Our Turn at this Earth: John Norman – A Soil Scientist Speaks His Soul

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on HIgh Plains Public Radio.

 

This May, when I paid a visit to the North Dakota farm of the well-known Soil Health advocate, Gabe Brown, I felt particularly blessed to take part in a conversation with the insightful soil scientist, John Norman. Although he retired some time ago from university teaching and research, John had agreed to oversee a study of the soils on Gabe’s farm.

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Our Turn at this Earth: Saving the Farm to Save the World

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on HIgh Plains Public Radio.

 

“This farming has gotten so industrialized and out of hand,” Gabe Brown said. We were sitting in the shade on his North Dakota regenerative farm, watching several hundred chickens scratching in a field of mixed cover crops. They provided ready contrast to the ills Gabe was describing. Most chickens these days live in cages so small they can’t even spread their wings.

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Our Turn at this Earth: The Missing Loop

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on HIgh Plains Public Radio.

 

By lucky coincidence, my visit this May to the North Dakota farm of the remarkable soil health advocate Gabe Brown corresponded with a study being led by two other remarkable men. One of them was Abe Collins, who has spent most of his life raising cattle and sheep. He is now mapping the soils on regenerative farms such as Gabe’s,

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Our Turn at this Earth: Nature Won Them Over

“Our Turn at this Earth” airs weekly on High Plains Public Radio.

 

 

Often in our culture, when thinking about land, we think only about how much money we can make farming its soils, grazing its grasses, mining its minerals, or harvesting its trees. We think this way, understandably, because we need to make a living and secure our futures, but in that pursuit, we sometimes fail to notice what the land already gives us in its natural state.

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Our Turn at this Earth: Could Regenerative Agriculture Save the Ogallala Aquifer?

“Our Turn at this Earth” is broadcast Thursdays at 6:44 pm on HPPR.

 

 

Could regenerative agriculture save the Ogallala Aquifer? That’s the question I first asked myself some months ago when I began learning about the Soil Health movement. I’d seen a video of Ray Archuleta, the agronomist who spearheaded the movement, demonstrating how non-tilled versus conventionally farmed soils absorb water. When he placed a clump of soil from a field that had been tilled year after year into a jar of water,

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Our Turn at this Earth: A Soil Health Tour

“Our Turn at this Earth” is broadcast Thursdays at 6:44 pm on HPPR.

Gabe Brown threw a drain spade into the bed of his pickup, and invited me to hop in the passenger seat. I’d arrived at his North Dakota farm earlier that morning and was getting a crash course in the art and science of regenerative agriculture from one of its foremost practitioners.

The first field we drove to was not one of his,

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Our Turn at this Earth: “I Grow Things,” a Visit with Gabe Brown

“Our Turn at this Earth” is broadcast Thursdays at 6:44 pm on HPPR

 

I love the wide-open, top-of-the-world feeling I get whenever I’m on the Great Plains.. Last month, I was able to relish that feeling once again. After flying into Bismarck, North Dakota, I drove out to Gabe Brown’s 5,000 acre ranch and farm. Gabe showed me to a chair on the porch of a one-room cabin he’d built for meetings with visitors.

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Our Turn at this Earth: The Soil Health Movement

“Our Turn at this Earth” is broadcast Thursdays at 6:44 pm on HPPR

 

I had read something about a Montana farmer who was using sweetclover as a cover crop in his wheat. The details are long lost to me. He may have been inter-seeding the clover with the wheat, or establishing it over a season or two, then turning it under before he planted his cash crop. Whatever his method,

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Our Turn at this Earth: Dream Women

“Our Turn at this Earth” is broadcast Thursdays at 6:44 pm on HPPR

 

In the dream, a little girl stands beside a row of women. The women are dressed demurely in dark dresses such as the ones my mother’s mother wore—navy blue with tiny polka dots or dark green bordering on black. They sit erect in straight-backed chairs, their hands folded in their laps. The girl moves from one woman to the next,

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Our Turn at this Earth: Finding the Right Words

“Our Turn at this Earth” is broadcast Thursdays at 6:44 pm on HPPR,

 

It’s happened many times. There I’ll be driving innocently down a western Kansas road, and a stretch of buffalo grass will reach out and grab me, almost pulling me into the ditch. Often, I’ve had to stop the car and get out, as I did one February afternoon a few years ago. Here’s the description I wrote later that evening for my book,

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