Our Annual Report

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We've grown so much in the last year and are thrilled to share with you the whole picture of where we've come and where we are headed in 2019.

 
Our 3 areas of focus
 

OUR MISSION

To Practice, Promote, and Develop Systems of Regenerative Agriculture.

Our Focus:

• The growth of healthy soils

• The restoration of water cycles

• Increased carbon sequestration

• Remediation of toxins in our food system

• Increased nutrition and resiliency of plant and animal production

With our employees, partners, and volunteers, we engage in direct land stewardship, education and training programs, ongoing field research, and exemplary product development.


OUR ROOTS

The roots of White Buffalo Land Trust reach back to the year 2001, when two white buffalo were born into a herd in Colorado. The buffalo calves were sisters and intended for sale to a casino until a group of Oglala Lakota relatives asked Lyndsey McMorrow and her mother Bobbie McMorrow to consider caring for and protecting the two buffalo on their land in Santa Ynez, California. Chumash and Lakota relatives gathered and gave instructions on how to look after the two calves.

OUR ROOTS ARE GROUNDED IN THE INSPIRATION AND MEMORY OF THE LIFE, LOVE, AND HEART OF LYNDSEY MCMORROW.

Lyndsey and Bobbie looked after the white buffalo year after year and heard the continuing call to to serve. This calling led Lyndsey to a deep affinity for the developing work of regenerative agriculture. In 2016 Lyndsey participated in the Lead with Land program at the Paicines Ranch in California, which catalyzed her affinity into action. Unfortunately, Lyndsey’s health was deteriorating even as she sowed the seeds of the White Buffalo Land Trust. The intertwined destinies of Lyndsey and the white buffalo sisters continued; in November 2017 the first sister passed on, followed by Lyndsey three months later in February 2018.

THE WHITE BUFFALO ARE A REMINDER OF OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO THE EARTH, AND TO BE IN BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH ALL LIVING BEINGS.

Soon after Lyndsey’s passing, her husband Steve Finkel, with the support of her mother and father Bobbie and Bill McMorrow, founded White Buffalo Land Trust to fulfill the work Lyndsey inspired during her life. One of the white buffalo sisters grazes on the first tract of land managed by the Trust. The Trust now serves as a leader in regenerative agriculture in our region and a connected hub in the growing global movement; inspired by the message of the White Buffalo

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OUR TEAM

STEVE FINKEL - FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT

Steve is the founder and president of WBLT. He is committed to building the foundation into a permanent service organization that will adapt and evolve as regenerative agriculture becomes the standard for land stewardship. Steve brings with him decades of entrepreneurial, environmental, and private sector experience. He believes the most effective organization is built on the excellence and merit of the team; and the commitment to the core values of integrity, quality, and clarity in results-oriented and service-oriented pursuits.

JESSE SMITH - DIRECTOR OF LAND STEWARDSHIP

Jesse is the Director of Land Stewardship and is guiding the development of our flagship farm as well as working with our team, contractors, and partners to grow the land under our management and the impact in our community. His passion and expertise in agricultural system design and community engagement are a cornerstone of our strategy to achieve a systemic paradigm shift towards a regenerative food economy and ecology.

DANIEL PARRA HENSEL- LEARNING AND ENGAGEMENT

Daniel was instrumental in our 2018 educational outreach working with teachers, trainers, farmers, and students to increase the ecological literacy of our community and prepare the next generation of land stewards.

SARAH RATHBONE - PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Sarah has joined our team to support the growth of our exemplary products program. Sarah brings with her a strong science background in addition to her entrepreneurial experience in creating innovative market pathways and developing food economies based on regional food system connectivity.

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2018 Donors

Bobbie McMorrow • Bill McMorrow • Helton Law Group

Santa Barbara Foundation •

Ryan and Sarah Muzzy • Michael & Kelly Browne •

Ferber Law • M.K. Link Foundation (An American-Jewish Foundation) •

Zegar Family Fund • Buter, Buzard, Fishbein & Royce •

Aldo Seoane • David Haspel • William and Pam Campbell •

Bailey and Sheila Caldwell • Nancy Epstein • Stuart Tenhoor • John McMorrow •

Lisa Estrada • Kirk Pasich • Carla and Harvey Finkel • Mr. and Mrs. Scott Green •

Hollye and Jeff Jacobs • Jim and Ann Scarborough •

John Ohlgren • Eric Schiller •

Bocarsly LLP • Hogan Lovells • Sam Cole • Umanoff Family •

Greg and Beth Saltzberg • John W Gorrell Jr • Stephen Immelt • Michael Wagner •

William Belenger • Caroline Kuperstock • Theo & Becky Kracke • David Block & Sandra Kryst •

Daniel Encell • Judy Bain • Mairead Brumfitt • Jill Rosenthal • Zoe Smith Jaye • C. Brooke Temple •

Suzan Anderson • Mauricio Parra • Linda Prior • Jonathan Dibenedetto • Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP •

LoaCom • Howard Flack • Ina and Mark Lessem • Kara Peterson • Steve DiCarmine •

Teri Briskman Miller • Steven Davis • Karen Wagner • John Bohnet • Brian McWilliams •

Mary Heyden & David Anderson • Chris & Mike Connor • Debbie Bobrosky •

Dallas Dorsett Mathers • Bradford Douglas • Bonnie Saltzberg • Aaron Simon •

Richard & Maxine Simon • Mia Eden • Ari Katz • Isaak Rubin •

Ally Ferber • Andrew Ferber •

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Strategic Partners & Collaborators

White Buffalo Land Trust is committed to our regional work while also being part of a global network of changemakers shifting resources towards projects, people, and processes that value and benefit the ecosystem services that we all rely upon. We have been inspired by many and work closely with a select few. These are some of the organizations that we are excited to be working with:

 
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Points of Impact

OUR FLAGSHIP FARM IN SANTA BARBARA, CA

A 12-acre demonstration site of regenerative agriculture principles, practices, and techniques in active food production aimed at verified ecological outcomes.

• Complete redesign and installation of agriculture systems using Regrarians platform and methodology.

• Regional example of the transition from an input-heavy mono-culture avocado orchard into an reduced input, multi-strata agroforestry orchard system.

• Transition to climate appropriate crops, high diversity cover crops, building pollinator populations, and nutrient cycling.

• Development work on static aerated composting systems aimed at soil innoculation for efficient increase in biodiversty.

• Living training site for current and future land stewards including the Savory International Holistic Management training and the Kiss The Ground Farmland Program.

• Living classroom for local and regional stakeholders including students, educators, food service professionals, healthcare providers, and public policy professionals.

• Living test site for ongoing field study with our research and science collaborators.


TRAINING CURRENT AND FUTURE LAND STEWARDS

SAVORY HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT

White Buffalo Land Trust has been selected as a 2019 Hub Candidate for Savory International. This offers us the unique opportunity to bring the resources of Holistic Land and Grazing Management to our region.

• In 2018 we hosted two 3-day courses at our flagship farm facilitated by Savory colleague Spencer Smith from the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management.

• Our hosted trainings included more than 20 land stewards tending over 10,000 acres

REGRARIANS PLATFORM TRAINING

• White Buffalo Land Trust is leading current and future land stewards through the detailed planning framework pioneered by Darren Daugherty in Australia.

• Regrarians is a methodology for site specific land planning, assessment, implementation, and reporting.


SOIL HEALTH ACADEMY

• White Buffalo Land Trust is training our team and others in the innovative work of Gabe Brown, Allen Williams, and Ray Archuleta. These multi-day intensive trainings are focused on soil health principles and practices.

• In 2018 we sponsored 5 team members at the Academy.


COMMUNITY EDUCATION AND ENGAGEMENT

SPEAKER SERIES @ SB IMPACT HUB

• Ongoing program designed to introduce the broader community to actionable thought leaders in the field of regenerative agriculture.

• Collaborative approach to building ecological literacy in the community through the use of diverse co-sponsors including Community Environmental Council, Land Trust for Santa Barbara, and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

• Talk #1: “Prescribed Herbivory for Fire Abatement” introduced the detailed capacity and functionality of utilizing animal systems to increase soil health and ecosystem function while providing effective fire abatement.

• Talk #2: “Regeneration from a Watershed Perspective” presented the value, process, and efficacy of designing ecosystem management practices and policies from a watershed scope.

• Next Speaker Series event will be February 21, 2019 and feature Jack Algiere, Farm Director of Stone Barns Center in New York.

ELECTIVE SERIES @ SANTA BARBARA MIDDLE SCHOOL

• Introduced and curated two elective courses that allowed middle school students to participate first hand in regenerative agriculture.

• Elective #1: “Beyond Gardening: How Your Garden can Regenerate the World” introduced the basic principles of regenerative agriculture in the context of the school garden.

• Elective #2: “Living SB: A backstage pass to Santa Barbara’s ecological hotspots” offered a series of field trips to examine and explore how and where the local ecology is thriving, being protected and researched, and how a vibrant ecology supports and sustains local business and community.


SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND ONGOING FIELD STUDIES

Our research and field study efforts are aimed clearly at creating validated, verified, and documented positive ecological outcomes related to soil health, increased carbon sequestration, improved water cycles, improved nutrient cycles, and increased nutrition and resiliency in plant and animal crops. Our current work includes:

• Compost Bioreactors Systems based on the work of Dr. David Johnson of Chico State

• Carbon Sequestration and Soil Health studies with partners Soil Life of UC Davis

• Cover Cropping studies and Holistic Managed Grazing with Susan Cousineau M.S.c.

• Implementation of Savory Ecological Outcome Verification protocols

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2019 EXPANSION

EXPANDING OUR CURRENT IMPACT

The evolution and expansion of our land stewardship, education and training, and scientific research programs is our core strategic goal in 2019. This includes:

• Continued development of the regenerative agricultural systems on the flagship farm

• Increased educational offerings including tours on the farm

• Additional Land Stewardship training programs

• More data collection and documentation of practices, techniques, and outcomes

EXEMPLARY PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

In 2019 we intend to introduce a food brand based on a 100% commitment to the development of regenerative agriculture. Our core brand values:

• Growing a complete regenerative agriculture supply system

• Promoting climate appropriate crops through product innovation

• Developing farming practices that build soil health instead of depleting it

• Selecting ingredients grown and processed to provide superior nutrient content and availability

• Formulation of delicious and unique flavor profiles

• Investment in the ongoing transition of farm and ranch land to regenerative principles and practices

• Supporting the ongoing transition to Ecological Outcome Verification

LAND STEWARDSHIP EXPANSION

In 2019 we intend to develop a broadacre commercial site, up to 1000 acres in size, to compliment our current demonstration flagship farm. The commercial scale operation will use regenerative principles and practices in the active production of diverse plant and animal systems supported by ecological outcome verification. In addition, the site will support intensive education, training, and research initiatives across the entire western region. Objectives include:

• Earthworks to replenish groundwater availability

• Holistic Managed Grazing for grassland restoration and carbon sequestration

• Dryland agroforestry for water efficient, nutrient dense food production

• Application of compost extract soil inoculant for increased diversity in soil biology

• Oak woodland and riparian restoration for native species habitat development

• Regional Training Hub for graziers and active commercial land stewards

• University collaboration for long-term research studies

• Integration of regenerative food production within existing conservation lands

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Financial Overview

 
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Mentioned in Forbes

“Five Lessons For Making Change From 18 Impact-Driven Farmers”

After attending the Farmer Entrepreneurship Intensive at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, our Director of Land Stewardship, Jesse Smith, was mentioned in this Forbes article, written by Nell Derick Debevoise. Thank you for the feature and thank you to Jesse for your dedication and commitment to land stewardship!

Celeb chef (and Blue Hill at Stone Barns chef and co-owner), Dan Barber, spent time with the farm-preneurs over the week. Picture Credit: Will Rosenzweig

Celeb chef (and Blue Hill at Stone Barns chef and co-owner), Dan Barber, spent time with the farm-preneurs over the week. Picture Credit: Will Rosenzweig

“I had the pleasure of starting and ending one of the last weeks of 2018 at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a working farm that views itself as a “laboratory dedicated to sustainable farming practices,” and also home to the world-renowned restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. I was there to observe portions of their first-ever Entrepreneurship Intensive, which gathered 18 ‘farm-preneurs’ from around the country to learn from each other, the Stone Barns team, and entrepreneurship experts, including William Rosenzweig, a UC Berkeley professor and long-time social enterprise champion. As I hoped, both events I attended were deliciously enhanced by Blue Hill food, including the so-simple, but delicious radishes, which epitomize the natural beauty and nourishment for which Stone Barns farmers, and all of the 18 farm-preneurs in the Intensive, work so hard to grow…”

… “Jesse Smith, of the White Buffalo Land Trust, for one, is transitioning legacy farms into integrated agricultural systems that showcase regenerative techniques, with an explicit commitment to education and training so their impact reaches beyond the White Buffalo acreage…”

Read more at Forbes.com .

December 2018

Welcome to Our Year End Update!

As we come to the end of 2018, I wanted to reflect and share some of the achievements and highlights of our team.

It was just 10 months ago when the vision for WBLT formed...

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Our progress throughout the year has inspired awareness and support for our work and the Regenerative Agriculture movement as a whole. I am so proud to share that for our year-end giving, we have been awarded the following:

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It has been a fantastic year of initiation and growth and we could not be more excited and engaged for 2019. Thank you for growing with us and investing in the deeper impact of Regenerative Agriculture in our region and beyond. 

Steve Finkel
Founder and President


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Regenerative Agriculture

The process of designing a farm that is in support of healthy soils, water resources and biodiversity is at the core of our organization. Sourcing from that foundation, we are guided by the core values of promoting perennial tree crops as the keystones of our system, integrating animals to support nutrient flows and decrease pest pressure, and increase native plants and wildlife habitats. 

Through our design process we have been focused on our initial phase of property development through the lens of soil stabilization, water retention and biomass production. Some of the outcomes of this design process include a plan to install micro earthworks for water infiltration, increasing orchard diversity by adding fast growing nitrogen fixing leguminous trees, and propagating vetiver grass for steep slope planting in the spring.

The inherited water reticulation design of our property removes water from the land as quickly and efficiently as possible. Like many avocado orchards in the region, each of our access roads has a drain that links to a concrete pipe which funnels the water to the bottom of our property and into the nearest waterway. There are many negative impacts that this method of water management creates, including: potential downstream water contamination from fertilizer or pesticide application (we do not use either), sedimentation of our waterways due to excess overland flow, and erosion of our streams and rivers due to high flow rates in large rain events. 

Many of these effects are externalities that are not (usually) factored into the cost of running an agricultural business, but the shear loss of that water from the agricultural system should cause any land steward to think twice about each drain that lets water escape from their property. Our intention is to allow water to leave our farm after first passing through a biological system such as soil, plant or animals.


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Education & Engagement

Education and Curriculum at Santa Barbara Middle School
Our first Friday Elective, Living Santa Barbara, at Santa Barbara Middle School is drawing to a close. Students had the chance to interact with and evaluate successful, local, ecological and regenerative landscapes and businesses in Santa Barbara. Our goal was to have the students understand the different ways in which ecologically oriented businesses and organizations can thrive and support the regeneration of local ecosystems, communities, and economies.

Two highlights from this elective series included a trip to the harbor and the Monarch Restaurant in Montecito. The excursion to the harbor and the watershed resource center gave students the chance to understand more about marine ecosystems and, more specifically, how urchins consume kelp and why that is an important issue. We learned about harvesting Urchins for Uni and discovered that because people harvest the urchins for human consumption, the environmental pressures the urchins put on the kelp forests diminished.

Our second to last class was an afternoon visit to the Monarch Restaurant in Montecito. This was a culminating event that allowed students to experience all of the ecological models that we visited throughout the elective and connect it back to an economic model that brings all these elements together, a restaurant. At the end of this adventure, one student felt called to make a toast:

“I would like to make a toast to this elective. It has been very fun, I learned a lot and made many new friends. I don’t want it to end!” 

Land Steward Training Program Underway
We had the opportunity to host Spencer Smith, of Jefferson Center for Holistic Management, for two courses in Holistic Management- Holistic Financial Planning and Holistic Grazing. We had over 25 participants come through Santa Barbara this last month to participate, including the WBLT team. 

The Holistic Financial Planning course is important to us, not only for accreditation through Savory, but because farmers historically havestruggled to make a profit through agricultural production. We believe we can change this and it starts with having a holistically designed financial plan to guide our work. We covered a lot during the Holistic Financial Planning course and one key outcome was how to make our farming systems more efficient. This meant diving into each area of the business to discover the places where we can cut certain costs and identify where profit is possible, ending with a cost benefit and profit analysis. 

The Holistic Grazing course allowed us the time, space, and direction to look deeper into the animal systems we are planning to incorporate at the farm. This included determining key needs such as the cover crops we will be using and how animals should be moved through the landscape to shepherd the process of regeneration on the land. 

These two courses are part of the process to become accredited Savory professionals and to continue to develop WBLT as a Savory Hub. Both have helped inform the decisions we are making for our flagship farm in Summerland and have guided us in how we look toward the future. Stay tuned for the further development of the Land Steward Training Program.  


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Scientific Research

Our ongoing soil research that started this year, in collaboration with Jessica Chiartas and Garett Long, from UC Davis working under the organization, Soil Life, has led to the preparation of a set of performance indicators that will allow us to track the progress of our regenerative practices and their impact on the landscape. As we continue to develop the landscape, we will keep you apprised of our progress in building healthy soil via these indicators:

Infiltration
Infiltration is the velocity at which water enters the soil and is an indicator of how freely water is able to move through a soil profile.  It is crucial to soil health because when infiltration is compromised, more water runs off the field and less is available for root uptake, plant growth, and the activity of microbes and other organisms. 

Aggregate Stability
Aggregate stability is the ability of aggregated soil particles to resist disintegration when exposed to water, wind, or mechanical disturbance.  This ability to maintain structure has a major impact on porosity and thus, water, air, nutrient, and biota movement in soils. Changes in aggregate stability are one of few early indicators of soil degradation with a decrease in stability often indicating a greater occurrence of clogged pores and surface crusts that reduce infiltration and can lead to increased erosion.  

Surface Hardness
Subsurface and surface hardness are indicators of soil compaction, measured in pounds per square inch of field penetration resistance using a penetrometer.  Surface compaction results in increased runoff and erosion and decreased infiltration and water storage.  Subsurface compaction contributes to poor drainage, aeration and water storage, as well as limited rooting depths (especially at 300+ psi) and mobility of soil organisms (including mycorrhizal fungi).  This can lead to reduced plant uptake of water and nutrients, declines in yield and crop quality, and increased weed pressure.


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Speaker Series in the Community

We are very grateful to Brittany Cole Bush (BCB) for being our first guest in the WBLT Speaker Series hosted at the Impact Hub in the Funk Zone (location of our office), and co-sponsored by the Community Environmental Council, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens. We would also like to thank our food and beverage sponsors, Buena Onda who provided amazing empanadas, and Rincon Brewery that stocked the cooler with some refreshing beverages. 

BCB brought the conversation that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue into the limelight of action, “How do we actively take part in the reduction of fuel to prevent devastating perennial wildfires in CA?”. What is being proposed is a system of prescribed grazing to impact the standing grasses, create defensible space, increase soil health, create jobs, and produce food and fiber in the process. Brittany is in the process of launching the Grazing School of the West to create a career pathway for the next-generation of graziers in the American West.

BCB has been managing this system effectively in the bay area for years, and co-authored a white paper on Prescribed Herbivory for Vegetation Treatment Projects in conjunction with CAL Fire. Our community has the opportunity to support this work that is integral to the safety of our homes, the resiliency of our ecosystem, and health of our foodshed and fibershed

The private land holders, such as Cate School, that are managing their properties using goats, and our local fire fighting agencies support the practice. What is currently needed is a more integrated approach to effect more public, private and conserved land, that will allow for contiguous grazing opportunities, and compensate graziers for their service.

We’re excited to have just received an influx of 420+ sheep that entered our county this year thanks to Jack & Jenya of Cuyama Lamb, and we’re asking our community to support their operation by opening a conversation for grazing contracts for the upcoming 2019 season. 

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Terra Genesis International and BRASA

We are very grateful to Russell Wallack from Terra Genesis International for joining us for an evening to discuss their process of exploring watershed regeneration through agroforestry. TGI has been working for the last decade in the field of Regenerative Agriculture and has focused primarily on the natural products industry and systems of supply. 

Through conversation with companies, non-profits, farmers and interested investors, it has become clear that a deeper understanding of where production oriented tree systems should be introduced into a landscape is of the utmost importance. Using publicly available data and geo-referenced imaging software, their team has been able to ask the question “Where in this watershed is the most appropriate place to grow this tree?”, and get a fairly accurate map that shows the suitability of land rated and color coded down to a parcel by parcel level. 

Through this process they call BRASA (Bio-Regional Agroforestry Suitability Analysis) they hope to support the movement towards a more perennially minded system of food production, while increasing the carbon drawdown potential of our agricultural landscapes. Our team at White Buffalo Land Trust and the sponsors of this event are excited about the possibilities that Terra Genesis International and this process offers our community and we hope to see a pilot project in our region take off in 2019. Please EMAIL us if you’d like to support this work or would like to find out more information.


Thank you for joining us on our journey in 2018! We look forward to sharing with you what is in store for 2019 next month.


Happy Holidays from Our Team to You!