was a bit of like an awakening or a revelation for yourself?

Speaker 3:

I very much feel and as I get older I know this to be a truth for myself the instructions from my ancestors, the instructions from my Tupuna, which is our indigenous word for our ancestors and my ancestors on both of the sides of my Whakapapa, my genealogy, and in particular on my Indian side, were very much connected in with the movement of Gandhaji, of Gandhi's movement. My grandfather in particular went on the salt marches with Gandhaji across the plains of Gujarat when the British came in and attempted colonisation, put a tax on the salt and displaced local people from their villages in Gujarat. And my grandfather walked across the plains of Gujarat with many Indian men and women from the villages and was part of that Gandhaji movement to defy British rule. When Gandhi, out at Dandi Beach, picked up a handful of salt as a gesture to oppose British tax on salt, you know the great thing the British do like to claim a commons over something which actually are indigenous people or peasant or local communities care take for in the everyday. And so my grandfather had a very strong sense of social justice from a very, very young age and he had a very strong sense of localism, and I remember a letter that he wrote me about 25 years ago, concerned about the impacts of globalisation and concerned that it will take us off course, and reminding me that Gandhi's movement, gandhaji's movement, was all about the local and it was about the handicrafts. And you know, you look in the middle of the Indian flag and you've got the spinning wheel there, which is a reminder or a gesture back to the importance of handicrafts, of hand spinning on the loom, of the work of women, of natural, organic cottons, of natural dyes. And you know I can't leave that history behind.

Speaker 3:

And last year we were very privileged to return to India again, actually with my mother, to do some filming for an show we're producing for our indigenous broadcaster here on Māori Organics. And we were able to go and meet with Vandana Shiva up at Navdanya on her biodiversity farm in Deradunna, north India, and it was really important for me again to see, with her work, the deep connection with the work of Gandhaji. We don't need to look very far and we don't need to look back too far in time to be able to look to the leaders who express right livelihood in there every day. And so people for me like Gandhaji, people in our movement, in our indigenous movement in Aotearoa, elders that have passed away, people like Moana Jackson, people like Percy Tepini, who was the chair of our organics movement. These are people who have all had a vision, and that vision has always been at the core of its social justice looking after the environment, but, most importantly, a reminder for us as indigenous peoples, as local peoples, that colonisation might be able to take our lands. It might be able to take our language, decimate our food systems, but one of the things that we need to do and we need to ensure is that it cannot take away our ability to reimagine these new worlds that we want to create. It cannot take away our ability to imagine ourselves as indigenous peoples, and so the notion of social justice for me, and the constant reimagining of different futures and different ways of being, has always been a part of the work that I've done. So I don't know if the light ever went on. I think the light was already there, right? I think most of us are born with that light of an earth connection, and then society does such a good job in its reductionist, mechanistic, capitalistic way to kind of take that out of us. But I've been very fortunate to be born in this lifetime and these families, and to families which have held on to that connection and that aspect of social justice. So it's right at the forefront of everything that we do.

Speaker 3:

And food for us right now in New Zealand is at a crisis point and you won't hear our governments talk about this because they like to celebrate that we, you know, we feed enough. We produce enough food in our country to feed 50 million people. Most of it is exported overseas, all of it almost, and we don't even have distribution systems or localised food systems in New Zealand where we can actually feed the 5 million people in our country. So that's a social justice issue right there. And I know the perception of New Zealand from a lot of people who are overseas from the outside looking in is that there's equity, that we're doing really well, that the environments are being well looked after. I would contest all of those notions. You know we are just as much, if not scrambling at a very kind of corporate government directed way to extract every bit of natural resource from our natural environment. You know our waterways, our dairy industry with such heavy pollution.

Speaker 3:

So you know I'm reminded of social justice and I'm, especially after COVID and the food insecurity that we saw in New Zealand really aware that our food systems are broken and that the return to Indigenous wisdom, to the wisdom of Māori communities, to restore our Indigenous foodways, is so, so important. And I say that it's really important, emma, because it's about keeping intergenerational knowledge going for Indigenous communities. So we know Indigenous knowledge is passed down intergenerationally, usually through oral tradition or through practice, and that's a really important aspect of keeping our Indigenous food systems and our Indigenous foodways alive. The other thing we know about our Indigenous food systems in New Zealand is that they are at a local level, that they're place-based, that they're not about extracting the value out of our natural environment and then exporting that off in the form of foodstuffs overseas. And in some ways, you know you almost export out that externality of environmental degradation overseas as well when we do that.

Speaker 3:

So food systems, social justice, the deep love, the deep love for our environment has really has been a part of me forever. And now we live on this farm. We've been here for 20 years and I can't believe how quickly life goes, but we've been here for 20 years tending about 10 acres and returning to right relationships with the environment, and I think that's the proposition really for listeners is to think about. Well, what does this notion of right relationship with the environment mean? What does the notion of a right relationship with my food system mean? What does the notion of a right relationship with Indigenous communities who, for many of us, we are living on confiscated land of Indigenous peoples what does the notion of that right relationship mean? And Gandhiji talked about the notion of right livelihood very much throughout his journeys and throughout his teachings. So the notion of right relationships and returning that to land and to people through regenerative agriculture, I think has so much potential.

Speaker 3:

But the thing that I'm really cautioned about is the cultural borrowing, the misappropriation, the erasure of Indigenous knowledges, the privileging of scientific determinism and the outcomes of regenerative agriculture over Indigenous knowing. So we need to do regenerative in a different way from how we've engaged with Indigenous peoples before, and that's the challenge in front of us right. Right now it's like how can we build amazing relationships as allies between you know, as non-Indigenous peoples, with Indigenous peoples? And I say that because right now in our country and many of our listeners might have heard we've just had a big move to a right-wing government, which makes my heart weep, and within that move to our right-wing government we have seen an absolute outright attack on Māori and Indigenous peoples in New Zealand. An example of this is in their first hundred days in office. It's a little bit like Trump, actually. As soon as he got into office he was signing all of those executive orders.

Speaker 3:

Well, our new right-wing government, in their first hundred days of office, have said no use of Māori language in the names of government departments. They are repealing anything to do with co-governance where Indigenous peoples, their communities, might have a seat at the decision-making table. They do not want any more race-based policies. There's this kind of false notion that you know one law to rule them all and within that the trickle-down effect will ensure equality for everybody. So again, that big neoliberal lie.

Speaker 3:

So it's really hard, I suppose, right now to go from a government which was liberal and progressive we love Jacinda Ardern, we love her humanity, we love that she keeps us safe from COVID to now going to a coalition government with three men at the helm who have absolutely no regard for Indigenous peoples. And we can talk about this really intellectually, we can talk about it as an academic. We can, you know, peel back the layers of it all. And on a human level it's really painful. You know, this is who we are, this is who our children are. They're Māori, we speak our language and all of a sudden our government is saying that's not of value.

Speaker 3:

Everything you've worked for is part of the resistance movement over the last 30, 40, 50, 60 years. Even longer than that, the last two centuries we, now ancestors, were really decimated by British colonization in Ootearoa, and all of that resistance work in the small incremental hard-won gains are being erased again by what I would describe as settler colonial erasure. So this is the landscape for us in our country in which we're trying to lift regenerative agriculture and indigenous knowledge into, and it will be really interesting over the next few years how we actually how we do that, or if there's going to be a backlash from even the farming community, even the regenerative community, to buy into some of the rhetoric and the one-liners that we sing from this kind of populist form of politics that's emerged in our country, Very much following what's happened in the rest of the world, but very distressing when it happens in your own country.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, thank you for shedding light on that, because, yeah, I'm sure for many listeners it's easy to look at New Zealand as an amazing destination of these beautiful landscapes. But, peeling back the layers of what's going on, and especially in this current moment and what you highlighted, where I think I believe too, we're all born with this love and appreciation and relationship, right relationship with our surroundings and the natural world, and it's easy for that to be eroded in the society that we're in and fortunately, yours has been mostly stayed intact, and I can imagine what these circumstances, that it's hard to keep it intact, not just for you but for all the different farmers who are moving towards these right relationship practices and relationships with the land. So what I suppose, what would help, what would the antidote be? Is it really from a grassroots way, in light of this government that's in place?

Speaker 3:

Oh, absolutely. I think for myself, having worked as an activist for the last three decades the place where actually you get fueled up, where we make the greatest changes at the local level and in the food space. Food systems and food security and food sovereignty are activated at a local level. So we have to work local, we have to work within our catchments, we have to work with the farmers and the growers next door, but then we also too, as Indigenous food sovereignty activists, need to also be thinking about how we can influence policy, how we can influence national agendas. So it's a little bit of both, but for us on the land here, it's about working in close proximity to nature. What does really annoy me about the regenerative movement is that these practices derive from centuries of intergenerational, orally transmitted knowledge by Indigenous communities, and so regenerative practices and regenerative knowledges has not just dropped out of Western science Again. It's been the science community, the agricultural community, who have looked to the Indigenous wisdom of Indigenous communities and the agricultural practices to be able to do better and also, too, to be able to heal the soils from the devastation of globalised agriculture and pesticides and chemicals on the land. But we need to remember that, keeping that connection back to that source of origin or where that knowledge came from, is utterly important, and one of the things that happened during colonisation is that well, one Indigenous knowledges were relegated as naive, as primitive, as not scientific. But actually our knowledges, we know, are built up over generations of close association, of observation and interaction with the land, so they're deeply rooted in scientific practice and we need to remember and we need to recount where these practices have come from, or else we're just creating another form of agricultural colonisation, and our country in New Zealand is founded on agricultural colonisation. When colonists first came here, the first thing they did was to clear the majority of our native bush off our landscapes, and it'd probably be surprising for some listeners to hear that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of deforestation anywhere in the world in terms of our land mass, and this is what the early colonists did when they came here. So when you remove forests, you remove a food scape, you remove a food scape from Indigenous peoples and then you end up displacing Indigenous communities from those food scapes. So just you know.

Speaker 3:

Coming back to acknowledging where this information comes from and making sure that Indigenous peoples have a voice in communicating these knowledges. I was at a regenerative agricultural gathering a couple of weeks ago, just before Christmas, and there was a non-Indigenous person there who was talking about Indigenous people and our knowledges. Yes, though we were dead, I was thinking well, actually I'm standing with about 10 indigenous peoples. Maybe indigenous peoples might like to speak to this, maybe indigenous peoples could have the space to talk about our knowledges. But talking about us in the third person, as though we're not there, when we're standing right next to you, is truly insulting, and it's probably not the experience that white people have very often, but it's the experience that we have often as indigenous peoples being erased, being overlooked, being marginalized, being talked for all of those types of things.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's something, this piece of who are the voices and who are the where is the concentration of power in the decision makers in food systems, both in regions and global, and the globalized food systems, and I'd say it also goes for, at least in my experience, farmers. I used to be in my old job on the conference circuit all over the world on about food systems and food system transformation, which are agriculture, and time and time again there would be a whole panel and farming, and yet no single farmer and people started to highlight it. So I think this is a really, really important piece.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I totally agree, Emma. Just before Christmas I put a social media video out because I was getting so cross at the number of conversations happening in New Zealand around New Zealand's broken food system, New Zealand's emphasis on exporting our food products and regenerative agriculture. And Māori communities weren't involved in any of these so-called transformational conversations. Well, it's not transformational if you're only taking white communities with you. That's not transformation in the decolonized framework. So yeah, I totally agree, we need to be right at the centre, and if we're not at the centre, we're on the periphery. And if we're not at the periphery then we're unable to influence decision making, so we just power lie seat at the table. You're absolutely right. And also to the equitable sharing of resources. So a lot of our science work is under resourced, indigenous science work in the space is under resourced, and we really need equitable resourcing in the theory.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, what's coming to me is if any group is left out, then it's simply not seeing and including all aspects of the system and therefore you can't achieve system change, like it's just not true that that equation can add up. And that seems coming back to like the theme of the name of this whole series on Richard's mind. It seems like that is imperative and that takes stepping outside of what we've been conditioned, at least in Western society, to think and it's more feeding the power concentrations that exist versus how do we create more destructive, smaller scale, localised systems that can grow? Because there's two paths that need to coexist right, it's the models that aren't working today need to be wound down, and then the things that have great potential how do we grow those as quickly as we can and nourish them and flow the resources there? So those are the visuals, if you could see into my mind that I'm trying to paint a picture of yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Speaker 3:

And you know, I think, the question of what do we need to let go of? You know, what are we so certain of within our knowing that actually we could just let go of and then open up a whole lot of space to really regenerate the mind. I'll give you an example for something that happened to me just before Christmas. You know, we live on, I live up here with my extended family on our family food farm and we're Māori organic, verified, and we practice biodynamics and we work with our cultural practices and giving real reverence to our deities, our indigenous deities, when we grow food. And we own the land here in private ownership. So I'm not living on my tribal land with my tribe. We bought it in private ownership, just like anybody in New Zealand could buy land. Now we're very aware, my wife and I, that we live on the stolen, confiscated lands of another tribe, and so what does that mean for us? Well, first of all, it means that we never call ourselves.

Speaker 3:

There's a word that we have in New Zealand called a kaitiaki, and it's one of these words in our Māori language that has been co-opted time and time again by the environmental movement, by the permaculture movement, by market gardeners, by those regenerating land, all wanting to call themselves. Kaitiaki translates to mean a guardian or a caretaker. In lots of ways that's what these people are doing. But to be able to use that word, if you have a deep understanding of it, it's actually connected to being able to exercise sovereignty. So you only have kaitiaki tanga or guardianship status if you're indigenous to a specific place, to your tribal area. That's where you can exercise kaitiaki tanga or guardianship. So we never call ourselves kaitiaki up here. We just call ourselves, you know, land stewards.

Speaker 3:

Maybe we're just doing our thing, growing our food, and we always thought that when we passed away, that the land would just be passed into the rest of the family. But actually, after attending a hui a few weeks ago and really exploring or just having this idea of land stewarding land and putting the farm into a land trust so that when we pass on, the regenerative work that we've done, reforesting the farm has an opportunity to continue, and that we also to take the land out of the capitalist system, so that was a you know, I started the sharing the story when I posed that question what can you let go of? There was a big letting go of me, for me of thinking, oh, this land's going to benefit our family. You know, pass it on to my son all of the things that you would.

Speaker 3:

You know that we've been traditionally told that this is how you do inheritance or this is how you pass things on. And now we're thinking, actually as people who identify as Wahine Takatapui, as queer and indigenous, that actually we can reframe what we want to do with the land and actually maybe thinking about land stewardship and land trust is another way, and I quite like this aspect of it. You know, once you've passed on, that you are resisting capitalism, that you still have this opportunity to resist capitalist paradigms of how we encounter and come into land. So what can we let go of? And you know, in that story I'm letting go of this idea of passing the land down through family and passing it into a land trust that maybe eventually will be passed back to the indigenous people who live in this area.

Speaker 2:

It feels very apt, because listeners may not know this, but I'll share that. We're just a couple days past the new year, the start of 2024. So this feeling of letting go. I saw an Instagram post that was at least in the US. It was a very special date because it was 123123, which apparently is an extra potent time to be letting go of things and, as you're describing, letting go of perhaps an attachment to this piece of land that is under your realm at the moment. But how do we truly innovate in new models to let things flow differently? And I think, especially when it's something like a piece of land, because can we actually own it? What is that relationship in an ideal society and thriving world?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

And I think in Indigenous cultures we have such a thin veil between life and death, especially in Indigenous cultures, and so the notion of letting go also gives rise to a rebirth into something new.

Speaker 3:

So we can't create or reimagine what a regenerative mind might look like unless we're freed up in space and loosen things up a little bit to give birth to some new ideas so really important. I mean, they say, in regenerative agriculture it's not so much the practices of the farmer that need to change but it's a regenerative mindset. If you give us a farmer who's actually already down that way of thinking in terms of regenerative agriculture, they're a lot easier to work with than a farmer who hasn't quite made that turn yet mentally. So there's a lot to let go of, and I say that for our country as well, because our environment and our food and farming system is predicated on the inputs from the global food economy, and so we have a lot to let go of New Zealand in terms of doing food and farming differently, in a way which is not extractive or plays into that extractive logic of capitalism.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I mean, how can we let something new in that we want, that we're desiring, if there's no space? Yeah, it feels necessary that we have to let something go. We have to shed, like the snake shade sheds its skin, to create space. It's like trying to fill a wardrobe with new clothes every season and it's just birthday. It's not going to work. And when we're talking about true paradigm shifts, it's not as easy as go read a book and you'll start resharing farming tomorrow. It's what I've seen is true, exactly what you said it's the mindset. And so that goes on to my next question, which is do you think? Well, a, I think I know the answer to what you're going to say to this how important do you think the mindset is in evolving our current food systems?

Speaker 3:

I think it's absolutely fundamental. But I think what's probably more fundamental is to be able to connect into a state of consciousness where we can return and have a feeling of I'm going to say, a right relationship with nature, but I often talk about a sense of being with nature. So, instead of being separate from nature, we are with nature, we are nature, we're not above her. So, returning that to a sense of being in nature being and you could, you know, we could have intellectual conversation what does that mean? Being in nature being? But for me, 20 years of being on the land here, 25 years being a yoga practitioner, trying to live a life in a gentle way, that's an act of mindfulness, that's an act of conscious mindfulness. And so why we might talk about the mind.

Speaker 3:

I'm very aware that within the mind is the notion of the ego. I would come back and strip away, try and take a step away from what's going in the mind, to that state of just being with nature, of sitting, of feeling, of, you know, connecting them with our divine, indigenous senses, feeling the atua or the deity of the wind, tawhiti maatia, on our face when we're outside, and having that connection with that deity, not just the wind. But you know, in our narratives, in our indigenous narratives, tawhiti maatia played a really important role in the creation of our world. So why wouldn't I want to be outside and feel tawhiti maatia over my body and on my face? So I think, more so than mind, that sense of being, you know, of being in ourselves, of being with nature and of returning back to being in nature, being.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, going beyond even that sense of I is what I'm hearing.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, definitely.

Speaker 2:

And definitely stepping down from the pedestal that we can often find ourselves standing on, thinking we're above right try to. It's even part of the narrative of the environmental movement I find is fixing. I know I used to say that in my previous self I'm going to save.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's like no, yeah, and I mean I find this in the region space, particularly around soil conversations. My partner and I, just in 2020, had a beautiful book come out to my to my only only who are part of Korea Marty soil sovereignty and book, and in that book it's an anthology, so lots of different indigenous writers and people sharing about their relationships with Hiniah horny, which is the name of our deity for soil, and so what that book did was that it returned and made visible again our indigenous ways of connecting with soil and our indigenous ways of understanding the microbes and our indigenous ways of understanding the soil food web, and so these are really important concepts to bring into regenerative agriculture. But when you go and talk with regenerative agriculturalists about soil from our indigenous standpoint, people are very interested, but I can guarantee within five minutes, the conversation will turn to Western, will turn to within a Western scientific framework, and so we just you know, and then what happens indigenous knowledge is get marginalized. They get positioned. There becomes an absolute truth to what we see down in microscope and how the microbes are behaving, as opposed to the intuitive knowing, the intergenerational knowing, the intergenerational observational knowing that indigenous peoples have around their soil, and so I see it in the Marty organics movement, when we come together and we come together with non indigenous peoples because we've got great non indigenous allies in the Marty organic space but when we talk about soil, it drops straight back into science and I see indigenous peoples closed down because it's not the space where our narratives are held.

Speaker 3:

I love microbes and I love looking down at down a microscope and I love talking about the soil food web, but I am deeply in love with Hania horny, our deity of soil, and so I think when you talk, you know ask that question earlier around is it mindset? You know around the mindset what has to change? I think we need to fall in love again with the deities of our landscape and we need to find our own connection with them and that's more important to me than having those, I suppose, biological conversations at this point in time around soil.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, I'm with you. It's like we need to allow ourselves to drop out of our heads, especially the intellectual default hardwired networks of our brain, and drop into our body and come back to the senses I love, because I want to ask you, like even what's for listeners, what's a simple practice that if people say I'll even give myself five minutes, even if there's some fear or doubt around this, this thing Connecting with something beyond just the hard science and what? I want to come back to what you said. Like you know, if you're standing outside or sitting outside and you feel the wind, you're just noticing the wind and just appreciating that element. Connecting with the elements can be a great place to start, I think, but I would love to give you some space if you have any other ideas that you would invite listeners to potentially practice wherever they might be in the world.

Speaker 3:

Oh, beautiful, to take the naming away from things. So, yes, we can go outside and feel the wind and have that experience, but what if we didn't know the wind is the wind, and what if we didn't know the wind is Tawhiti, matia is the deity, is the atua, but actually we are a being outside in nature, in all of these elements that provides you. You know, you have to step back from your mind and for me, what's often a really good practice is just this notion of taking a step back. If you know, we close our eyes and we take a step back from the thoughts at the front of the, you know, quite close to our forehead, and just take a step back through that, through that mind space, and then reopen our eyes in nature and not ascribe a name to a tree, not ascribe the soil in name, but actually just be in nature because it's, you know, language is really powerful and it's also to a real inhibitor to how we might experience relationships. So what happens when we actually de-cloak and we pull all of the language and the cloaks away from how we think we're supposed to be in this right relationship and just come back to that point of being, and so this notion of you know, are we a human? Are we a human doing or always doing, or are we just being? You know this notion of being a human being, just to be able to be, and that's really important. Having those moments to be able to just come back to be is really, really important.

Speaker 3:

But the other thing that I think that listeners could do is to find that space to connect in, or a space in nature to go and to be not to do, just to be and to visit it on a regular basis and to look at the same things in nature on a regular basis. And this is what our indigenous ancestors did. They returned back to the environment, to similar places and rivers or lakes where they might have hunted for food or gathered or foraged, and over time, over generations, they built up their indigenous knowledge, sense, faculties, so their divine senses, and really close observational relationship with nature. And I think we're losing that. We're definitely losing that social media world so fast, no time to sit down, let alone any time to return back to the same place in nature, and reset and reset, and reset.

Speaker 3:

So there's a reason why we talk about in yoga I'm just coming back to yoga, actually into meditation. While we talk about this notion of a practice, because it is a practice, because it is something that we need to return to, because we need to keep re-layering it into every cellular part of our body and I think, when you talk about a regenerative mind, this is what we need to do we need to return to a practice as human beings, to be able to return that right relationship that we have with nature, and that's it's nature, beings, there's being a part of nature, not being on top of her, but to be a part of nature. And one way that I find is really powerful to do that is to take all of the language away and just to be A river's not a river, a tree's not a tree. We're all just beings in nature.

Speaker 2:

It's reclaiming, in a sense, that childlike innocence, when we were really young two, three or four years old and we didn't know the names of things and we just experienced it and received it. And I think it's Adam Grant who wrote a book earlier this year, I think it was, or last year now think again and it was about the power of knowing what we don't know. And I've experienced after being educated, working in the environmental movement, working in food systems and being so smart in one way, even though I've always loved nature, I didn't grow up steeped in those right relationships that you're describing, and every time I have an immersive experience in nature, especially wild nature, I am humbled at how I know nothing and everything is always changing. So it may seem silly on the surface to be like go visit that tree every day from next year around the block, and you're going to think, oh, it's the same and actually everything's constantly changing. And when we build those faculties of awareness and that relationship in a subtler and subtler way over time, in many ways these innate pieces of wisdom that I think sit deep within all of us start to reveal themselves and start to have the channels to like, rise up and meet the intellectual mind in a way that it accepts it and it doesn't get pushed away but it starts to be integrated. So I think that, well, for many of us who are working behind computers, doing our systems change, work every day, it may seem like an indulgence and an extra to go do these practices, but I think it's the opposite. I think it is the pathway.

Speaker 2:

It is the way to get the solutions that are really going to change the game, and not just keep going back to the default modes and putting a label on it and telling ourselves that this is going to be the 2050 strategy that's going to change the world. Is it at a deep level? Is it from a different set of values?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, emma, I totally agree with you. So many things in there. I feel like the older I get, the less I know. I've got a PhD, I've done postdoctoral study, I've written about six books, all of these things and it's like the older I get, the less I know, so you become less and less sure of what you thought you knew. It's almost like a form of deep schooling, really, and that's so powerful and so immense and so inspiring.

Speaker 3:

But the other thing that resonates with me and what you were saying is about vibration. It's so despairing, isn't it? What's going on in the world at the moment? My heart just weeps for what's going on in Gaza and indigenous communities around the world, the loss of land, what's happening to Mother Nature, the fact that we think we have the skills to be able to go to explore out of space and we think it's great to spend billions of dollars on that when we've got so much iniquity. There's so much to spare, and so what's the response to that? And I think, and the thing that heartens me when I'm so despairing and it is very despairing times at the moment is that the work that we have to do right in front of us right now is to lift our vibration so that we can all connect globally, universally, to lift the vibration of planet Earth, to lift the vibration of humankind. And so we started our call at all.

Speaker 3:

Our talk today, talking about sound and sound has a vibration to it, and I think that's probably where we're ending up, emma is that we can do all the work that we're doing writing books, researching systems, change work, as you say, behind the computer.

Speaker 3:

But I really believe that the real work is deeply, that deeply needs to happen, is on that individual level first, so that we can shift and lift our own vibration, and then we're able to connect and meet a higher resonance throughout the world. That gives me a bit of hope. That gives me hope when I think about Gaza, that gives me hope when I think about the state of the climate crisis. I think lift the vibration, lift the vibration and undoubtedly then we come into connection with other beings that also, too, are working towards lifting their vibration in different ways. So it's not just mind work coming back to that question that you asked me earlier about the mind but this is really where the consciousness work happens, in that lifting of the vibration, and that's the practice, I think, for ourselves that we need to start enacting every day, lifting the vibration.

Speaker 2:

And there's so much power in the collective and starting to shift that vibration of the field. And I think that's what gives me hope, in light of all the despair and how easy it could be to just get dragged down and stop, but believing, I believe, that if we're able to elevate in that way and truly shift, things can happen quite quickly in terms of what we see in the outer world, but that's a result of the inner world shift. And so if you could do this is my last question for you if you could do one thing to help decision makers and investors in Food and Ag lift their consciousness, move into the state that you're describing, what would it be?

Speaker 3:

Would it be to come and sit with us as Indigenous peoples in the nature and to be in shared vibration so that we can move hearts first and then minds will follow? So come and be with us in a heart space, in our nature and our interconnected, woven Māori universe that connects stars and soils together and we can work together to shift our hearts and move our minds and our practices. They will follow.

Speaker 2:

I love it. I'd like to join for that gathering. I'd love to join Amazing Jessica, thank you so much for spending time with me today. It's been such a pleasure. We've covered so many areas and there's so much where we could, but we'll save that for another conversation, so I'll let you get on with the rest of your day over there.

Speaker 3:

Thanks, emma, and thanks very much for reaching out to us down this part of the world. It's always so important to connect up around the work that we're doing. So kanui to mihi kia koe Greetings to you. Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Take care.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. For the show notes and links we discussed in this episode, check out our website. Check out our website at wwwregendaregarcheculturecom. If you liked this episode, why not share it with a friend or give us a rating on Apple Podcasts? That really helps. Thanks again and see you next time.

Exploring the Regenerative Mind
Exploring Regenerative Agriculture and Indigenous Wisdom
Regenerative Agriculture in New Zealand
Transforming Food Systems and Land Stewardship
Reconnecting With Nature