The Brown Revolution: Increasing Agricultural Productivity Naturally

A team of ranchers in South Dakota are using holistic management techniques to regenerate our ailing grasslands and fight climate change.

Dusk in Western South Dakota. A half-hour ago, at sunset, the world here made its last pulse for the day: birds hurried between fence posts, mosquitoes emerged from the shadows and feasted furiously, the sweet clover turned iridescent yellow in the late light. Now, the movement has ceased. Even by day it is a quiet landscape, inhabited primarily by meadowlarks and grasses. But as night draws its blue self over this place, the silence is profound.

On this particular 8,000-acre section of the Plains there is a single light in view, coming from inside a trailer. Bustling about camp are three men — cowboys, you’d probably call them. They certainly look the part, dressed in boots and wide-brimmed hats, one of them splitting old fence posts with an axe to build a campfire, another working on some beef for dinner. They call this pasture Horse Creek for the water running down its center, and on it they have 1,100 yearling cattle.

And yet, for these men the bovines are only a means to a greater end. According to the unofficial ringleader, Jim Howell, their goal is nothing less than helping the world to avert a looming global catastrophe. What they’re doing here is not just herding cattle; they are starting what they call “The Brown Revolution.”

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