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Regenerative Agriculture Podcast

May 15, 2019

In this episode, John interviews David Montgomery, Professor of Geomorphology at the University of Washington. John and David discuss soil regeneration at length, pulling from David’s experience developing new topsoil in dead, stony ground and his deep dive into the science behind it.

David came to the field of regenerative agriculture from a unique position. As a geologist studying erosion, he became curious about agricultural impacts on soils.  

When David set out to write his first book, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, he imagined it would tie the subject of landscape formation over millennia to how soil erosion affected ancient civilizations. He ended up writing about the history of farming, because that's where soil erosion and degradation connects back to human societies. Spending more than a decade looking at how agriculture has influenced soil loss resulted in an epiphany that led him to see regenerative agriculture as the solution to historically degenerative agricultural problems.

In this thought-provoking interview, John and David discuss:

  • How conventional farming practices have contributed to mining the soil, and how this impacts the future of global societies.
  • David’s observations of rebuilding soil at scale and the science behind it
  • The 3 principles of successful soil regeneration:
    1. Minimal ground disturbance
    2. Keep the surface covered
    3. Grow diverse crop rotations
  • How the key to rapid restoration of soil fertility is about kick-starting the biology
  • Why David is an unrepentant optimist on the issue of reversing soil degradation, something he didn’t think would happen when he wrote the book on erosion.

John and David explore the soil-life effects of glyphosate as an antibiotic and mineral chelator, and conjecture as to it’s human health impacts. There is a fascinating glimpse of a South African farm that doubles as a cheetah rehabilitation area, that may spur new ideas on meshing agriculture with wildlife conservation. David shares about his two musical projects as well.


David is the author of two books:

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations  2007

Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life  2017.


David’s recommended reading list from the episode:

Dirt to Soil by Gabe Brown

Organic No-Till Farming by Jeff Moyer

The Third Plate by Dan Barber


The Community Impact Partner for this episode is Jerry Hatfield, director of the National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The ARS seeks partners to participate in on-farm research to further our collective knowledge about best farming practices. Please consider getting involved with this important work as a citizen-scientist, and look forward to a future podcast interview with Jerry soon!



Phone: (5l5) 294-5723


Support For This Show

This show is brought to you by AEA, helping professional growers make more money using regenerative agriculture since 2006.

If you grow on a large scale and are looking to increase crop revenue and quality, email or call 800-495-6603 extension 344 to be connected with a dedicated AEA crop consultant.


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This episode was recorded by John Kempf and David Montgomery,  and produced by Nathan Harman, Robin Kitowski, and Anna Kempf.