Regenerative farming focus of JFAN meeting

Reginaldo Haslett Marroquin horizontal
Reginaldo Haslett Marroquin horizontal

Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors will hold its annual meeting at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24 in the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.

The theme of this year’s meeting is “There *are* alternatives to factory farms.” The meeting will focus on regenerative farming and how it’s been used in the United States, Iowa, and even here in Jefferson County.

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, chief strategy officer with the Main Street Project, is the keynote speaker. He will talk about his innovative poultry-centered regenerative farm model that takes a holistic approach to livestock production with economic, ecological, and social benefits.

Joining Marroquin for an extended panel discussion on opportunities in alternative livestock production will be Kris Johnson, farm manager for Maharishi University of Management’s Regenerative Agriculture Program; Dean Goodale, CEO of New Legacy Pork; and Chris Petersen, a lifelong traditional hog producer from Clear Lake.

Marroquin, a native Guatemalan, is the principal architect of the revolutionary poultry system developed by Main Street Project that raises chickens in paddocks and provides rotational grazing under a perennial canopy of hazel nut trees. The trees provide protection and food and the chickens, in turn, fertilize the trees and build the soil.

Marroquin said the system “brings back an ancient knowledge of wisdom and techniques that farmers had survived on for a long time. What we are doing is restructuring those techniques so that we can meet current demand.” He oversees the implementation of restorative blueprints for communities in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, and recently was admitted as a lifetime Ashoka Fellow in recognition of his work.

Maharishi University of Management was inspired by Marroquin’s regenerative agricultural program and sought to duplicate it. The university is introducing eggs to its vegetarian meal program and developing this poultry system under Kris Johnson’s supervision.

During the panel discussion, Johnson will talk about the development of the poultry farm that can serve as a model for other local farmers in Jefferson County. Johnson, who grew up on a farm 6 miles outside Fairfield, has been the farm manger at M.U.M.’s Regenerative Agriculture program for the last two years. He previously managed Fairfield’s Farm to School Greenhouse and served as an assistant manager for the Meskwaki Nation’s vegetable farm, Red Earth Gardens, in Tama.

Dean Goodale will speak about his new company, New Legacy Pork, founded to provide farmers in southeast Iowa with an opportunity to raise hogs in an ecological, profitable and humane manner. New Legacy Pork connects sustainable hog farmers with national markets and is generating an “enthusiastic response” from area farmers as well as Daymon International, a major food distributor in national supermarket chains. Goodale previously launched and managed Maharishi Vedic Organic Farms for a 10-year period, supplying local organic produce to over 200 CSA members throughout the region and to retailers Whole Foods, HyVee, and others.

Rounding out the panel is Chris Petersen, a lifelong independent family farmer who raises Berkshire hogs using traditional animal husbandry practices in Clear Lake, where he also grows row crops to feed his livestock.

“With grit and determination, he and his family weathered and survived the 1980’s farm crisis that hastened the decline of independent pig farming and fostered the surge of factory farms,” stated a JFAN press release.

Petersen is a national advocate for traditional independent farming, and an Iowa consultant with the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project supporting communities opposing factory farms. He serves on the board of directors of the Organization for Competitive Markets that represents family farmers fighting “the takeover of the food system by large multinational and foreign corporations.”

Fairfield’s Radiance Dairy co-owner and JFAN board member Francis Thicke will moderate the panel discussion, which will include an opportunity for audience participation.

The meeting also features a film clip of the upcoming documentary “Right to Harm” that addresses the impact of CAFOs on communities. The clip focuses on the work of Iowans advocating for stronger regulations. The film is scheduled for release in 2019.

The JFAN annual meeting is co-sponsored by Southeast Iowa Sierra Club, Sustainable Living Coalition, and Little Village Magazine.