In an exclusive interview, the film director and producer Peter Byck talks to Farm Gate reporter ffinlo Costain about his latest series of short films.
Peter Byck is a Professor of Practice in both the School of Sustainability and the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.
He’s leading a multi-million-dollar research project focused on multi-paddock grazing, in which he’s collaborating with scientists and ranchers, focussed on soil health and soil carbon storage.
Peter is also a film director and producer and his latest work, Carbon Cowboys, was released in May 2020.
Carbon Cowboys is a series of 10 short films about regenerative agriculture and adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing. The films demonstrate the enormous potential of this model of land use.
In the latest Farm Gate podcast episode, Peter talks about why he wanted to make the Carbon Cowboys films and about the farmers he’s met along the way.
“I didn’t come at this thinking I’d be an advocate for farmers, but I love farmers,” says Peter.
“I’ve met so many… they’re amazing people and I don’t want them to have to put hazmat suits on during any process of producing food for us.”
Soil carbon storage provides an enormous opportunity to slow down global warming. Peter describes his research into soil health and explains how farmers can monitor soil carbon capture to be fairly rewarded for their work.
“At a certain point the fossil fuel industry will either change or be out of business. So why not use those resources right now to regenerate the world’s soils, which are dying, and to help slow down climate change, which is insanely on top of us now?”
By transitioning to adaptive multi-paddock grazing, farmers can rapidly regenerate soil health, increase productivity, and improve the health and welfare of their livestock.
When properly implemented, the speed of change can be remarkable. Peter Byck tells the story of a cattleman who was initially resistant to AMP grazing because he’d seen it done badly – but who quickly changed his mind.
“The family said, ‘we want you to stay, but we’re changing our methods’. So, he was offered the opportunity to keep his job or not, but the job was going to change.
“He said he noticed the changes almost immediately, and those changes were for the better during a 15-year drought.”
Peter Byck also reflects on the way in which soil restoration and soil carbon capture can help to bring people together, even in societies as politically polarised as the United States and Great Britain.
“You hear politically how polarised the United States is, but when I’m out in the country, I’m not seeing that. I’m seeing great common ground between a lot of very different types of people.
“If people just take the time to actually listen and learn, then what I’ve discovered is that the common ground is the ground – it’s the soil.
“I know I vote differently to most of the farmers I’ve filmed, but we don’t care, because the soils are so much more important.”