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Regenerative farming practices, like no-till, cover crops, and livestock integration, are catching on, and not just amongst farmers but in the world at large. Companies including Walmart, General Mills and Wrangler, to name just a few, are looking to source products and materials that were raised using regenerative farming practices.

While many studies have shown that these practices can benefit the soil, and soil tests can show whether certain indicators are improving or not, there’s not always agreement about what regenerative means nor has there been a test that can objectively show whether a given farmer’s soil is actually being regenerated. Until now, that is. 

For this episode of the No-Till Farmer podcast, brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment, we talk with Russell Hedrick and Liz Haney of Soil Regen, the consulting company behind a trio of new labels — “Regeneratively Grown,” “Regenerative Certified” and “Regenerative Verified.” Join us to hear what’s behind the new labelling and how farmers who qualify to use them can get paid premiums for the products they grow. 

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Full Transcript

Julia:

Welcome to the No-Till Farmer Podcast brought to you today by Yetter Farm Equipment. I'm Julia Gerlach, Executive Editor of No-Till Farmer. I encourage you to subscribe to this series, which is available in iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher Radio, and TuneIn radio. Subscribing will allow you to receive an alert about new episodes when they're released.

Julia:

I'd like to take a moment to thank Yetter Farm Equipment for sponsoring today's episode. Yetter Farm Equipment has been providing farmers with solutions since 1930. Today, Yetter is your answer for finding the tools and equipment you need to face today's production agriculture demands. The Yetter lineup includes a wide range of planter attachments for different planting conditions, several equipment options for fertilizer placement, and products that meet harvest time challenges. Yetter delivers a return on investment and equipment that meets your needs and maximizes inputs. Visit them at yetterco.com. That's Y-E-T-T-E-R-C-O.com.

Julia:

Regenerative farming practices, like no-till, cover crops, and livestock integration are catching on, and not just amongst farmers. Companies, including Walmart, General Mills, and Wrangler to name just a few are looking to source products and materials that were raised using regenerative farming practices.

Julia:

While many studies have shown that these practices can benefit the soil, and soil tests can show whether certain indicators are improving or not, there's not always agreement about what regenerative means, nor has there been a test that can objectively show whether a given farmer's soil is actually being regenerated, until now, that is.

Julia:

For this episode of the No-Till Farmer Podcast brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment, we talk with Russell Hedrick and Liz Haney of Soil Regen, the consultancy behind a trio of new labels, regeneratively grown, regenerative certified, and regenerative verified. Join us to hear what's behind the new labeling and how farmers who qualify to use them can get paid premiums for the products they grow.

Julia:

Thanks so much for joining me today. Wondering if you could just quick give us a little bit of an introduction of yourselves, your backgrounds, and how you came to be working together?

Russel Hedrick:

Yeah, I'll start. I'm Russell Hedrick. We farm here in North Carolina. We grow prop predominantly. We do livestock as well. We started using the Haney Test in 2013. That's how I actually got introduced to Rick Haney, and then also Liz. I went down to Texas to see the lab and how the Haney Test was ran. And it's really just became a friendship from there, working with Liz and Rick quite a bit. And then this last summer we started to look at revamping Soil Regen, so I partnered with Liz. And we're running Soil Regen together, among other businesses that we're building to help farmers with marketing more regenerative type grains, or farm products like livestock, or even stuff like honey, things that we can help farmers receive a higher value on.

Julia:

Okay, great. And Liz, what about you?

Liz Haney:

Hi, I'm Liz. I'm a first generation soil scientist. I do everything from soil nerd stuff, to marketing, to data analysis, to accounting, to farmer wrangling. I use biological intelligence, AKA BI programming in all aspects of my work. I've also been known to use that uncommon sense from time to time.

Julia:

Okay. Maybe you can just give us a little more background on Soil Regen as well. How long has that been going? And what's the focus been? And where are you going with it now?

Liz Haney:

Yeah, I started it in 2019, and then just as a small educational event planning for soil health, and then some consulting services as well. And I also do Haney Test interpretations. And I had to put it on hold for quite a while when I went to work for the corporate world.

Liz Haney:

And so did that corporate stuff for about 18 months. I did a few events during that time, but not very many. I also used the platform to still do webinars and bring information to people. But I think it was August, well this past summer, left the corporate world. And so we decided to really ramp it up and get out there and start helping people.

Julia:

Okay. When you say the corporate world, you were working for Indigo Ag, right?

Liz Haney:

Yeah.

Julia:

You mentioned starting it up in 2019. Of course, COVID hit in 2020. So how did that affect what you were working on?

Liz Haney:

Yeah, it's kind of weird. I guess somebody was looking out for me, because 2019 I had two events. And then let's see, no, I had one in 2019 and then one in February 2020. And so right after the February event, and I had already started working for Indigo, but I still had these events in my contract that I was able to pull them off.

Liz Haney:

But then we went on Spring Break, let's see, with my kids in March, and that's when they shut everything down. And so I really didn't have anything planned after that because I had already fulfilled my contract obligations with people with Soil Regen, and then was just totally focusing on Indigo Ag.

Julia:

Okay.

Liz Haney:

So pulling off events would've not been possible at that point.

Julia:

Yeah, right. We're talking here today because the two of you, in your capacity with Soil Regen, are making a big announcement about, you're introducing a process called regenerative verified and I wanted to have you guys talk about that.

Russel Hedrick:

We started looking at, one of the issues you have, you can go and talk to a hundred different farmers, every one of them is going to have a different definition of what regenerative farming means to them. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's going to mean different things to different people.

Russel Hedrick:

Where we saw a lot of confusion was on the consumer side. And if we as farmers are going to market a product, and we're going to grow it in the best capacity that we can as farmers, with consumer confusion, there's no way for market farmers to really capitalize on that market for the practices that we're adding extra to our operations.

Russel Hedrick:

And so when we started Regen Meals and Heritage Ground, one of the things we wanted to do was not only focus on farmer education, but also consumer education, and trying to come up with a way to market that within that definition. And so we started looking at, are there ways that we can be non-biased and come up with a definition that fits that arena of regenerative agriculture without putting it inside of a box?

Russel Hedrick:

We don't want to have this massive verification form, like organic goes through, to get certified, and cost the farmer a lot of money and a lot of headaches. So we wanted to look at something that was simple, but yet stood on its own. And so we started looking at regenerative verified, and we looked at regeneratively grown.

Russel Hedrick:

So regeneratively grown as for any protein based product, livestock. There are differences in production practices between row crop and animal livestock. So we tried to come up with something to at least help be different between those two, that consumers could understand. One, that farmers we're doing better practices. Two, that we're utilizing a testing method that is non-biased by a third party. And we look at both of those processes to determine if a farmer, if their soils are regenerative or not. And that's where Liz, and Rick, and Lance at Regen Ag Labs, I'll let Liz talk about that, but that's where we came up with the regenerative certified.

Liz Haney:

Yeah. So it's a two step process. And like Russell said, we really want this to be non-biased. It's not based on our panel of experts or whoever is judging whether someone is regenerative or not based on principles alone. So there's regenerative certified soil testing, and that's the first step. So a farmer can turn in a zero to six and a six to 12 inch sample, submit it to a certified lab, right now Regen Ag Lab is the only certified lab that we have, and go through a certification process.

Liz Haney:

So they run soil tests on them. And then there are a set of calculations that Rick and Lance came up with to determine if the top six inches is being managed in a regenerative manner. And they can tell this based on all sorts of different values, but it's not just a physical test, it's a biological test.

Liz Haney:

So really is determining whether you're improving the soil health and the soil biology in that top six inches, where the management is impacting that zone the most. A lot of this farmland was once the Great Plains or the High Plains. They had a really diverse, deep rooted grass mixture with all sorts of forbes. And it had animal impact from bison. And all of that went way deep down into the soil.

Liz Haney:

But we've been farming this stuff for a really long time, right?

Julia:

Yeah.

Liz Haney:

So how do we tell what the potential of a soil is to store a carbon, at this point in time, under our industrial agriculture system? And the way we do that is we have to look at the dynamic carbon in the soil. So there are functions that plants serve, there are functions that the fungal community serve, that the bacterial community serves, to cycle carbon.

Liz Haney:

Carbon is not just static. And everybody loves to just look at total soil organic matter and how that changes over time, but that doesn't tell you how you're impacting the system with your management practices. So we want to give farmers the control over their own data and their own management to know, how am I affecting this dynamic living system, which directly impacts carbon storage in the soil, and how do we measure that?

Liz Haney:

So long term, yes, we want to increase the carbon storage as deep as we possibly can, but it's really dependent upon the processes that are happening in the zero to six or six to 12 inch zone.

Julia:

Gotcha. And so you used a term that I wasn't really familiar with, dynamic carbon. And are you suggesting that is happening in that top six inches?

Liz Haney:

Yes. And it happens below that as well, but the way that the carbon cycle works, a lot of it, with the bacterial population and the fungal community, that all depends on oxygen. So the deeper you go, the less oxygen you're going to have in the soil. And those microbial processes aren't going to be as active, the lower you get.

Liz Haney:

So where the game's really played, with the way that carbon cycles in the soil is going to be in that top six inches. And depending on your soil type, it might go down deeper.

Julia:

With a quick phone call to Regen Ag Labs in Pleasanton, Nebraska, I got a few more details about the regenerative certified soil test from none other than Lance Gunderson.

Lance Gunderson:

Right now, the way the process works is we're running a zero to six inch sample and a six to 12 inch sample from the same field. And your zero to six is scored against the six to 12. So the six to 12 serves as your baseline. And that does a couple of things. So number one, yes, we know we can influence the six to 12 inch zone through regenerative practices.

Lance Gunderson:

However, the six to 12 is not going to increase in soil health metrics as quickly as the zero to six. And so what we're doing then, and we're not using the soil health score, it's around 10 independent measurements that go into this, including organic matter, water soluble carbon, organic gen, respiration. A lot of the metrics on the Haney Test, but looking to at them as individuals. And so we've built an algorithm them that basically, we had around 400 samples, well 800 because they were in pairs, right?

Julia:

Okay.

Lance Gunderson:

So 400 samples, comprising probably 18 different states across the Midwest right now, mostly the Midwest, High Plains, some from the Southeast. But we know the management history of those farms. So these are a lot of people, a lot of these samples came off farms that people know, like Jay Brown,

Lance Gunderson:

So we know the management history of these farms. And what we did is we ran the tests and collected all this data, and then built an algorithm or around that to come up with what is considered a regenerative line. And if you're above that line, your soil is deemed regenerative. And if you're below that line, it is not.

Lance Gunderson:

And we're going to use that information, so on the backwards flow of data, you say, okay, your farm is not regenerative yet. Here are the areas of focus that are holding you back. So it's these indicators that are causing you the biggest trouble. And then working with somebody like Liz and Russell, and their group, they are going to provide some of the boots on the ground type of information to help guide those producers to actually take that information, that data, and put it to practice.

Lance Gunderson:

The other side of it is that we're going to take that data, or that certification... So the laboratory is doing a certification. We're saying it's Regen Ag Lab Certified, meaning we ran it through this process, we ran the calculations. And that's just one step of Liz and Russell's verification process. But we want to take that information, and again, with producers permission, put this into third party companies that are seeking out regenerative farms.

Lance Gunderson:

So for example, Nestle, General Mills, Anheuser-Busch, Walmart, all of these companies keep saying, "Hey, we're interested in procuring regenerative products. We want this." So creating a database to say, okay, these are the growers that are coming back certified regenerative, or verified, and now you can start to source those products.

Lance Gunderson:

And there's obviously many companies out there that are trying build out this market chain supply. So we know that's happening. But the big question they keep coming up with was, well how do you define regenerative? And I always say, well how do you define human health?

Julia:

Yeah, right?

Lance Gunderson:

How many calories a day should I eat? Well, yeah, you've got a general definition, 2000 a day. But on an individual basis, the doctor's going to ask you a lot of questions, age, height, sex, weight, all that stuff, activity level. So we are defining this on an individual farm basis. So the nice thing about it is with the zero to six, six to 12, you are scored against yourself, not your neighbor, not the county, not the region.

Lance Gunderson:

So when somebody says, well it'll work there, but it won't work here. It's like, well no, it'll work here. Your management practices might be a little different. So if somebody tells me, "Well, I'm not going to integrate livestock, because we're just not set up for that. And nobody around us has live stock." That's okay. Dave Brant did that and he never integrated livestock, but he's still regenerative by that definition.

Lance Gunderson:

So we're leaving that part open ended. And I think for the verification process, is that you just have to follow at least one of the soil health principles.

Lance Gunderson:

So you can choose to be a hundred percent no-till, and say, okay, that's one of the soil principles. But if we test your soil and your corn bean oscillation on 30 year no-till does not score regenerative, and I will tell you most of them won't, then you're not getting the verification, because you're not truly regenerative in that sense.

Lance Gunderson:

And so that's kind of the big scope. We're not changing the Haney Test. We're not adding new measurements to it. We're not changing any of that. These are just additional calculations that should you request to have a Regen verification on your farm, the only thing you're required to do as a producer is submit a zero to six and a six to 12.

Julia:

Now let's get back to Russell and Liz to find out what happens after the soil test results come back.

Julia:

Let's talk more about the process.

Russel Hedrick:

So the farmer will pull their two tests and send them in. And then if they pass the laboratory tests, then at that point they would be considered Regenerative Certified.

Julia:

Certified, okay.

Russel Hedrick:

Yeah. And that's the name of the test, it's a Regen Certified test. And what Rick and Lance were able to do is they established a benchmark, that over utilizing their process, the benchmark was set that you had to receive a certain score between those two tests, and the ground had to be performing in a regenerative fashion to a certain benchmark. And then if it's above that benchmark, then they'll give the certification. If it's not above that benchmark, then you don't get the certified, which means there's no reason to really go through the second process.

Russel Hedrick:

So we're trying to eliminate farmers doing more work than necessary. Like if we would've reversed this role, we would've done a lot of verifications before we did the testing. And then if you fail the test, then at that point, the process stops. So we decided to do the testing first. And then if they pass the testing and get certified, then we move on to the verification. And the only thing we're doing is we're verifying regenerative practices, mob grazing, cover crops, reduced tillage or no-till.

Russel Hedrick:

And we're looking at the key principles, the soil health principles, and how they relate to regenerative practices. And we're verifying that farmers are doing these practices. And we're doing the testing in between the verification of practices. And there's a lot of different ways that we can do that verification. We can use satellite imagery. There's companies that we've talked with to do satellite imagery, drone footage, if we want to do drone imagery. We can do field visits.

Russel Hedrick:

We're not trying to do a carbon program where there's massive amounts of paperwork. But if a farmer has receipts for their cover crop seed, or if they reported where they planted their cover crops, there's a lot of different ways that are easy for us to verify that they're using these regenerative practices, that don't cost a lot of money.

Julia:

And they don't need to necessarily be part of any particular program. The Fieldworks comes to mind, or they don't have to have a special app or anything that they're downloading. You're kind of taking their records as they have them?

Russel Hedrick:

Yeah, we're essentially taking their records, or the imagery side of it, or even a field visit, and making this as easy and as streamlined as we can, so that we have proof of the verification, we have proof of the test and the certification. And if they pass both of those, then they would be considered regenerative verified.

Russel Hedrick:

At that point, we've essentially made a printout that farmers can then use on the consumer education side that we talked about in the beginning, to say, this is the practices that we're using. This is the process that we went through. We verified our regenerative practices. We went through the regenerative certification test with Regen Ag Labs. And this is our label that we're using on our products now.

Russel Hedrick:

And it's something that gives them the power to have something that we think the consumer will be able to relate to, and understand how their food's being grown a little bit better than having so many different definitions of what these practices mean.

Julia:

Okay. And I'd like to just back up a little bit, go back to the soil testing for a second. So the soil test is, they just need to do one soil test for their entire farm, or is there a certain amount of acreage that they're testing. And then what also is the cost for the farmer for that testing?

Russel Hedrick:

So we're doing this in field management. So it's not a farmer goes and pulls a 50 acre sample on just one single farm and they may have 50 different farms. We're certifying the grain or the livestock that are being produced on that particular field. So say it's a 50 acre field, and the farmer pulls these two samples and sends them into the lab, on that 50 acres, the farmer would pay $50 for each test, and their cost there would be a hundred dollars for that 50 acres.

Russel Hedrick:

And then the verification forms will vary. Like I said, if we used drawn imagery, or satellite imagery, or if we did a field visit, there's going to be a different cost for that. But as of right now, we believe it's going to be somewhere around about $4 an acres. So it would cost the farmer about $200 to work in that specific 50 acres.

Julia:

So something you said made me wonder, also, are you testing the actual grain, or the meat, or the products, or whatever it is that is coming off of the fields at any point?

Russel Hedrick:

Julia, one of the problems that we see in, just let's talk about grain testing, do we know that grain grown on regenerative farms that are using regenerative practices, do we see that they're more nutrient dense? Yes. The problem is, nobody has a standard right now of even what nutrients are we going to test for. Is it vitamin C? Is it vitamin D? Are we testing for beta-carotenes?

Russel Hedrick:

It goes back to this regenerative process, one farmer may say that they have a higher nutrient density in their grain. And another farmer says the same thing, and it can be two different sets of nutrients. And one of them may have consumer health implications and one of them may not. So it's taking us a little bit of time to further develop the process on how we would test meat, how we would test grain, and even what we would test for to show the consumer why it has better health implications, versus making a blanket statement saying it's more nutrient dense.

Russel Hedrick:

There's a lot of moving parts to it, but we've tried to simplify and streamline it the best we can for farmers not to have a headache in this process and for people to really have a general understanding of what we're doing. And I'm glad we've got the Haneys and Lance that are able to actually put a lot of this scientific stuff together for our producers to use.

Julia:

We'll get back to Russell Hedrick and Liz Haney in a moment. But I want to take time once again to thank our sponsor, Yetter Farm Equipment for supporting today's episode. Yetter Farm Equipment has been providing farmers with solutions since 1930. Today, Yetter is your answer for finding the tools and equipment you need to face today's production agriculture demands.

Julia:

The Yetter lineup includes a wide range of planter attachments for different planting conditions, several equipment options for fertilizer placement, and products that meet harvest time challenges. Yetter delivers a return on investment and equipment that meets your needs and maximizes inputs. Visit them at yetterco.com. That's Y-E-T-T-E-R-C-O.com.

Julia:

Here are Russell Hedrick and Liz Haney one more time.

Julia:

So can you just talk me through an example of a process for a farmer? How long it took for the farmer to do what they needed to do, how long it took for the testing, and what sort of results did the farmer see? Was it what they expected? Were there any surprises along the way? Can you give an example of that?

Russel Hedrick:

So we had a farmer in Kansas that wanted to go through the verification process. And to give a timeline, day one, the farmer pulled their two different soil samples, the zero to six and the six to 12. After contacting us and saying they wanted to start it, so we said, first thing start with the test. Once you send your test off, contact us and we'll start the process.

Russel Hedrick:

The farmer pulled their samples, sent them to Regen Ag Labs. During the time that the samples were going to the lab and they were being tested at the lab, it was basic conversations with the farmer. What regenerative practices are you doing? Do you have evidence of them, seed tags, cover cropper seeds? Did you do variable rate fertilizer for reduction in nitrogen fertilizers? Just different practices, did they integrate livestock and have livestock on that ground? Did they do mob grazing if they did? Or rotational grazing?

Russel Hedrick:

And while the test was being ran, we can simply get their information. They got their certification from Regen Ag Labs, that they were regenerative certified by the standards of the test. And then we actually went and finished out the verification process with the farmer, with getting their information and their side of the equation in step two.

Russel Hedrick:

I would say, what Liz, beginning to end maybe five days total? And it's not a lot of time in those five days, but just from the time they pulled the sample, sent them to the lab, got their tests back. And maybe a couple hours on the phone with us, and emailing back and forth, we were able to verify their information and get all their stuff entered into the system, to where it's not a very long process or something that's of a huge time constraint to farmers.

Julia:

Well, that's pretty cool. So I'm curious then with the results of that particular farmer. I'm assuming that the tests came back, yes, it was regenerative and they're able to start using that label. What is the benefit to this farmer then to be able to start using that label?

Russel Hedrick:

So the particular benefit to that farmer is they had a barley that was intended for malting quality. And they had already been given a price on what they would be paid for their malt, or their barley for malt. After going through the verification process and being regenerative verified, that farmer was able to say, look, I went through these steps as a farmer. I can say that my ground is regenerative.

Russel Hedrick:

They were able to work with the malt house and say, this is the process I used, this is the verification I received. And that farmer ultimately got about 30% more for their crop than what they were going to previously.

Russel Hedrick:

And 30% is a pretty large deal. Even 10 or 15%, and it's going to vary depending on what the crop is, but for that particular farmer we're talking about, it was a 30% increase in price. And that's easy to do when it's not a lot of money and paperwork involved to really go through this process.

Russel Hedrick:

Like I said, we've tried to streamline it. And for them to receive that made a fairly large deal for them on their operation.

Julia:

Yeah. So you guys are obviously working with a lot of buyers of products and stuff. How widely understood is this concept, people who are buying the products?

Russel Hedrick:

As climate change, and these carbon markets, and some of that stuff is now starting to become the normal that you're seeing in either magazines or publications, I think they're becoming more educated on it. And they understand the markets, but they don't understand how we as farmers influence that.

Russel Hedrick:

And I think having this testing and this process really gives them a way to see that this is the practices that a farmer did, and these are the outcomes and how the soil was affected and how the climate was affected. And it really starts to tie the two together, that it makes it understandable for people outside of agriculture.

Liz Haney:

Yeah, one of the things I find interesting is that most people understand water quality issues, especially if they're in states where they have huge problems. So once we make the connection between the farming practices and the improvements on water quality, and not just soil health, they can connect the dots and they get the whole picture. And like Russell said, there are, with the climate change issues now, and especially being in politics so much now, people are really starting to pay attention. They're understanding the sustainable practices more.

Julia:

I know that all of this labeling is pretty much just getting started, but I'm kind of curious, you mentioned barley, malting barley. What other types of crops or end products have you been working with so far? Where will we be seeing these labels?

Russel Hedrick:

So we've been doing verification since last summer.

Julia:

Okay.

Russel Hedrick:

And it could be on a corn crop that is meant to be ground up into grits and corn meal, small grain that could be ground up into flour. Honey. We've got people that make homemade tallow and soaps that are using it on that as well. Beef production, anything livestock.

Russel Hedrick:

Like I said, we've got the one process for doing grain types or farm products, and then one for protein products. So regeneratively grown would be the labeling on protein products if they pass the regenerative verification. So anything from hamburger and steaks, to pork, chicken, poultry lamb.

Russel Hedrick:

We're trying to give, even the livestock industry, to have a way to really put a way for their consumers to understand this as well, not just grains.

Julia:

Have there been any surprises, like you are testing soil from a farm that you know they're doing all these great practices, but then the test comes back and says it's not regenerative?

Russel Hedrick:

Absolutely.

Julia:

Okay.

Russel Hedrick:

On mine.

Julia:

On yours.

Russel Hedrick:

On min, Julia. We had a farm that we thought that we had done really well with. I will say this, when we bought this farm it was very degraded, heavy, heavy amounts of tillage, and some specialty crops that were grown on it. So we knew we were kind of starting out at ground zero.

Russel Hedrick:

But I really thought by now that on our operation that we had got that ground and it would be regenerative. And when we tested it, we were right below the benchmark. And we weren't very far below it, but we were still below it. So we actually did not get the Regen Certified or Regen Verification on that operation on that specific farm.

Russel Hedrick:

But yeah, for me to have a farm that failed, I guess to me, validated it, saying that even though I'm doing these practices, even though I'm getting it in the right direction, it didn't fail by much, but the test still showed that it failed.

Julia:

Yeah. That's so interesting.

Russel Hedrick:

Well it hurt my pride a little bit, to think that we still have farms that still need work. And that just means that I'm going to push that ground a little bit harder than maybe some of the other ones this coming season and see if we can still push it in the right direction.

Julia:

And then you mentioned honey, and I'm just really curious, how are you looking at regenerative practices regarding honey?

Russel Hedrick:

We're really looking at where are the bees being located? Is it in something like an annual strip around crop fields, where they're doing say a regenerative type grain, where they're doing regenerative certification for crops? But they may put pollinator strips in and be able to use pollinator strips inside of crop ground, even inside of livestock management. Just different ways for them to look at it than just say a commercial honey outfit that's feeding sugar water to bees.

Julia:

Oh, okay. Gotcha. So I guess before I turn it back over to you for any final thoughts, you had mentioned Regen Mills and Heritage Ground. And of course, I know what that is, and some people who are listening might know what that is. But do you mind just giving us a quick mention of what those two things are, Regen Mills and Heritage Ground?

Russel Hedrick:

Yeah, absolutely. Regen Mills is a mobile mill that we've built that can grind grits, corn meal, corn flour. We can grind small grain for flours, even do gluten frees with buckwheats, millets. And our mill can travel to your farm.

Russel Hedrick:

We run on single face power, so as long as you've got a power source we can reach within 200 feet, we can help producers grind their grains for them to be able to market and actually see a higher income than say going into of the standard commodity elevator.

Russel Hedrick:

And Heritage Ground is a community effort between 15, 20 farmers right now that we all decided to work together and build one brand that consumers could recognize that regenerative farmers are making products now, consumer products, where we're doing grits, corn meal, flour. We're making products ready to use, like pancake mixes, cookie and cake mixes, different packages that they can simply add water and be able to make food out of.

Russel Hedrick:

We've essentially built an e-commerce site that farmers that join Heritage Ground can then have a place to market. Our website is heritageground.com. It is up and running. It's still under maintenance. We're still getting everything prettied up, is the best way I know how to say it. But it's definitely, people are able to contact us and see what farmers have. And as that continues to grow and our e-commerce is up and running, it's going to be a good way for farmers to see a higher net return.

Julia:

Okay. Well and then one other thing, I'm finally at the National No-Till Conference in Louisville. I got to taste your special bourbon that you're making. And it's got Regenerative Verified label, I believe. Can you talk about your bourbon?

Russel Hedrick:

Yeah. So we are starting up a farmer owned and lead distillery. The new distillery is going to be called Farmer's Reserve Distillery. Anybody in production ag, or anyone that supports production ag, whether it be awesome people at a National No-Till Magazine, all the way to extension workers, or people that way work at a co-op that help with production, we are opening it up to them to invest in the company if they want to, or simply they can buy bourbon and support farmers.

Russel Hedrick:

And I would say one of our most popular ones, the one that you had in Louisville was called the Bourbon of Legends. And when Rick retired from USDA back in June of last year, we decided to make a label in a new flavor for a retirement present for Rick. And we always called Rick, The Legend.

Russel Hedrick:

And that's how we came up with the Bourbon of Legends. And that was kind of like our farmer tribute to him, that we appreciated the hard work that the Haneys have done for us as farmers to be more profitable. So our website is currently being built, and we're hoping to be distilling in North Carolina, Iowa, and potentially even in Texas.

Russel Hedrick:

And we're looking to do a full release, hopefully sometime between summer to fall of this year. And I think it's going to be fun. I think we've got several different bourbons, and whiskeys, and vodkas, and moon shines that are made from really good products that are grown from farmers here in the US.

Julia:

Very nice. And I have to add that I did really like the tagline on there, the bacon of bourbon. That was very cute.

Russel Hedrick:

Yeah, Liz came up with that. There's been so many people that say they don't like bourbon or don't drink bourbon. And when they try it, they typically ask for another pour.

Julia:

It was quite tasty I will say, and I'm not really a bourbon drinker, despite what Lauren Steinwagon says.

Liz Haney:

I was not either, that's where that came from. It's the gateway bourbon.

Julia:

Yeah. There you go. Well this has been great, you guys. Anything else you wanted to add?

Russel Hedrick:

I would just say, if people want to learn more about the process, they can come to our website at agsoilregen.com and we've got our information up there, just brief information. Or if anybody wants more detailed information, they can get ahold of me or Liz and we'd be glad to work with producers and try to push this as forward as we can.

Julia:

Thanks to Russell Hedrick, Liz Haney, and Lance Gunderson for this explanation of the regeneratively grown, regenerative certified, and regenerative verified labels.

Julia:

To listen to more podcasts about no-till topics and strategies, please visit notillfarmer.com/podcasts. Once again, we'd like to thank our sponsor, Yetter Farm Equipment for helping to make this No-Till Podcast series possible.

Julia:

If you have any feedback on today's episode, please feel free to email me at jgerlach@lessitermedia.com or call me at (262)777-2404. If you haven't done so already, you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Podcasts to get an alert as soon as future episodes are released. You can also keep up on the latest no-till farming news by registering online for our No-Till insider daily and weekly email updates and Dryland No-Tiller e-newsletter. And be sure to follow us on Twitter at No-Till Farmer with farmer spelled F-A-R-M-R and our No-Till Farmer Facebook page.

Julia:

For our entire staff here at No-Till Farmer, I'm Julia Gerlach. Thanks for tuning in.