Ever since I’ve been in business, I’ve been lucky enough to be the focus of good press coverage. But this month I was especially pleased by a story titled, “Local Jobs, Local Wealth and a Fix for Climate Change,” that appeared on the cover of The Lane Report (“Kentucky’s Business News Source.”)
The author, Mark Green, did a fine job of describing what we are doing with our businesses, all emanating from a seventh-generation family farm near Winchester.
As I like to say, he “got it.”
Here’s Mr. Green’s summary paragraph:
[Laura Freeman’s] goal is to create jobs and wealth in rural Kentucky, build an alternative to the industrial agribusiness economic system, and remove the existential threat posed by greenhouse gases.”
Yes, that’s a tall order, but after succeeding in Clark County, where 26 of us…from Pikeville, Winchester, Trapp, Berea, Paris, Mt. Sterling … are pulling it off, our team and I plan to use the model to help grow the new food system across the state and then across the nation.
With transparency our watchword, we’ve included some of the nation’s most impoverished census tracts in the project. We are not only creating jobs, but intentionally creating wealth, and teaching others how to do this.
It’s not the first time I’ve made a business out of an idea that makes the world a healthier place. In 1985, I founded Laura’s Lean Beef, raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. As fate would have it, I’d seen an enormous feedlot, learned of standard industry practices, and suspected that feeding cattle antibiotics and implanting them with growth hormones was not a good idea.(link to that story) So I did it differently, and it worked. Now, beef and chicken raised without antibiotics or growth hormones are found in most grocery stores nationally.
For the story, Mr. Green, the magazine’s editorial director, talked to Mary Shelman, formerly the director of the agribusiness program at Harvard Business School and now a Boston-based consultant who says she’s been “following” me (in a good way). About the current project, she said, “I do think what she’s doing is a new model of farming in the future.”
This new model calls for regenerative organic agriculture on the farm, using cover crops, rotational grazing, compost, and reduced tillage. The goal is to build, and then stabilize, the soil’s organic matter, which is 58% carbon, and to keep photosynthesis going year- round.
Many people remember studying photosynthesis and understand it is a way that plants use sunlight to make food from carbon dioxide and water. In shorthand, plants “eat” carbon dioxide and use it to grow green and woody material. The trick is to use this plant material to build organic matter and humus, to keep the C02 in the soil. Few people know that well over half our nation’s agricultural soil carbon has been lost to industrial food production.
The farm is only part of the food system, however, and to make the environmental change the time demands, taking our farm on to the industrial food system doesn’t work, with its food miles and long, twisted supply chains. This is why we’ve hitched the farm to a local system, with ecommerce to reach national customers.
“To have impact, you have to have scalability,” Shelman said. Another business consultant I work with asked, “Will it scale?”
By definition, local will not scale. But the idea is scalable, and our goal is to transmit this idea as widely as possible and allow entrepreneurs to learn from us, copying us when they can. We are “open source.”
The farm is only part of the food system. To make the environmental change the climate timeline demands, tacking the farm on to the industrial food system will not work. We’ve had a hint of this during the Covid crisis, which has exposed the food system’s global food miles, twisted supply chains and externalized costs. This is why we’ve hitched the farm to a local system, with an e-commerce platform to reach national customers.
Soil sequestration is far less expensive than industrial solutions, which now cost about $600 per ton of carbon sequestered. My estimate is that farmers will do it for $45 per ton. That’s 7.5% of the cost of the industrial solution, another public good.
The Lane Report also discussed Homestead Alternatives hemp CBD, which we raise organically at Mt. Folly. Full-spectrum CBD helped me to recover from a serious horseback riding accident, and freedom from pain has given me the gumption to take this on.
Fortunately, I’m not alone. We have a great team working on this and are joined by enthusiastic and knowledgeable customers like you.