Inaugural Cohort of Regenerative Action Ambassadors
In March as part of our partnership with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, we launched the first cohort of Regenerative Action Ambassadors (RAA). Thanks to dedicated funding for the program, we hired a coordinator to help lay RAA’s foundations. Throughout our online meetings, ambassadors were able to engage directly with leaders in regeneration including:
- Jesse McDougall, first-generation farmer and co-owner of Studio Hill, a newly accredited Holistic Management Training Hub
- Brittany Cole Bush, founder of Shepherdess Land & Livestock, a company engaged in climate-beneficial fire prevention using goats and sheep
- Ryan Peterson, Chez Panisse alum and Associate Director of the Climate Farm School at Terra.do
- Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, CEO of Tree-Range Farms an enterprise transforming the food system through regenerative land practices, animal health, and family farmer profitability
- Spencer R. Scott & Nick Schwanz, co-founders of Solar Punk Farms, a queer-run, regenerative agro-tourism working farm in Guerneville, California
Ambassadors were also provided with networking opportunities, a platform for open discussion, and one-on-one climate coaching. Feedback from our first cohort was super positive: 100% of them would recommend the program and would like to be invited to future RAA speaker sessions. Here are a few of their reflections:
“The Regenerative Action Ambassador program has been an invaluable source of support and inspiration, empowering me to cultivate my passion for regenerative living and agroecology.”
“Soil Centric's RAA program was a great space to connect with people passionate about regeneration! Thank you for creating somewhere special for people to come to share experiences and discuss ideas and learn from really awesome people doing meaningful work.”
“I appreciate the knowledge you have shared as well as your hopeful energy and enthusiasm for what the future could look like.”
“Being the first cohort of RAA was fun and exciting. I always looked forward to receiving the email that let us know what our agenda topics would be and who the next badass guest speaker would be. At the start of the program, I felt like I had a good grasp of “who’s who” in the regenerative arena but each and every guest speaker added to my knowledge. Not to mention adding to my connections!! This is an invaluable aspect of the program. I also appreciated having the opportunity for a free mentoring session. I got to brainstorm with a person I’d been wanting to meet for quite some time, and as a writer, her notes were creative and motivating. For anyone interested in trying to figure out what their role in the regen ag movement might be, RAA is a good place to start. Connections, resource guides, supportive cohort, and engaged Soil Centric staff is what you can expect. And as with most things in life, you get out of it, what you put in.”
Throughout our time together, our six ambassadors explored their paths and deepened their commitment to regeneration. Here’s how their regenerative journeys have unfolded over the past year:
- Megan has become a monitor for the Savory Institute’s Ecological Outcome Verification and has signed up to be the first person representing the environment on her city council
- Abby worked the wine grape harvest in the Napa Valley
- Haley learned the reality of what farming entails and is exploring ways to help advance regeneration outside of farm work
- Gianna volunteered weekly at Alemany Urban Farm and learned all aspects of the operation
- Jenny was awarded a Healthy Soils grant from the state of New Mexico for her farm
- Ben is back at Alma Verde in Chile where he’s building a free permaculture school
Now that the RAA program is established, we will gradually expand the number of participants and are excited to keep building community through this program in 2024.
Soil Centric’s Intergenerational Fund (IGF) was founded to honor Diana’s late mother, Suzanne Saunders Donlon, who dedicated herself to creating bonds across generations. The IGF is designed to help remove barriers to access for newcomers to regeneration eager to learn practical land-based skills. The 2023 round of funds provided direct support to the first intensive “Shepherd’s Bootcamp” this past October in Ojai, California. Shepherdess Land & Livestock used the IGF funds to help defray costs for four participants. Shepherd’s Bootcamp meets all of our criteria for the IGF: It is being run by trusted colleagues. By working with sheep and goats, Bootcamp attendees gain highly sought-after, practical skills that are critical to protecting environments from catastrophic wildfires, sequestering carbon, and enhancing biodiversity.
We provide a counter-narrative to the paralysis engendered by climate-doomerism. We commission interviews with both established and emerging regenerative leaders, whose stories are full of applied hope and action! This year’s round-up included Judy Schwartz’s special interviews with Leah Penniman, Spencer R. Scott, and Nick Schwanz; a first-person account from the Cohens, a family farming regeneratively in the Catskills; and our regular summer book recommendations. (Note, it is important to us to pay speakers for their time and writers for their posts. Part of your support enables this). We also welcomed two new stellar advisors to our board: Brittany Cole Bush and Malika Vaz, Co-founder and CEO of Untamed Planet and host/director/producer of National Geographic Explorer.
Behind the Scenes of the Pathfinder App
Our curated database of over 500 regenerative organizations, opportunities, and resources powering the Pathfinder App sets Soil Centric apart. By highlighting the incredible breadth of this emerging movement, we are helping to grow and spread talent much like a mycelial network. At the end of last year, we set a goal to double our app users, we’re excited to report that we quadrupled it to 4,000 in 2023. We’re not stopping there! To enhance our small team’s capabilities we kicked off a project to create an automation tool with a talented developer to help us tackle the tedious process of frequently verifying the status of each opportunity. Going forward this new tool will save us thousands of dollars and a ton of time!
2022 UpdateRegenerative Storytelling
Our Regenerative Action blog is brimming with new voices. Your support allows us to amplify the stories of real people on their regenerative path. These stories illuminate the diversity of pathways into regenerative work, and your support allows us to compensate our writers fairly. Since most of our articles are cross-posted by our partners over multiple platforms, each story drives hundreds of people to the Soil Centric site. Some of our favorite 2022 pieces include “Grazing for Good” by modern-day shepherdess Brittany Cole Bush; Judy Schwartz’s Q & A with Houston-Based regenerative artist Cindee Klement; and “My Week at Climate Farm School” by aspiring regenerator turned Soil Centric team member Caroline Santinelli.
Our short monthly newsletter is another way we regularly engage with our growing community of users. As mentioned in our October letter, our engagement is consistently double the standard nonprofit open rate of 25.17%. What we didn’t say publicly is that our regular readers represent the “Who’s Who” of the Regeneration, Climate and Food movements – best selling authors, esteemed soil scientists, and global policy leaders.
In November we were finally able to meet once again in person with Bay Area friends at the Patagonia store in San Francisco for an author event with Kristin Ohlson. Kristin, a founding member of Soil Centric’s Advisory Board, was in conversation with Diana about Kristin’s wonderful new book: Sweet in Tooth and Claw - Stories of Generosity and Cooperation in the Natural World (Patagonia Press, 2022). We stunned the store with our turnout. By the time we began, it was standing room only, as 50+ people across three-generations settled in to listen and learn. The evening included lively conversation about reciprocity, a raffle, refreshments and a book signing. Soil Centric was Patagonia’s featured non-profit for the event, and we are looking forward to future collaborations with this regeneratively-oriented company!
On World Soil Day (December 5th) we co-hosted a Climate & Food Systems salon for women. Together these bright female leaders discussed the connection between industrial food systems and the climate crisis with Robyn O’Brien, a Managing Director at rePlant Capital. Robyn outlined opportunities to redirect financial capital to scale climate solutions on farms, and Diana complemented Robyn’s talk by outlining paths for people to engage directly with regeneration.
Measuring Our Reach
In 2022 we added over 250 fresh opportunities to Soil Centric’s pioneering Pathfinder App. These opportunities range from practical courses to regenerative travel to on-farm apprenticeships that engage users in real regenerative work. We reached a milestone of 10,000 site & App visitors, a 35% increase from 2021. Soil Centric community members reached out weekly about how our resources are preparing them for job interviews, exposing them to opportunities they never knew existed, and generally deepening understanding of how we can work together to heal the Earth.
We’re also excited to include our own offerings in the Pathfinder App next year! With your continued support, we will be launching the first cohort of our Regenerative Action Ambassador program in February 2023 to spread the word about opportunities to heal the Earth.
Your support allows Soil Centric to be a leading digital resource for folks pursuing education and careers in the regenerative movement!
In February of 2022, the United Nations invited Soil Centric to become an Actor for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. As an Actor, Soil Centric helps amplify the UN Decade to ‘prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.’ We are honored by this global recognition, and look forward to continuing our impact on the global stage.
In our first international appearance, the DO Lectures invited Soil Centric’s Executive Director Diana to speak in Cardigan, Wales. (You’ll find a link to her talk, "An Invitation from Mother Earth" here.) The DO Lectures motto can be boiled down to “Don't just stand there, DO something.” With thousands of visitors to their website, they promote ideas that inspire change and promote new systems of thinking. We were reaching well beyond the proverbial choir and helping people understand the global potential of regeneration! The DO Lectures also led to our first climate coaching clients–vintners in the U.K.