Hosted by two commercial row-crop farmers and a dairy farmer, Field Work is a podcast that provides space for frank, realistic discussions about the benefits and challenges of sustainable agriculture. Hosts Zach Johnson, Mitchell Hora, and Tara Vander Dussen (who joined the team in season four) explore the successes and challenges farmers experience as they adopt new practices, while still getting into the weeds on the difficulties.
- What Mitchell Learned in OhioInstead of talking it up at Dave Brandt’s Field Day, host Mitchell Hora listened. That resulted in big thoughts, which Mitchell shares with his co-hosts. Zach and Tara aren’t shy about chiming in with their own opinions in this lively episode. Plus: Tara says the big three words.
- Adaptive Grazing on the Bruski RanchAfter attending college in Bismarck, North Dakota, Ryan Bruski returned to his family’s ranch in Ekalaka, Montana, with big ideas. He wanted to graze cows a new way. Instead of letting cattle roam for weeks at a time, Ryan decided to move them more frequently in a regenerative agriculture practice known as “adaptive grazing.” Plus: our first live listener question!
- The Accidental RancherBrad Buchanan didn't plan on owning a cattle ranch. He was a city guy who bought land a short drive from Denver, then bought some cows as "lawnmowers." Fifteen years later, he's the proud owner of the Flying B Bar ranch, a grass-fed cattle operation. In August 2021, Mitchell Hora chatted with Brad at his ranch.
- He's All About 'Net Profit Per Acre'As a college professor, Allen Williams had a fancy degree and tenure. In 2000, he quit that job-for-life to become a farmer. But he knew he couldn’t do it the conventional way. So Allen minimized inputs and focused on “net profit per acre,” which he says is more important than yield or “net profit per head.”
- The Bristle Brothers Sure Do ExperimentMitchell and Brad Bristle have made a lot of big decisions at a young age. Their father died when they were young, then the hired man running their Michigan farm quit. So at ages 21 and 19, the Bristle Brothers took over. Now they’re in charge of 1,500 acres of wheat, corn, soybeans and alfalfa and they’re pretty much all in on regenerative agriculture. Watch on YouTube
- With Ray Archuleta, It's All About the SoilAfter a successful career at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ray Archuleta began preaching about soil health. Mitchell caught up with “Ray the Soil Guy” inside an Ohio seed shed. The pair talked about Ray’s life and the challenges of converting more farmers to regenerative agriculture.
- The Godfather of Soil HealthOn this episode, Mitchell makes a pilgrimage to Fairfield County, Ohio, to chat with farmer Dave Brandt. Known as "The Godfather of Soil Health," Brandt began experimenting with no-till and cover crops in 1971. "My goal is to show people throughout the United States how they can make more money and not spend so much to get a crop produced," Brandt says.
- Get Help When You Need It: Mental Health on the FarmFarmers are independent people. But there are some things you don’t want to do alone. Like struggle with mental health. In this episode, we talk with soybean farmer Bob Worth about his experience with depression during the 1980s farm crisis. Hosts Mitchell and Tara also discuss new efforts in agriculture to address mental health issues with Kate Downes of New York FarmNet. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
- America's First Regenerative DairyStephanie and Blake Alexandre milk 9,000 cows on 9,000 acres in northern California. Their business — Alexandre Family Farms — is the nation's first certified regenerative dairy. On this episode, Stephanie and Blake talk about A2 milk, dairy family road trips, working with Savory Institute and the Regenerative Alliance on certification, chickens, and selling their products at Whole Food stores.
- Manuel Piñuela Has a Big Goal: Regenerating Land Equal to the Size of Texas, TwiceAs CEO of Cultivo, Manuel Piñuela wants to regenerate carbon on 1% of the planet. That’s no easy task. In fact, achieving that goal would require signing up enough farm and forest acreage to cover Texas twice. On this episode, Zach and Mitchell continue trying to unpack the complex world of carbon markets and Mitchell has strong opinions.
- The Tractor Robots Have ArrivedIs it Zach’s birthday? You might think so. Because on this episode of Field Work, Joe Liefer of John Deere joins Zach and Mitchell to talk about green tractors, a thing Zach loves. Liefer is an engineer at John Deere who has been working on the company’s autonomous 8R tractor, which doesn’t require a human behind the steering wheel. Instead, it has six pairs of stereo cameras so it doesn’t bump into stuff like, you know, fence posts.
- From Dirt to Soil: The Guys Get To Know Gabe BrownGabe Brown didn’t grow up on a farm. But today he’s way into regenerative agriculture. On his farm and ranch just outside of Bismarck, North Dakota, Gabe does no-till, cover crops, and a mini-version of mob grazing. He’s also one of the founding partners of Understanding Ag and the author of “Dirt To Soil: One Farmer’s Journey Into Regenerative Agriculture.”
- An Interview with USDA's Robert BonnieRobert Bonnie grew up on a Kentucky farm. Today, he’s one of the most powerful people in agriculture, serving as a top USDA official in the Biden administration. One of the initiatives he’s working on is the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, a $1 billion program aimed at reducing the ag sector’s carbon footprint. Disclaimer: Hosts Mitchell Hora and Tara Vander Dussen have applied for funding from the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program.
- The Genius of Prairie StripsFarmers in 14 states have planted more than 14,000 acres of prairie strips to ease soil erosion. On this episode, Lisa Schulte Moore of Iowa State University explains the science behind planting native grasses and plants. “Prairie strips are oriented perpendicular to that flow of water,” she says. “It's really about slowing that water down, allowing it to infiltrate.”
- Why Kamal Bell Became a First-Generation FarmerFood deserts are places with limited access to fruits and vegetables. When the topic popped up in one of his college classes, Kamal Bell decided to do more than just talk about it. Bell started Sankofa Farms, a 12-acre farm in North Carolina. He grows kale, raises farm-fresh eggs and keeps bees there. In this episode, Bell talks about overcoming the challenges he faces as a first-generation Black farmer and why he's committed to helping young people gain valuable agriculture experience.
- The Hunger for Regenerative Ag DataLots of scientists give farmers advice. But not many of them have actually farmed. Jonathan Lundgren quit the USDA and started Blue Dasher Farms in South Dakota. In just a few years, he’s learned some things, including how difficult farming is. Lundgren is also the driving force behind Ecdysis Foundation, a research organization that aims to study regenerative farming practices on 1,000 farms.
- New Mexico Milkmaid Shines in Field Work DebutTara Vander Dussen makes her Field Work debut at Zach Johnson’s Minnesota farm. In this episode, Tara tells Zach and Mitchell about the wonders of New Mexico: sand dunes, square roads, fainting goats, and how she encourages dairy farmers to be more sustainable. She also seems genuinely surprised at the concept of rain.
- Coming Soon: Field Work Season FourBig changes are coming! Tara Vander Dussen, a New Mexico dairy farmer, will be joining Zach Johnson and Mitchell Hora as a Field Work co-host. Throughout Season 4, Zach, Mitchell and Tara will be engaging in honest and authentic conversations about the ups and the downs of sustainable agriculture. They’ll learn about prairie strips, talk to the founders of a regenerative dairy farm, visit the “Godfather of Soil Health,” and continue the conversation about agriculture’s role in curbing climate change. The new season launches April 13.
- The Episode Where the Chopper Arrives and Carbon Markets Are All Figured OutAccording to the EPA, the agriculture sector of the economy causes 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, far behind energy, transportation, and industry. But there’s a lot of interest in how to reduce ag’s carbon footprint. Regenerative practices on the farm, especially using cover crops for soil health, can reduce those emissions by sequestering carbon below ground. Yet carbon markets for ag are still kind of the Wild West. On this episode of Field Work, hosts Zach Johnson and Mitchell Hora explore the roles of finance and government in building the markets. Guests are Cristian Barcan, vice president for sustainability for Rabo Agrifinance, one of the biggest agricultural lenders in the U.S., and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. Read more: The roles of finance and government in building the markets
- Rick Haney's Uncommon SenseOne of the most important resources for farmers interested in sustainable practices is a soil test commonly known as the Haney Test. In this episode, we talk to the developer of the test, Rick Haney, a soil scientist who will retire from USDA Agricultural Research Service on June 30. Rick tells Field Work producer Annie Baxter how he came up with his legendary soil health test — and exactly how it works. We also hear from Indiana farmer Rick Clark about how he converted his 7,000-acre farm from conventional corn and soybean to no-till and diversified his crops. The Haney test played a crucial role. The two Ricks help lead a brainstorm about scaling up regenerative practices to slow climate change and help farmers be more profitable — with Iowa farmer Brian Hora (Mitchell’s dad), North Carolina farmer Russell Hedrick and Great Plains Regeneration Executive Director Jessica Gnad also joining in. Our show was recorded at Field Work co-host Mitchell Hora’s field day June 3, 2021, in Washington County, Iowa.