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Interview - Peter Byck re: Roots So Deep

PUBLISHED 18 September 2023
Source: Koen Van Seijen |

Film-maker Peter Byck interviewed by koen van seijen for 'investing in regenerative agriculture and food' website

Peter gathered a bunch of scientists and very innovative farmers and their neighbours to answer one of the big questions in regenerative agriculture (that we so far only anecdotally answered). Does regenerative grazing work to restore soil, biodiversity, insects, birds, and create more farmers’ wealth? Data seems very positive about it until now, but more importantly: if the conventionally grazing neighbours were presented with the data, would they change their behaviour, would they also transition?


According to Peter, there is data. When in 2010 he made the documentary film Carbon Nation, he thought meat was bad. He made the movie, and a short cartoon about how eating meat was going to kill all the rainforests. At the end of the film, they even promoted meatless Mondays. That’s where they were coming from before all they learned what was really possible with animals, grazing ruminants and very innovative farmers.

”Quite frankly, we got really, really talented conventional farmers, the grazers on our study, the conventional grazers are really good. And we have the data to show that. So, it wasn’t like we cherry-pick the worst on one side and the best on the other. We got good on both sides. You just go to these farms anywhere. Everywhere. I’ve been on the planet, I go to these farms, and it’s so significantly different. The smell, the squishiness of the soil, the sound, the life. For folks who dismiss the fact that regenerative grazing is successful, I’m just wondering if they’ve been visiting these farms.”- Peter Byck

”I visited these firms. And then I really got into the filmmaking, and then I really got into the science. And I’ve changed, I’ve changed. So, if I’ve changed, maybe other people can change. It’s good news. That’s the thing. This is actually good news. There is a scalable, massively, affordable, profitable way to help slow down climate change, to help mitigate climate change. All the while, you’re rewilding farms. That’s what’s happening. That’s what these farmers are doing. Wildlife is coming to their farm and not across the fence. That’s what our data is showing.” – Peter Byck

‘It comes back to the people question. And how are people being told about this? I just think that there was a need for more research. And you just mentioned Jonathan Lundgren, you just mentioned, well, Harris’s study, Jason Rowntree and his team, these are our teammates, right? It took this team of scientists to come together to do this work.’’ – Peter Byck


At the moment of fundraising, they found that they weren’t getting traction with Holistic Management as the phrase.

”When we did the research with the farmers from all my short films, we as a team, were asking what’s the best way to describe this? What’s a way that describes it in a way that’s quick and specific? So adaptive, got it? Multi-paddock got it? Grazing? Got it. So, amp grazing came about as a way to help us get the project going. And then we’ve tested it with ranchers all over the world, farmers, cattle farmers and all of them like it.” – Peter Byck

”Holistic Management, to my understanding talks about a lot more than just the grazing. It’s the whole economics of the farm and the community, it goes well beyond the farm.” – Peter Byck


Peter was told conventional farmers judge amp farmers and they didn’t want to talk about anything. But then he discovered they didn’t judge their neighbours, but they were really curious. They are looking over the fence line, and they saw more grass and they saw healthy animals. ”But they were too polite to ask”. The regenerative revolution hasn’t yet unfolded because we are too polite to ask.

”My biggest surprise was something you alluded to earlier when we were told that all the conventional neighbours thought the amp farmers were crazy or goofy or different or weird and all those sorts of things, right?” – Peter Byck

”You think about data, you think about soil samples and greenhouse gas measurement. But, these are all about people. This whole thing is about people. The scientists are people, the farmers are people, the filmmakers are people, the editors are people. And what I was blown away by very early in the filming, was that the conventional farmers didn’t judge their neighbours. They were really curious.” – Peter Byck

”And so I asked them, ‘Hey, we’re going to come back in July. Would you like to sit on the porch and just ask each other questions, and just talk about this? And they both said Yes. At some point, I would like to just put the three-hour conversation up online because it’s fascinating.” – Peter Byck


Koen and Peter also talked about:

How important are carbon markets on the ecosystem side
Why do farmers need transition finance
Why loans are a good way to make money?


Interviewer:  Koen Van Seijen
Article by:  Koen Van Seijen