It is not uncommon for farmers to talk about the influence their grandparents had on their farming education and their eventual success in agriculture. I am no different. But my story comes with a unique twist. My paternal grandfather, Leander Walter Townsend Coleman, was born in 1868 but was not a farmer. Unfortunately for my farming career, the Coleman family association with farming on the family land had ended three generations before Leander’s birth. So the grandparents I am about to acknowledge are not related to me by blood.
Three years ago, in collaboration with a group of farmers and investors, my spouse and I formed an LLC called Living Lands. Together we wrote our purpose and articles of incorporation to place the highest priority on soil health. Under the astute guidance and leadership of Jim Baird, a longtime farmer in eastern Washington and a founding member of Slow Money, we purchased a 100-acre piece of farmland in the Columbia River Basin.
Today’s farmer is facing a transformation. But it is not only the farmer. Equally important is a transformation of the appetite of the American consumer. The complexity of this transition is great. And there’s also an investment side of this transition—how do we finance kinder, gentler, regenerative agriculture.
At the National Slow Money Gathering in Louisville last fall, attendees heard Douglas Gayeton cite The Lexicon of Sustainability’s motto: “Remember: Your words can change the world.” I never dreamed that the words I spoke during my six-minute presentation on the stage in Louisville could have such an effect on the world around my family and our farm.
Long time supporters of organic farming need to realize that the ground is shifting under their feet. Rapidly. Ever since the USDA (and by association the industrial food lobbyists) was given control of the word, the integrity of the “USDA Certified Organic” label has been on a predictable descent to irrelevance.