Regenerative grazing practices are all the buzz these days – but the truth is that what initiated these practices was not about climate, or sequestering carbon – it was about farmers working hard to keep their farms profitable. When Gabe Brown first got into regenerative agriculture more than 25 years ago, he wasn’t trying to solve climate change. “I was just trying to keep the banker at bay and feed my family,” Brown told CNBC. Brown grew up in North Dakota and studied to be an agriculture professor. His wife’s family had a farm. So the newlyweds moved home to help on the farm, which used conventional farming practices for the time. 27 years ago - 1995 through 1998 Brown’s farm in North Dakota faced recurrent natural disasters: Three years of hail and a year of drought. Brown needed to figure out how to make his land profitable. Also, he didn’t have money to spend on fertilizer and chemicals. “It took me on a learning path. And I really became a student of nature and of ecosystems and how to natural ecosystems function,” Brown told CNBC.
Today, Brown runs his 6,000-acre ranch near Bismarck with regenerative practices and helps run a consulting company, Understanding Ag, which consults with farmers managing 32 million acres across North America. Regenerative cattle grazing is a way of sequestering carbon dioxide, he says, a critical component of limiting global warming. Cattle who graze on the land eat plants that have absorbed carbon dioxide from the air. After grazing, the cows don’t graze the land for a long time, giving the roots a chance to grow another layer of leaves, capturing more carbon. The amount of carbon sequestered with regenerative grazing practices varies significantly, depending on how well a farmer is grazing the cattle and how diverse the plant species are in the land being grazed. The range is from between 2.5 and 7.5 metric tons of carbon per acre per year, according to Brown’s partner in Understanding Ag Allen Williams. To combat climate change we must turn to our farmers and ranchers to lead the way. And they are.