Episode 140: Dan Kittredge Regenpreneur Story - Organizing Around the Quality of our FoodSep 29, 2023
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In this captivating episode, we sit down with Dan Kittredge, the visionary founder of the Bionutrient Foundation, to explore his inspiring journey in regenerative agriculture and the pursuit of food quality. Dan's day, a blend of soil advocacy and paper-writing, reflects his passion for quality food. His infectious enthusiasm emanates from a deep desire to make a positive global impact. Discover how his upbringing on an organic farmstead shaped his unique perspective, offering competence and a lifelong connection to nature to his children. For those aspiring to embrace the farmstead lifestyle, Dan's invaluable advice provides a roadmap to success. He emphasizes balance and shares ways to get involved. Tune in for a journey that inspires change, one nutrient-dense bite at a time. 🌱🌍
Starting at 10:12, we dive into Dan's day, where he juggles the responsibilities of a soil health advocate and a paper-writing enthusiast, all while nurturing his passion for quality food. At 14:05, Dan shares his infectious enthusiasm for the work he does, explaining how it stems from a deep desire to make a positive impact on the world.
Discover the remarkable backstory of how Dan founded the Bionutrient Foundation at 22:11, beginning with his upbringing on an organic farmstead and a quest for meaning in his teens and 20s. As he embarked on a path to provide for his family through farming, he became increasingly aware of the potential for positive change by organizing around the quality of our food.
At 31:00, Dan reflects on growing up on an organic farmstead in the 1980s, where being different helped shape his unique perspective. The episode delves into how choosing a farmstead life benefited his children's upbringing, imparting competence, a sense of place, and a lifelong connection with nature (37:08).
For those aspiring to embrace the farmstead lifestyle, Dan offers invaluable advice at 44:16. From getting hands-on experience to practicing simplicity and seeking practical skills, his insights are a roadmap to success.
At 58:40, Dan imparts wisdom to fellow regen entrepreneurs, emphasizing the importance of balance and not letting work consume one's life. He reminds us that life has a way of setting things straight if we drift too far from equilibrium.
Finally, at 1:05:19, Dan shares how you can follow and get involved in his mission. Visit the websites Bionutrient.org and Bionutrientinstitute.org, explore their YouTube channel, and join their newsletter to stay connected with the work of the Bionutrient Foundation.
Tune in to this episode for an inspiring journey through regenerative agriculture and the profound impact of organizing around the quality of our food. Dan Kittredge's story will leave you motivated to make a difference in the world, one nutrient-dense bite at a time.
Guest Bio: Dan Kittredge - LinkedIn
Dan Kittredge has been an organic farmer for more than 30 years and is the founder and Executive Director of the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA), a non-profit whose mission is to “increase quality in the food supply.”
Dan grew up on Many Hands Organic Farm in central Massachusetts. After a global career in food and seed activism where he worked with farmers across India, Russia, and Central America, Dan returned to the U.S. and launched the BFA in 2010 to ignite a movement around food quality.
His resonating message has filled hundreds of workshops and speaking engagements with farmers and eaters alike hungry for answers. To expand upon these concepts is the BFA flagship event, the annual Soil & Nutrition Conference, now in its tenth year that has hosted speakers such as John Kempf, Ray Archuleta, Kathleen DiChiara, David Montgomery, Fred Kirschenmann, Judith Schwartz, Graham Sait, Bernard Pollack, Glen Rein, Dorn Cox, Elaine Ingham, Joel Salatin, Stephan van Vliet, Fred Provenza and many more luminaries in the food and ag sectors.
A born leader in this field, Dan has solidified himself as an expert in the world of “nutrient density” and biological or regenerative agriculture. Through this mission, the Bionutrient Institute was launched, with partner organizations, Our-sci LLC, FarmOS, and Next 7, to demonstrate and share the connections between nutrient density and soil, plant, and human health.
BFA’s significant growth since 2018 now means three labs in the U.S. and one in Europe are conducting surveys of the food supply, measuring the variation of nutritional compounds found in food, and connecting it to management practices.
In 2021, the Institute unveiled a second-generation prototype of a hand-held consumer spectrometer called the Bionutrient Meter, calibrated by the sampling done at the labs. The meter is designed to test nutritional quality at the point of purchase, bringing transparency to the marketplace and providing growers with the needed tools to increase nutrition in their crops and leverage economic incentives to drive complete system regeneration.
The most recent lab in Boston is designed to further the mission of our understanding of nutrient density and to engineer an advanced version of the Bionutrient Meter with the data used for calibration all being open source, demonstrating the BFA’s commitment to small landholders and the greater global Commons.
More on Dan’s work and the Bionutrient Institute:
In a world where food choices abound, it's easy to overlook the critical importance of nutrient quality in our diets. Often, we focus on calorie counts, macronutrients, and trendy diets while neglecting the very foundation of our well-being – the quality of the food we consume. This blog post explores the profound significance of nutrient-dense farming and how supporting farmers in enhancing the nutrient quality of their produce can transform our health and the planet.
The Forgotten Nutrient Crisis
As we rush through our busy lives, it's easy to forget that not all calories are created equal. While we obsess over diet trends, obesity rates continue to climb, and chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are on the rise. Many experts believe that a significant contributor to these health crises is our modern food system's focus on quantity over quality.
Our ancestors understood the value of nutrient-dense foods. Their diets were rich in vegetables, fruits, and grains that were grown in fertile soils teeming with essential minerals and trace elements. In contrast, today's industrial agriculture prioritizes high yields and profit margins, often at the expense of nutrient-rich soils and crops.
The Role of Nutrient-Dense Farming
Nutrient-dense farming is a regenerative approach to agriculture that seeks to improve the quality of our food by enhancing the nutritional content of crops. It focuses on revitalizing soil health, increasing biodiversity, and optimizing farming practices to maximize the concentration of essential nutrients in the food we eat.
One of the key advocates for nutrient-dense farming is Dan Kittredge, the founder of the Bionutrient Foundation. In a recent podcast episode titled "Dan Kittredge Regenpreneur Story - Organizing Around the Quality of our Food," Kittredge shares his journey and vision for a world where food is not just about filling our stomachs but nourishing our bodies.
The Bionutrient Foundation's Mission
The Bionutrient Foundation, under Dan Kittredge's leadership, is dedicated to advancing nutrient-dense farming practices and improving the quality of our food. Their mission is grounded in the belief that the nutrient content of our food has a direct impact on our health, and by supporting farmers in producing more nutrient-dense crops, we can combat the nutrient crisis that plagues our society.
A Day in the Life of a Nutrient Advocate
In the podcast episode, Kittredge gives us a glimpse into his daily life, which is a testament to his commitment to this cause. He starts his day with a sense of purpose, driven by the need to write a paper on soil health. This dedication highlights the importance of research and knowledge dissemination in the world of nutrient-dense farming.
Kittredge's excitement for his work is palpable. He believes that he can make a meaningful positive impact on the world by helping people make better choices about the food they consume. This passion has led him to establish the Bionutrient Foundation, an organization at the forefront of the nutrient-dense farming movement.
The Journey to Nutrient-Dense Farming
The journey towards understanding and improving nutrient density in our food supply began with the Bionutrient Institute (BI). Established in 2018 as a collaboration between the Bionutrient Food Association, Next 7, and Our Sci LLC, the BI set forth four primary goals:
- Determine the amount of variation in nutrition in the food supply.
- Relate soil health and nutrient density outcomes to crop and soil management practices.
- Predict nutritional parameters in produce using spectral data and metadata.
- Build a public library of crop nutrition and soil and crop management data.
Over the years, an additional goal emerged: to establish a practical, empirical, and measurement-based suite of nutrient density measurements strongly connected to human health. While nutrient density is often defined as the level of nutrients per unit calorie, the BI began to explore a deeper understanding. They sought to identify the factors that produce the most nutritious food in every category.
Expanding Horizons in 2020
In 2020, the BI made significant strides in expanding its operations and impact. They scaled up the Food and Soil Survey to include three labs, almost doubling the number of samples received (3,851), and worked directly with five times more farmers than in 2019. Detailed management data was captured on a much larger percentage of the samples received.
One of the key findings was the significant variation in nutrient and mineral content across almost all of the 20 crops measured by the BI labs in 2020. This variation highlighted the complexity of nutrient density and the need for a comprehensive understanding of the factors influencing it.
The BI also identified significant correlations between soil health parameters and nutrient density outcomes, shedding light on the vital connection between soil quality and the nutritional value of crops. It was observed that tillage intensity could significantly impact soil carbon and respiration, but the specific outcomes varied based on factors such as the crop being grown and the size of the farm.
A Glimpse into the Future
With the release of the Data Explorer Dashboard, anyone can now examine the sources of variation in nutrient density using preset and custom filters. This tool provides valuable insights into management impacts for any crop or nutrient measured by the BI lab, making data accessible to the public.
In 2020, the BI developed and deployed models to predict antioxidants, polyphenols, or the Bionutrient Quality Index (BQI) on 12 crops. These models were made available through the Bionutrient Meter and the bionutrient.surveystack.io app, allowing community members to test predictions on crops from their farms or grocery stores.
The next steps for the BI include ongoing optimization of nutrient density estimation models, releasing new models for crops or nutrients not covered in the initial release, and engaging with domain experts to analyze and publish research findings in peer-reviewed science journals.
Conclusion: Cultivating a Healthier Future
The journey of the Bionutrient Institute is far from over. They continue to engage with experts across various scientific disciplines to refine their analysis and interpretation of the 2020 data and expand the BI nutrient density library.
As we look ahead, it's clear that nutrient-dense farming holds the key to a healthier future. By supporting initiatives like the Bionutrient Institute and embracing nutrient-rich foods, we can nourish our bodies, revitalize our planet, and pave the way for a more sustainable and health-conscious world.
The report's conclusion highlights the ongoing commitment to improving our understanding of nutrient density and its impact on our health. This dedication means that there may continue to be revisions and innovations in the field, ensuring that we cultivate health, one nutrient-dense bite at a time.