A Blueprint for Cooling Earth

Originally posted on patagonia.com

Written by Brad Wieners

When he was 22 and away at college, Charles Massy got a fateful shock: His father had suffered a severe heart attack, and while it wasn’t immediately fatal, it was clear his dad could no longer run the family farm back home in the Monaro region of New South Wales, Australia. Within days, Massy had shelved his studies and found himself standing in a paddock amid 25 dead merino sheep.

Massy grew up on the farm but hadn’t taken much interest in how to manage it, and now he was scrambling. He figured out that an intestinal worm had killed the sheep, but only after helping to spread it on the property. This was the mid-1970s, during the pre-internet, Olivia Newton-John era, so he hit the library for whatever scientific literature he could find. He read his dad’s books. He consulted the few Department of Agriculture agents who’d give him the time. Embracing the conventional best practices of the time, he soon ran the farm into the ground. When a multi-year drought hit, he nearly lost it altogether. There must be a better way, he thought.

There was—is—and Massy has devoted the years since to becoming a leading practitioner, scholar and writer on a collection of ecological grazing and farming practices that are today commonly grouped under the umbrella of “regenerative organic agriculture”. Massy’s own progress required plenty of trial-and-error and enduring some withering skepticism, but he restored his family’s land so that it was more resilient to fluctuations in climate, and supported robust, more profitable merino sheep (for wool) and beef cattle. It continues to.

Recently, Massy, now in his late 60s, paid a visit to our Ventura headquarters to speak about his book Call of the Reed Warbler. For Massy, the trip felt a bit like a pilgrimage. He’d been an early customer of Yvon Chouinard’s climbing equipment in the 1970s; over dinner, Massy realized he’d missed Yvon and Rick Ridgeway by a single season when he arrived on Amne Machinback in 1981. For Patagonia, Massy’s visit was an opportunity to hear from an expert on what we’ve identified as one of the most promising ways to save our home planet. “Regen ag” represents a model for not only doing less harm but also doing more good—call it a blueprint for cooling the earth.

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