The Future-Proof Farm
Changing Mindsets in a Changing World
Farmers are becoming more aware than ever how to adopt the regenerative practices that the market is demanding.
Consumers are more interested than ever to know how their food was grown and to support environmentally-aware sources.
From roadside stands to global conglomerates, the entire food industry is driving a dramatic shift in operations for the headwaters of the supply chain: farms.
As a research-based farmer, international consultant, speaker and author, Steve Groff has been eyeing the trends in the industry and has transformed his own farming practices to meet the new demand.
His personal story is a stark wake-up call, fanning the flames of effective regenerative ag for farmers and consumers alike, to produce healthy, nutrient-dense food that satisfies planet-friendly practices and provides the foundations for a future-proof farm.
Link opens our store at Cedar Meadow Farm
Steve Groff with Roian Atwood, Senior Director of Sustainability, Wrangler, in Thessaloniki, Greece at the AgroTecnica Exposition. Why was Steve there with Wrangler? It's just one of the many compelling stories you'll read about in "The Future-Proof Farm; Changing Mindsets in a Changing World.
When Steve Groff introduced himself to me at a Missouri soil health conference where we were both speaking, I knew immediately that I wanted to learn more about his approach to farming responsibly in this world of rapid change. Friendly and jovial, Steve stands out in a crowd by proudly wearing a signature felted hat. He is generous with his passion and knowledge as he offers sage advice on the intersection between agriculture and the preservation of soils. And, as I have had the opportunity to get to know Steve more over the years, it is obvious that his respect for nature and the land drives his commitment as a steward.
I have long admired people with such a commitment to stewardship—John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Helen and Scott Nearing. Their words and philosophies inspire a connection with nature that lives outside ourselves and humbles the human experience. From an early age I aspired to better understand the steward’s commitment and devote myself to learning from the marvels of nature. For four summers, in between college courses, I was a canoe guide in the wilds of northern Maine, leading river trips for a week or longer into the backcountry for fellow adventurers. Combating the black flies, we would return bearded, wet, tired, and hungry and with sublime experiences and memories—like sidling up to a group of loons in full chorus under the moonlight in the middle of Grand Lake Matagamon. Later I worked with indigenous tribes in remote villages of Alaska, teaching swimming skills in a land where the water claims so many lives.
Those early days are forever etched in my heart. It was a time of deep connection to nature, but also with a yearning to share with the world what I had experienced. My next level of stewardship commitment was to bring these ineffable nature lessons into the human world. In reality, these two worlds are connected. Nature does not discriminate between the animal kingdom and human society. We cannot isolate ourselves from something that is part of us. We can make a conscious choice, as a society and species, to evolve from a force of destruction to a symbiotic collaborator with the natural world.
At Duke University, I added some credentials to my passion, graduating with a master’s in environmental management. In radical collaboration, my classmates and I sought to tackle wicked problems by exploring all possible solutions, whether from policy, economics, or governance. I developed an interest in and excitement for the private sector because I saw the speed at which ideas could come to fruition.
In the years since, I have found my place as director of sustainability for Wrangler, a brand that most everyone recognizes and that symbolizes for many the values of courage and connection to the land. This is a company where I can fulfill my stewardship commitment. With a dedication to protecting the resources of our planet, Wrangler offers “tough denim, gentle footprint, responsible action.” We strive to team with farmers worldwide who produce cotton in a way that protects and regenerates the soil. The earth provides for us in so many ways. We at Wrangler recognize our duty to give back to it.
I have a deep respect for our agricultural community. Farmers bear an awesome responsibility to feed and clothe us. They do it faithfully, year in and year out, despite a host of hardships and risks. The weather and pests can ravage their harvest. The economy and shifting markets can evaporate their profits. It’s not an easy way to make a living, but most would prefer to do nothing else. Farming is more than a business. It’s a way of life, one worth preserving – and farmers are finding that a good way to accomplish that is to take steps to preserve and restore their primary resource, the soil. Understanding soil is like understanding nature, with all of its nuances and nebulas of deep ecological interdependencies, microscopic alien creatures with Latin names; and the next frontier of regenerative agriculture is that opportunity for a symbiotic collaboration with nature.
It is my privilege to work closely with cotton producers who are dedicated to the stewardship of the land and have made strides toward farming responsibly. Their ability to adapt is critical. And that is why I am privileged to know Steve Groff, a true man of the land and a born educator. He is teaching farmers around the world how they can adapt and thrive, taking meaningful steps today to accelerate their own stewardship commitments. Steve is always welcome at my campfire. As a champion for cover crops, no-till farming, and regenerative agriculture, Steve has dedicated years to cultivating the new mindset that will future-proof our farms.
Senior Director of Sustainability