Dirt Rich: A Chat with Gabe Brown
On the latest episode of Dirt Rich, Gabe Brown shares his ranch story and his 25+ years of learning about regenerative agriculture practices with host Jared Luhman.
Before “soil health” concepts entered the mainstream, a few hail storms in the ‘90s, financial challenges, connections made with soil experts, and some serendipity prodded Gabe to try things that were rather unconventional in commercial ag; he stopped tilling, he started planting some cover crops, he grazed, and he ran side-by-side trials with and without chemical nutrient inputs. He’d never seen earthworms in the soil there before, but soon they were appearing. He noticed soil aggregate and improvements in water infiltration–which, by the way, has increased from a half inch per hour to 30 inches per hour.
And it’s been worth it: healthy soil has made Brown’s Ranch both more resilient and more profitable than it used to be. For example, 2020 was the second driest year on record for Bismarck, yet it didn’t dent ranch operations. But he didn’t do it alone, Gabe is blunt about the valuable role of connecting with and learning from others in his own success: “Gabe Brown’s not very smart, but I know a lot of smart people.”
Throughout their conversation, Gabe and Jared discuss how building healthy soils and stacking enterprises can boost farm profitability, and challenge the “feed the world mentality” as a promotion for high-yield, monocrop agriculture. Gabe also shares the ethos behind his “200-year plan” for Brown Ranch: “We don’t own the land that we farm and operate, we’re only borrowing it from our children and future generations.”
Now retired from the ranch, Gabe helps other farmers work within their farm’s individual context to implement soil health principles and benefit their triple bottom line. He co-owns Understanding Ag, a for-profit consulting company that is currently consulting on over 22 million acres across the country. An active presenter, Gabe Brown spoke at SFA’s virtual 2021 Midwest Soil Health Summit. His session recording is available on SFA’s Youtube channel.
You can listen to Dirt Rich on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Podbean, and wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also listen on the SFA website. Do you have ideas for future episodes? Comments? Drop us a line.