Bio4Climate friends Tim Jones and Chie Morizuka manage a regenerative farm called Gladney Farm in Hokkaido, Japan. As the name suggests, there’s a lot to be glad about on the newly restored land! Tim and Chie share the love by hosting groups eager to learn from the farm animals and plants. Students of all ages visit the farm on “Field Days” and leave feeling renewed, thanks to the abundance of nature in the area. They also leave with a wealth of knowledge, thanks to Tim and Chie’s rooted discussions. Read on to hear directly from this powerful couple on the beauty of regenerative farming.
In her book “Wilding”, Isabella Tree writes, “In general, the more species living in an ecosystem, the higher its productivity and resilience.”
On Gladney Farm, we are learning that the more human diversity we can engage in helping us manage our ecosystem, the more resilient it will be. Usually securing human diversity is difficult. We live in Toei, an abandoned village in Kuromatsunai, Hokkaido, Japan. Toei has a population of three. My wife Chie Morizuka (who is the farm owner) and I live in what used to be the center of town. We have a neighbor, Mr. Otani, who lives about two kilometers to the north. I am an American citizen and Chie and Otani-san are both Japanese. We rarely have more human diversity. But on July 27, 2023 we hosted 23 people from Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Germany, Japan, China, and India. They were part of a joint effort of PARE (a Hokkaido University graduate program for fostering frontiers in populations, activities, resources and environments) and OGG (One program for Global Goals, a global university coalition for creating a sustainable society.)
Chie Morizuka, farm owner, welcomes the PARE/OGG group to Gladney Farm
We walked through our grazing paddocks together, led by Dr. Yoshitaka Uchida with the Hokkaido University Graduate School of Global Food Resources and his student and dung beetle researcher Hazuki Echigo, exploring the biodiversity above and below the ground, and discussing the effects of biodiversity on soil health and human health.
Dr. Yoshitaka Uchida, dark blue hat and white shirt, leads the paddock walk emphasizing biodiversity above and below the ground.
National Research and Development Agency, Japan Fisheries Research and Education Agency (I know it is a very long title but this is what their business cards say) scientists Dr. Koh Hasegawa and Dr. Yuhei Ogura met us at the Horokoshubuto River, which dissects Gladney Farm, to discuss how our style of regenerative grazing affects the salmon and white spotted char populations and spawning activities. They have been studying salmon and other native fish on this stretch of river for decades. There have been no negative effects so far according to Dr. Hasegawa. And, we had a surprise visit by Dr. Masaru Sakai of the National Institute for Environmental Studies who focuses on the impact of agriculture on the environment. He had heard about the PARE/OGG visit to Gladney Farm and thought it would be a good opportunity to see our style of regenerative grazing in action.
Dr. Koh Hasegawa blue shirt with white spotted car, Dr. Yuhei Ogura in blue cap second from right, and Dr. Masaru Sakai in green shirt on right demonstrate their survey techniques and answer questions.
For decades in Texas and Oklahoma, we attended field days and other educational events hosted by agricultural related institutions and industry groups which were valuable, but myopic.The absence of diversity at such events was unremarkable. When did the disconnect between agriculture and the rest of society occur? I should have read Wendell Berry’s “The Unsettling of America” when it was first published in 1977. Regardless of when or how, a huge disconnect exists. Berry wrote that “eating is an agricultural act.” As diverse as we are in our global society, the one thing we have in common is that all of us are involved in agriculture. I submit that a holistic approach, with as much human diversity as possible involved in redesigning the system, offers much greater chances for success in restoring biodiversity and mitigating the ecosystem damage conventional agriculture is causing.
I believe Isabella Tree is right. The greater the diversity the greater the productivity and resilience. Our field day guests were diverse in gender, language, culture, religion and countless other ways. But maybe, their diverse educational backgrounds were most important. They were civil and environmental engineers, specialists in hazardous substances management, forestry, entomology, statistics, mathematics, chemistry, biochemical engineering, information management, infectious diseases, and agriculture. They brought comments and asked questions that stimulated my imagination, and I suspect their interactions sparked some creative thinking for all involved.
Faniry Adrien, Hokkaido University PhD student from Madagascar, conducting field research on forage diversity, density, and nutritional values on an abandoned rice paddy being regeneratively grazed on Gladney Farm.
The PARE/OGG visit happened to coincide with a visit by my grandson (11) and granddaughter (10). They were adopted by the group and were treated as equals as we walked the pastures. Human diversity increased. They participated in discussions and asked questions.
As we walked and heard about biodiversity from the experts, I wondered what their world would look like when they are my age. I remembered a recent comment by Dr. Allen Williams, who along with Gabe Brown, Shane New, and Kathy Richburg founded Understanding Ag. Dr. Williams said “No one living on this earth has experienced a fully functional ecosystem.” How will we recognize it? Will the farmer define a fully functional ecosystem the same as a software engineer, a theologian, a chemical company CEO, a philosopher? “An object seen in isolation from the whole is not the real thing.” If we are to achieve a “real” fully functional ecosystem, we must have a holistically diverse vision.
I have been reading about “paradigm shifts” for decades, yet nothing seems to change. Now is the time. For us at Gladney Farm, the new paradigm is holistic diversity. This will be the source of our productivity and resilience.
One of two Climate Data Monitoring Centers used in Dr. Uchida’s research
A good place to start is by watching John Feldman’s Regenerating Life.
…and every school kid knows that the more we humans nurture and protect the land, the more the land will nurture and protect us. That’s the key to regenerating life.”John Feldman
Through embracing holistic diversity, perhaps the ecosystem our grandchildren’s grandchildren will live in will be closer to fully functional. This type of paradigm shift requires courage. We cannot be timid. We have to move forward with confidence that we will succeed.
A new documentary on Gladney Farm is available at:
The short film is in Japanese but it will give you views of today’s farm in Kuromatsunai, Hokkaido, Japan, and a few old pictures from Gladney Ranch in Thackerville, Oklahoma, USA.
-Tim Jones and Chie Morizuka