392: Gabe Brown on Beneficial Soil Ecosystems.

Knowing the secret to building healthy soil.

Gabe is one of the pioneers of the current soil health movement which focuses on the regeneration of our resources.  Along with his wife Shelly, and son Paul, he owns and operates a diversified 5,000-acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, ND.  Their ranch focuses on farming and ranching in nature’s image.

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The Browns holistically integrate their grazing and no-till cropping systems, which include a wide variety of cash crops, multi-species cover crops along with all-natural grass finished beef and lamb. They also raise pastured laying hens, broilers and swine. This diversity and integration have regenerated the natural resources on the ranch without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. Gabe is the author of Dirt to Soil published by our friends at Chelsea Green.  

In This Podcast:

Joining farming through his wife’s family, Gabe Brown learned the standard, commercialized, industrialized way of farming. Then when disaster struck four times in a row, he reached out to the past for some inspiration. He learned the value of a healthy soil ecosystem, how it affects many of the issues we are facing today, and the best ways to rebuild the soil. Now he shares what he learned in 5 principles that work anywhere in the world. 

Listen in and learn about:

    • Getting interested in agriculture in high school
    • Married in to farming and learned the industrial type of agriculture
    • Went no-till on his own portion a couple years after buying
    • Losing all to most of his crops to hail several years in a row and being forced to buy supplies without bank help
    • Being taught monoculture is in the solution
    • Finding out how synthetic inputs are hurting the soils
    • Recording the data and quantifying the results
    • Measuring the difference in water absorption
    • Other major issues and concerns that regenerative agriculture can address
    • Five principles of healthy soil ecosystem
      1. Least amount of mechanical or chemical disturbance
      2. Armor on the soil
      3. Diversity
      4. Living root in the ground as long as possible throughout the year
      5. Animal integration
    • How he is growing topsoil on his farm
    • The first thing for any gardener or farmer to build their soil
    • A visitor’s perspective on the Brown Ranch
    • Including 1800 fruit and nut trees just in the last three years
    • Diversity in so many farming forms
    • Turning to Thomas Jefferson for solutions when faced with 4 years of crop failure and no bank support to continue

As well as:

His failure – being no-till on his farm, but still tilling his own garden

His success – overcoming the peer pressure to stay in commercialized, industrialized farming; and mostly watching his son take over with the same mindset

EPIC CALL OUT – He has a 200-year plan

His drive – I need to do the best I can to regenerate ecosystems so that future generations can be sustainable – the food we are producing has ramification on children and grandchildren and – I need to educate as many people as possible as to what drives a healthy ecosystem

His advice – a challenge to everyone who eats to use their food buying dollars as a tool to drive change

Books written by Gabe:


Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture

Gabe’s Book recommendations:  

A Soil Owner’s Manual: How to Restore and Maintain Soil Health by Jon Stika

How to reach Gabe:

Website: brownsranch.us or soilhealthconsultants.com

Email: brownranch@bektel.com

Cell: 701-527-5570


Note: You can also find these books mentioned above at one of our favorite local independent bookstores and know that you are supporting a small business.

Some of the links in our podcast show notes and blog posts are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase, we will earn a nominal commission at no cost to you. We offer links to items recommended by our podcast guests and guest writers as a service to our audience and these items are not selected because of the commission we receive from your purchases. We know the decision is yours, and whether you decide to buy something is completely up to you. 

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