Regenerative Agriculture Expert Darren Doherty on Holistic Management & Healthy Food Systems

my name is Darren Daugherty I'm from Bendigo in central Victoria about a two hours north of Melbourne I grew up on a farm old family farm there my father was killed in Vietnam when I was very young three months old and so my maternal grandfather effectively became my father on the farm and he endeavoured to teach me a lot of things about rural living and farming and whatnot and I work now I've worked for 22 years now as a regenerative agricultural consultant so I designed people's farms we work a lot with startups both with people who are existing producers who want to reboot their landscape and reboot their their farm enterprise but I also work with people who are you might call treatment as we call them in Australia tree changes people who are all homesteaders as they're often called people who had an agrarian inkling for a long time and now have the means to enact that so we help them set up and and go with it across Australia there's there is a growing interest in people practicing or regenerative agriculture that also stems from a consumer need and and the consumers you know a lot of we do farmers markets in a lot in Australia and of course that consumer – producer interface creates a conversation which which then extorts off with Sevilla mon-sol civility but starts off with sort of the small talk about the product but then it starts to get deeper oh so what do you what soil treatments are you using are you spraying are you doing this you know what are you doing how you're getting your animals processed are using nitrate you know the whole the whole food discussion starts rolling on and of course then the production questions start being asked and and you know as we say agricultural pick producers of agricultural products are in the business of supplying food fiber and now energy crops to a consumer than consumer demand and so you know if the consumer demands that there's a change in their production system or land they will change and they do and that's that's what we really see seeing you know that coalescence between the consumer and the producer is is really what's driving a lot of this yeah it's not just this sort of that we've got a growing demand for certified organic out–there's it's not just people who are certified there's a lot of other people are doing it without certification on a localised level it's really important that consumers start to take a really big interest in in what they're eating I think that that I mean as I mentioned before that's that that is what my wife and our family and we talk about all the time when we focus a lot of our own filmmaking efforts on that both in short and longer form because the consumer is king they will make the changes in agriculture because they drive demand and but it's great that that now we've got this sort of local localized marketing systems going on not as great as we'd like but that those that the conversations which drive that connection and drive that change are really starting to emerge and it even gets better when those consumers actually go out to these properties and start to not just have them the marketers the interface but actually start to have the production system as being part of their interface and they're really starting to associate the people are smart you know they can join the dots they can see if things are not necessarily working right and hopefully the producer is happy to have that sort of conversation because one of the things that agriculture is is a tough game you know you've you've got to have you've got to have some means in a very tough environment to be able to to fix up the degenerative land management practices that we've had for centuries in many places and you know so it takes a lot of effort and there's no humans adding to agricultural landscapes anymore I mean we've had no old friend of mine said the purpose of the city is to keep people out of the country and it's been really effective at that well you've got a big brain drain you've got to be you've got a big human resource drain and so you've got a lot of increasingly older people managing these increasingly fragile landscapes and that's that takes some resources to fix and so we're pretty encouraged by by that reconnection we first saw the the emergence of the savory Institute through the internet look they've they they started up in the era of the internet and internet communications and being someone who's been using the internet since 1993 I'm a pretty can user of it and so and this is my industry I mean you know you should know most of the people and if I was talking to some guys in the last couple of days and there was a lot of new names that I hadn't been aware of and I think that's really good that we're actually getting an expansion of the population it's not just the same old choir as it has been for a long time we're really suddenly getting emergence of other entrepreneurs and players who are joining in this space and doing amazing things and and I think that the savory Institute will will hopefully influence them with their unique insights particularly around managing holistically consumers can get involved in a whole range of different ways I mean starting with the way they spend their dollars and their conscious decisions about what they put in their mouth and and the air that they breathe and even down to like we say I mean if you if we're really serious about this what we do with our you know because at the moment you know you might be you might be a complete locavore and you do all of this wondrous thing but then you still don't have a clothes mineral cycle that that is a real weak link in the in this reconfiguration or the current reconfiguring if you like of the urban to rural connection what we actually need to do is have that manure which is minerals ultimately that have been extracted off a farm actually go back to those farms and so we need what we call entrepreneurial nutrient cycling engines to really drive that and you know I'd like to see people come up with some solutions there I mean I of my ideas and how it might happen so that's another that's another conversation around it they're by and large what we're you know just to start off we don't get right into the Nitty Gritty from that from the go we like to just focus on people deciding well just thinking what am I putting in my mouth today and let's trace that back you know if I knew if I knew that this did what what it does in its production system it's probably unlikely that I'd actually eat this food or eat this product I'll call it because a lot of it's not food and you know if people if people sat down and they may develop their own context a holistic context and they said you know we don't want to see the earth polluted we don't want to see this and that and then they go on and decide how they're going to eat well then they're gonna eat very very differently because they'd be they'd be appalled that what goes on and of course with that comes a form of passive boycott that starts the direct funds in a different way and and so on it goes health is something that a lot of people who are interested in holistic management are very concerned with I mean you know use to anybody unless you're healthy and you know and it's and it's sort of a lack of holism if all you want to do is produce good food but then not eat good food and some people do that and I find that difficult to to reconcile but it is it's it's generally the case that a lot of people who are interested in holistic management are also very interested in food and having a convivial and wholesome eating environment family environment all of those things are things that are very important to them and that just happens to be one of the reasons why our family are involved in the holistic management movement so a holistic management is interesting in that most people Connor Tate it with with rural management with livestock and all of that and I think that's largely the narrative that's being built by savory Institute by holistic management international a lot of other people who happen to practice it by default now that's not their fault because that's the space that's actually really important we need to regenerate our grasslands and get out you know our world going again but you know for me when I think of all the stick management I actually come back to the frameworks for holistic management which is really and that's what really attracted me it wasn't all of them because I was already doing all of the tools if you like it was the thinking and that those testing decisions and that development of the holistic context and all of those things started to create a somewhat of an Ortolan us in what is otherwise my own minds chaos and I find that really important and I and I really I really enjoy having that conversation with my thoroughly urban and dedicated urban friends to say you know how about thinking about the way you make decisions in a different way because it really doesn't matter whether you're an urban person or a rural person the way we make decisions often is appalling and and this is a this is the best framework I've come across that is truly holistic and addresses not only the social needs of people but also the ecological needs of our planet and and our financial needs that we all have and the way that we integrate our different forms of capital yes I find it quite profound


  1. I think we need Ethiopians our there, in our paddocks- changing the nappies on the cows- and putting the poos in the next paddock.

  2. Darren: public enemy #1 … PSEUDOSCIENCES SICK!

  3. So, finally, what Holistic Management actually is – remains fairly unclear. General words only.

  4. Excellent interview Darren. In additional to the closing the nutrient cycle, the return of organic waste to agriculture from urban sources also empowers the urban community to participate directly with the farmer in the food cycle and to rebuild their lost, but crucial relationship. It brings with it the social and political power to have input into the sustenance of future generations while creating many new opportunities in the management of the organic materials we currently perceive as waste. In Australia, we have a powerful piece of legislation called the Product Stewardship Act which could be used to direct all organic waste back to agriculture as a clean, source-separated compost. This can be done at less cost than disposal to landfill as an element of holistic management. More strength to your arm!

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