Nuffield Stop: Finian Makepeace

Finian Makepeace is the co-founder of the non-profit organization Kiss the Ground.  Kiss the Ground is based out of Los Angeles, California and their mission is to “inspire participation in soil regeneration.”  Finian’s background is not in agriculture but he blew me away with his knowledge of how the soil functions and how the soil health principles come together to create a healthy agroecosystem.  What impressed me the most about Kiss the Ground was how organized they are in the effort to take regenerative agriculture movement mainstream. They offer various courses to train anyone with an interest in soil regeneration.   The tools the training gives to participants go far beyond just facts about farming and soil, they include how to engage people in a way that resonates and connects.  They are engaged with farmers right up through to campaign teams of potential presidential candidates. 

Finian Makepeace preparing for the online webinar to demonstrate water infiltration.

I was able to sit in on one of their online webinars in which Finian was giving water infiltration demonstrations to about 150 participants online.  It was inspiring to know that this was happening in a trendy office space in Marina Del Rey and broadcasting to people all over the world. These are exactly the folks that we need to help get our story out.  This is not without risk as the struggles on farm can be oversimplified. At any rate, if more people have a basic understanding of how the soil and water interact and what the potential benefits are to keeping the ground covered, adding diversity, and minimizing disturbance it is a huge step in the right direction to a more resilient food system.  I am hopeful that the tides are beginning to shift as movements like this take hold, providing the good reasons that grazing ruminants are a critical part of our food production system. 

The Kiss the Ground folks are very much aware that an organic label is not necessarily the answer given the large amount of tillage currently practiced on most farms and that it is not a good idea to drop fertilizer and pesticides cold turkey as it would be a massive wreck. He suggested following the advice of his mentors Gabe Brown, Ray Archuletta, and Christine Jones and reduce input use slowly over time and invest the money saved on soil building practices such as cover crops. 

One key point that I took away from spending time with Finian were that bare, tilled soil and the negative impacts associated with have become normalized in society.  If we can change this it opens our minds up to a world of possibilities.