The healthier the soil…..the more likely you are to taste the uniqueness of a place…….
So, to get a sense of how a farmer turned food-maker is doing that……it’s important to start with how they define regenerative agriculture….. and how they put it into practice……….
This week's episode features an interview I did with North Dakota farmer Deanna Lozensky. In addition to regenerating her land, Deanna and her husband have launched a food company, Guardian Grains – which captures the flavor of the land she has restored……..
I also share some insights from my difficult years trying to build regenerative supply chains. Insights that will hopefully help you understand why it is so important to now buy directly from the farmers and brands that are bringing regeneratively-grown food to you.....
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Life is busy. And in a pinch, pasta is like a goto for us. And I know that it is for a lot of families. But what makes our pasta different is that we're using two ingredients. We are stone milling wheat into full nutrition flour so nothing is sifted. We have all the nutrients that are in the grain are in the stone milled flour.Sara Harper:
It's whole wheat.Deanna Lozensky:
Yes, it's a whole wheat, but a true whole wheat. So nothing is extracted, which is exciting. And what was important to me was that it was whole nutrition flour being used in the pasta and water. Those two things. I don't use egg.Sara Harper:
Well, then that really lets people taste the wheat. It's not just wine that has terroir that has this place based taste, because the minerals that go into food affect its taste. And especially in a system like yours, where there's such a focus on enhancing the soil, so there are more minerals and they are more available, and they get into the food more, then you can start to see where you can have taste differences based on the place it was grown and how it was grown, those two things together. And so then with your pasta being so pure, it's just the wheat in the water, then people will really get to start to taste the difference. Like to taste north Dakota.Deanna Lozensky:
Right. And that's the idea, right? There can be flavor, natural flavor that's actually good for you.Sara Harper:
Welcome back to our podcast, Tasting Terroir, a journey that helps you cut through the marketing claims of, quote, better for you food by understanding the link between healthy soil and the flavor and health of your food. I'm your host, Sarah Harper. That clip was from an interview I did with North Dakota farmer Deanna Lesinsky. In addition to regenerating her land, deanna and her husband have launched a food company, Guardian Grains, which captures the flavor of the land she is restoring. But it's not just better flavor that you get, it's a healthier pasta, thanks largely to the way she processes the heirloom wheat she so carefully grows. You'll learn more about that in my interview with Deanna. Coming right up. As we have discussed in previous episodes, the healthier the soil, the more likely you are to be able to taste some uniqueness from the place it was grown. To get a sense of how a farmer, and in this case, food maker, is doing that, it's important to start with how they define regenerative agriculture and how they put it into practice. Hi, Deanna. How are you?Deanna Lozensky:
Hi, Sarah. Good to see you.Sara Harper:
So let everybody know where you're farming at and what you're growing.Deanna Lozensky:
Well, my name is Deanna, and I farm in central North Dakota with my husband, Kelly. We grow a wide variety of small grains yellow peas, flax, ancient grains, hard red spring wheat, barley, oats. It's kind of a diverse mix.Sara Harper:
Yeah. So tell everybody what is your definition of regenerative agriculture?Deanna Lozensky:
It's really hard to pin down, isn't it? First, I just want to say that I think for us it has been an evolution of the constant changing of our mindset and our farming principles and the practices. And the great thing about regenerative agriculture is that it doesn't look the same for me today as it did nine years ago. Right. It's always evolving, which is a great thing. Nine years ago, it started out as being a way for us to be more resilient in our farming practices and help us kind of break free from some of the constraints of a conventional no tail system. In the process, it has really changed into our focus is always soil health, right? That has to come first for us, no matter what we're doing. So that part has not changed, but as part of the system that we're farming in has changed, is that it had to spread further than our farm. Like the regeneration couldn't stop here. It has to spread into the community, into the neighboring farms. And it really took a turn for us and changed in the fact that we started considering different ways to offer our grains to consumers, bakeries, businesses, and really help to close the loop so people have transparency on where their food was coming from and how it was grown. And it's really changed a lot. And in this past year, my husband and I started Guardian grains and that had been initially just to bring our grains to consumers. And that has evolved. And now we're offering stone milled flour and artisan pasta made with our grains. And I think that it was partly because we wanted people to have access. And if people didn't know what to do with the kernels of wheat, they certainly could be able to use flour or pasta, which are two very staple things in our pantries. Right. And so we just wanted to offer better.Sara Harper:
So it seems like too, that you're talking about process and mindset, but not a specific set of practices. There's not like five things you do and you're regenerative. Oh, yes.Deanna Lozensky:
Well, those kind of don't change for us. So the number one thing on our farm is we are in a no tail system. Right.Sara Harper:
Explain that for people that maybe don't understand tillage sure.Deanna Lozensky:
It's more of a nevertail situation. Right. So the equipment we use to feed our crop has minimal amount of disturbance. And the idea of that is to protect the microbial communities that we are relying upon to grow our grains and do it in a way that's natural and that can offer the best nutrition in the crops we're growing. So, number one is a no tail system. Number two, we absolutely don't use any synthetic or organic fertilizers that's a little bit different than some of the other regenerative grain farms. In our efforts to really focus on a natural system, we don't apply any sort of soil amendments, no seed treatments, no fungicides, no insecticides, and no preharvest escant on our crops. In a nutshell, that's pretty much how we're doing it.Sara Harper:
Yeah. And that gets into that other question of how are you? So there's a definition and then there's how are you doing it? So you're doing all of those things, but the regenerative nature of the community that you're with, and the transparency piece being part of that, bringing people back into understanding where the food comes from and how to discern the health of food. And so maybe talk a little bit more of that about that, especially as you're practicing it in putting together this company that's not only doing flour now, but pasta.Deanna Lozensky:
For a lot of years, we focused on the regeneration of the soil on our farm, and it was just a natural progression for it to expand and spread out into the community. And I think that by offering people, there wasn't really an option for you can get organic grain and you can get conventional grain, but there really was not an option for grains growing regeneratively in a natural system. And I think that was what was so important to us, was to be able to offer something that people didn't have easy access to. And that started just with a conversation between my husband and I on how we could do better to offer these our grains from the farm to consumers. And we had no intention of starting a flour and pasta company. You and I have been talking for quite a while and it wasn't there. We were just focusing on the grain. And like I said, as an evolution of the way the system has gone, it just became apparent that we needed to be offering more finished food items. So the flour came into play. And also pasta. The pasta was important to me because life is busy and in a pinch, pasta is like a goto for us. And I know that it is for a lot of families. But what makes our pasta different is that we're using two ingredients. We are stone milling wheat into full nutrition flour, so nothing is sifted. We have all the nutrients that are in the grain are in the stone milled flour.Sara Harper:
It's whole wheat.Deanna Lozensky:
Yes, it's a whole wheat, but a true whole wheat. So nothing is extracted, which is exciting and challenging, right?Sara Harper:
Yeah. And it still tastes good because it has to taste good. Of course.Deanna Lozensky:
It has to hold up. It has to have texture. And what was important to me was that it was whole nutrition flour being used in the pasta and water, those two things. I don't use egg, which a lot of pastas do. I just wanted it to be a food option for everyone, no matter what their eating practices are, whether they're vegan or vegetarian or omnivores. I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy guardian grains, pasta. So that was why the two ingredients of wheat and water were really important to me.Sara Harper:
Well, then that really lets people taste the wheat. We've talked a little bit in our group about it's not just wine that has terroir, that has this place based taste, because the minerals that go into food affect its taste. And especially in a system like yours, where there's such a focus on enhancing the soil, so there are more minerals and there are more available, and they get into the food more, then you can start to see where you can have taste differences based on the place it was grown and how it was grown, those two things together. And so then with your pasta being so pure, it's just the wheat in the water, then people will really get to start to taste the difference. Like to taste north Dakota.Deanna Lozensky:
Right. And that's the idea, right. There can be natural flavor that's actually good for you. And I think that part of the pastas have gotten kind of a bad rap. And like, people that are carb conscious and things like that will steer away from pasta, rightfully so, because all of the brand has been extracted from that type of samolina pasta, and there's no way for our bodies to recognize it. So when we consume regular blonde pasta, our bodies are like, hey, I don't know what to do with this. Let me just set this on your hip forever. And it never leaves. The brand is a really important part of the fiber, being able to move the pasta through your system and for your body to be able to absorb the nutrients. So that was the other reason that I wanted it to be whole nutrition. I didn't want anything extracted. I wanted our bodies to be able to recognize it. Because I think that's part of the gluten problem, especially in the States, is that the processing, between the growing practices and the processing, I think our bodies are rejecting it. And so the idea of using our grains with minimal processing was the best way to offer it and to a way that people can enjoy pasta and can enjoy bread again.Sara Harper:
Right. And then back to that whole system. Because one of the things that's been fascinating to me to learn about this is that fiber, and there's other pieces that often get taken out of wheat when it's turned into flour. It turns out those are needed for our gut bacteria. Like, our gut bacteria eats that as well as it being good fiber to move things along. And so when that isn't there, they aren't fed and then inflammation and all sorts of right.Deanna Lozensky:
And eventually we lose part of that gut microbiome. Right. Because we're not feeding it. We're not feeding it what it needs. I think that, like I said, I understand why there's an intolerance and why people are steering away from gluten. And it's not necessary. And I was under the impression that it was all modern wheat was a problem because that's kind of how it had been spelled out to me. And so that's why we started growing ancient grains. We grew ein corn. Spelt rouge. Desiredo is a hard red French wheat, which I absolutely love, and that is actually the wheat that I use in the pasta is the French heritage variety. So we started growing those heritage grains because I had heard that they were easier for people with gluten intolerances to be able to digest because of the lack of because they haven't been hybridized. And it turns out what's the really exciting part is that we don't just have to grow ancient grains for people to be able to enjoy it. So our modern wheat and flour are just as digestible as the ancient grains, which is such a huge piece of the puzzle, which is why it's so great to work with Jill, right. Because she's going to solve that and be like, give us the actual proof to be like, it's really not the gluten that's the problem. It's how it's grown and how it's processed. Right. And so I think that it's a really exciting time to be in regenerative agriculture. And like I said, for us, it was about transforming our farm and making it less reliant upon outside entities. Right, right. The amendments, it was a way to get freedom from that. And we've done that that and it's great. And it is a huge relief to not have to worry about the price of fertilizer when it's quadrupled and not worry about how we're going to grow a crop without it and not have to make those decisions. There's a huge amount of freedom that we experience by doing that and also listening to science talk about how synthetic fertilizers interrupt the soil microbiome and the communication between the plant and the soil for it to be a fully resilient plant. I mean, that's a huge yes.Sara Harper:
That's a crazy interesting topic, actually. Plants are talking to each other through their roots, chemicals, signals that they're sending.Deanna Lozensky:
They're actually farming the microbes, right.Sara Harper:
Calling them to themselves. Yeah.Deanna Lozensky:
That's amazing. I get to do something because it's really cool, right. Find out that plants aren't vegetarians. Right. They're actually not vegetarian, which is kind of cool. And I think that whole process and keeping that at the forefront of everything we're doing is to make sure that our microbial communities are fed through roots. And so the more plants that we can get out there, the better our ecosystem is for the microbiology in the soil and the better that is going to be to feed the plant, which also then will feed the animals and humans. Right. So, yeah, it's just becomes such an amazing journey that we've been on to see the difference and grow and evolve. And I think that's the important part of regenerative agriculture is that it's changing all the time. And some people feel like that is kind of the wild card, like, well, we really got to get a handle on what this is. But I think that's one of the great things about regenerative agriculture is that it's always changing and then it's evolving. And I think that that's how nature is. That's how nature is, that's how people are, that's how animals are. We are changing, we're evolving. And I think that's a really important part to keep in the regenerative agriculture circle. And so it's just a really fun time to be involved in the growing of food rather than growing commodities. And that has been a huge mind shift for us also.Sara Harper:
Yeah, all right, this has all been great. And now that you've had a chance to talk about it all, I'm going to have you try to just it's hard, it's very hard to boil it down to, like, one sentence and don't think you have to encompass everything ever generative agriculture in this one sentence. But it's so big that it can be hard to take it for people.Deanna Lozensky:
That don't or you can go.Sara Harper:
Right, exactly. So, Deanna, regenerative agriculture is.Deanna Lozensky:
Better food for people and animals.Sara Harper:
That's great. Oh, no, it is.Deanna Lozensky:
There's a million other things it does.Sara Harper:
But we are boiling it down to why it really matters. Why it really matters is because it offers better food for people and animals.Sara Harper:
And I think the process of getting to that outcome is that you're rejuvenating the soil and that then enables you to create a better product, right?Deanna Lozensky:
Absolutely. It all starts, my T shirt says Soil will save US, and I 100% believe that. And if we can protect it, then we have a chance to do better and offer people better. We don't need more of anything, just better. And I think that regenerative agriculture checks those boxes when we're talking about minimizing tillage, minimizing soil disturbance, minimizing your use of fertilizers and reducing all of the chemicals and things like that. I think that they all check off boxes towards better food, and I think that's really the goal. I mean, we get to repair the earth, but the result is better food.Sara Harper:
Listening to Deanna's story about making great tasting healthier pasta, you might be wondering, why is this such a rare thing? Why don't I find this option on my supermarket shelf? After a difficult three year journey to try to connect regenerative farmers like Deana and Gail Fuller and Derek Axon with mainstream food companies, I have some insights to share on that topic. I launched an online community, Grounded Growth, which was dedicated to supporting regenerative farmers as they tried to bring their food grown in healthier soil to market. This past year, granted, Growth merged into Jill Clapperton's larger global food and farm community, where we are all now working together to help both understand and apply the science behind improving soil health and to help those who are making regenerative food better able to communicate the value they bring to the public. So why revisit the past? Well, if you haven't had any experience or understanding of the supply chain that brings your food from the field to your door, it can be hard to understand the real value that people like Diana Levinsky and Gail Fuller, derek and Tennis Axton and many of the other folks in our network are providing. The following clip is from a video I made two years ago explaining why, in my view, there isn't more real regenerative food on the market and what you can do about changing that. See if you think if much has changed since then. As the founder of a network of farmers and emerging food companies working together to try to bring regenerative agriculture to market, I've lost count of how many flower mills I've reached out to in the past two years. Big mills, small mills, specialty mills, you name it. I thought they would be excited to work with our farmers and turn their regenerative crops into flour that could be used as a regenerative ingredient in many different products. But despite the many discussions, the answer always ended up being no. Why? Flower bills don't like to change what they're doing, turns out, especially for a small order that they are not guaranteed they'll be able to sell. So you see all those big food companies that have been talking to you about regenerative and educating farmers and doing a lot of marketing? Turns out they aren't doing a lot of buying and they aren't sending a signal to these mills that they would buy regenerative if it were offered to them. The result is that there is no incentive for flour, millers or processors to create this separate regenerative product, even though it could be superior to what they're already making, both in terms of potential health benefits, like more nutrients in the food, and because the way it is grown could actually help fight climate change. Two things that consumers consistently say they want. So long as big food companies refuse to actually order regenerative products, the mills that process crops into flour, into other ingredients won't take on regeneratively grown ingredients. But as I have learned, you can't really expect the conventional food system to aid in its own disruption. Because if the people willing to take it forward can't count on some help from the rest of us, and certainly the big food companies will know they were right to just talk about rejection instead of actually buying it. You've been listening to Tasting Terroir, a podcast made possible by a magical collaboration between the following companies and supporters, all working together to help farmers, chefs, food companies and consumers to build healthier soil for a healthier world. Rhizotara owned by Dr. Joe Clapperton, rhizotera is an international food security consulting company providing expert guidance for creating healthy soils that yield tasty nutrientdense foods check us email@example.com. That's Rhizoterra.com in the Global Food and Farm online community, an ad free global social network and soil health streaming service that provides information and connections that help you apply the science and practice of improving soil health. Join firstname.lastname@example.org and from listeners like you who support us through our Patreon email@example.com tastingtawar. Patrons receive access to our full length interviews and selected additional materials. Patrons will also have the opportunity to submit questions that we will answer on the podcast. Tune in next week to hear more interviews and insights with myself, Sarah Harper and Dr. Joe Clapperton, as well as the regenerative farmers, chefs and emerging food companies in the Global Food and Farm online community and beyond. If you like our work, please give us a five star rating and share the podcast with your friends. Thanks so much for listening and for helping us get the word out about this new resource to taste the health of your 50. Until next week, stay curious, keep improving, and don't stop believing that better is possible when knowledge is available.