Back to the Future: Quivira 2014

Since 2002, the Quivira Coalition has held its annual conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, inspiring attendees to look at a blend of our past agricultural practices, community-building principles and Native American traditions as a way to create a healthier future. Indeed, with this year’s theme being ‘Back to the Future,’ the time was ripe to look back in time for solutions in the days ahead.


The Quivira Coalition’s vision has always been to narrow the widening divide between agriculture and environmentalism. As an early member of the ‘collaborative conservation’ movement, Quivira has ignited sparks across the Southwest that have grown into small fires of change. The annual conference serves to stoke the flames of collaboration and bridge building among a diverse cross section of landowners, ranchers, agency representatives, urban gardeners, homesteaders and more.


Throughout the Quivira Coalition’s 3-day event, speakers touched on a variety of themes related to food and farming, inspiring the 500 attendees with a range of practical lessons, science, management strategies and common sense, back-to-the-basics learnings.

1467396_899851696716018_2328622328544982442_nThe father and son team of Gabe and Paul Brown spoke passionately about their practices for maintaining highly productive soil. Their rotational grazing practices allows for incredibly high soil moisture retention, and using a polyculture ‘cocktail’ of seed stock helps keep their herds healthy. They’ve begun growing other crops on Brown Ranch as well, allowing additional revenue from direct sales to a ‘hungry’ market. By diversifying their practices and the types of food they grow, the Brown’s have built a successful, environmentally responsible ranching business in North Dakota.

Journalist, author and 2014 Quivira Radical Center Award winner, Jo Robinson, talked about the role of traditional varietals and strains of fruits and vegetables in creating a healthy body and mind. She discussed the importance of dark colored crops (reds, purples, greens), most of which contain phytonutrients known as polyphenols, plant-based compounds that are proving to be highly beneficial for our health. Have you had your purple carrots lately?


This year’s Clarence Burch Award Winner, Lill Erickson, of Western Sustainability Exchange, with Avery Anderson (L) and Courtney White (R).

Paul Kaiser from Singing Frog Farms in Sebastopol, California showed how his farm’s no till approach to farming has created a bountiful oasis in California, despite the worst drought in decades. Traditional practices such as natural hedgerows, compost, and a committed team have made this small farm one of the highest grossing farms in the region, placing it in stark contrast to its neighbors.


Gabe Brown (L) and Bill Zeedyk.

To close out the conference, Doniga Markegard invoked the culture of the Lakota people as she described her early upbringing, her childhood connection to nature and her evolution to California rancher with her husband Eric. Together, along with their four kids, this team practices sustainable ranching practices on California’s north central coast, observing their land, their cattle and the oceanic beauty that surrounds them while inviting neighbors to visit the property for educational and recreational experiences.

10374430_899851930049328_8103885807922888017_nOthers speakers discussed healthy soil’s role in holding carbon and ‘fixing’ nitrogen, wetlands restoration strategies, food supply trends, cooperatives as ‘alternative’ economic models and more. Speakers included wetlands guru, Bill Zeedyk, Nicholas Nelson of the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Office, Dorn Cox, founder of Farmhack, Bill McDonald of the Malpai Borderlands Group and many others.

We hope, like us, attendees were inspired to return to their ranches, communities, or homes to implement a bit of what was shared and learned. For a full set of pictures, check out Quivira’s image library from this year’s conference here, courtesy of Toni Beatty. Thanks Toni!


Below are some tweets shared by this year’s attendees. To see all of this year’s tweets, check #Quivira2014 or @QuiviraAgRanch on Twitter. Click here to watch Peter Byck’s Soil Carbon Cowboy, a 12 minute film that succinctly captures the aims of the Quivira Coalition.

Now is the time to bring agriculture & food to the forefront of the conservation conversation.’- Doniga Markergard. #Quivira2014


Managing for soil health: little soil disturbance; crop diversity; living plants in soil; keep soil covered. Paul Kaiser, #Quivira2014


When you don’t measure it; you don’t value it…Gregg Simonds #quivira2014


Christine Jones shows us poor biological nitrogen fixation. Freshman chemistry coming into good use…#Quivira2014


Cover crops allow you to reduce your fertilizer and pesticides by 70% and increases water intake from 1/2″-8″ every hour. #Quivira2014


Time to scale our effort up into an ‘economy’ or ‘world view.’ This is today’s challenge. -C. White #Quivira2014 @buildresilience


We can build an agriculture sys that we’re all proud of” by sharing “best ideas” via open source. Dorn Cox #FarmHack #Quivira2014 #soil


Key 2 adapting new management practices under cooperative model: #Communication & #Trust. -Norine Ambrose #quivira2014 @CowsandFish


Only limit to this alternative economic structure (Coop’s) is our own #creativity.-Robin Seydel #quivira2014 #cooperative #democracy


Bd member @sierraclub rises #Quivira2014 to say SC’s circ’ing new food-ag policy. Bill McDonald: Don’t c too many cattle grower confs w/ SC!


“Our experience w/ Maasai was wonderful, a lot in common: I’ve never felt more at home than Kenya.” B.McDonald


Nicholas Nelson, FAO at #Quivira2014 to celebrate Int’l Year of Family Farmers – the people growing 70% of world’s food on 25% of the land


Physical water scarcity in US Ogallala region, my work with @ogallalacommons is educating that region about the #watercrisis #quivira2014


@QuiviraAgRanch – We are enjoying #Quivira2014. Thanks for hosting this wonderful event! #conservation


I’ve been loving this website and now I’m at #Quivira2014 watching Jo Robinson present in person! Wow!


Bill McDonald coined the term ‘Radical Center,’ leading to #collaborative #conservation. 20 yrs. later, how are we doing? #Quivira2014


.@MooreCharitable is pleased to support @QuiviraAgRanch at this year’s #quivira2014 conference.


Let water spread! Get rid of old, unused gullies, roads & culverts 2 allow H2O 2 move across land in a natural way -B.Zeedyk #quivira2014


Mycorrhizal fungi one of the most under-appreciated elements in agriculture. -Gabe Brown #Quivira2014 #LivingPlantCover #Beneficial


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