We need your help!
I have never (and I mean, never) felt like government project and programs do a whole lot of good for the dollars spent. Notice, that I did not say government is not good. In my 20 + years in the Marine Corps, I worked with and met several high-quality people – doing lots of good with great intentions. I believe good governance, is good. We need that. Decency and order are virtuous and, my feelings are that we have a good system (maybe a little bit rocky in past years, but non-the-less, still good)
So, when I say that I think our problems can be solved with some government help, I do not mean, the government doing the work. I mean some help – really, some help, like a push in the right direction for a wayward teenage kid from a caring mentor.
Where am I going with this?
We have recently become aware of a grant available to us that might move the ball forward for our team – the regenerative ag guys and gals, that truly want to make a difference, not necessarily make a buck.
I have always had a vision for training our next generation of Ranchers and herd managers to operate regeneratively. We have a real enthusiasm for this and put flesh on it each summer as we take on few interns. Once they’ve worked with us and “get the vision” we often will employ them outright or give them the tools they need to start their own operation.
Until now, I have felt this was the only way forward. One or two souls at a time. In the next twenty years I might make good on 40 to 70 newbies… and can ease into my second retirement, knowing I’ve made a small dent in the gigantic, over boated, factory, CAFO mess that our nation has created.
Well, I thought that until now…
This grant would allow me to replicate our methods, and raise up over five years, 761 Regen Ag Ranchers – yes, you read that right, seven-hundred-sixty-one! It’s a huge undertaking. It’s way outside my comfort zone. It’s going to be an enormous work.
(Que the cliché’ quotes about nothing good coming from comfort zones… excreta)
Our little company is uniquely positioned to do this, and we have the real-world, hands-on, boots on the ground experience to share with others. Most of the work will take place at our Wyoming Ranch, but we expect it to effect the entire United Sates Ag community.
It will require a large commitment on our part, and the part of the Government, but I believe it will help train, equip and educate many more Regen Ag Ranchers than would ever be possible at the snail's pace we are crawling now.
If you don't now... at this point, to learn Regen Ag, you only have a few choices (this may change later, but for now). You can;
1. Take an internship with a Ranch like ours (we take 2 per year, Joel Salatin has about 16-20 spots, Gabe Brown has a few - the total, conservative estimate is about 50 spots, annually, U.S. wide)
2. Piece mill some classes together. Read blogs. Self teach.
3. Attend very expensive conferences.
4. If you are independently wealthy - buy land, try it out (be sure to have money set aside for trail and error)
This project takes underserved (minority, veteran, women owned and micro-farms) then focuses on converting their land and minds to Regen Ag. All the wile providing, local commodities (meat) and real-time measurement of carbon sequestration rates to show its value and combines it into one, rapidly moving project.
It took us 13 years to get really good at Regen Ag - if I had mentorship, training and equipment like the E2RP project offers, in five years, I would have been way ahead of were we are now at SonRise Ranch.
And yet, that is exactly what I am going to ask you to do.
Please write a support letter for us (I’ll include the vital details at the end of this) Feel free to handle it from any perspective you deem necessary and are comfortable with, here are some suggestions…
- Regenerative Agriculture and Cattle support carbon sequestration.
- Want more Good food, reliably sourced
- Want to see where your beef comes from
- Want more non-industrial ag ranchers
- Want to see erosion slowed on landscapes
- Want to see more water storage, healthier plants and better ecosystems that support grazing animals
- The Name of the Grant Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities
- The Name of our proposal Carbon Vault’s Soil Vison 30 and the E2RP Project (Carbon Vault, INC is the company we started to handle the grant – it will work with SonRise Operations, LLC)
- Your name and relationship to SonRise Ranch (customer, friend, colleague, etc.)
Once you are done, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I will include it with the package.
The grant is due in a few weeks, so please send a letter in the next week. Anything sooner than that would make our hearts sing - but, as I say, better late than never. We have well over 200 hours invested in our proposal and are working feverishly to get it finished in time. We cannot share the entire grant with you because it is over 50 pages and proprietary, but below is the executive summary, and a few additional paragraphs to help you catch the vision.
I’ve included a sample support letter (please write your own), from one of our colleagues at the bottom of this for your to reference - they are really simple, and really important.
Questions – call or write.
Chief piglet chase, chicken whisperer and cattle wrangler, SonRise Ranch.
Our greatest ally in carbon sequestration and soil building capability is surprisingly simple – leveraging Regenerative Agriculture Ranching techniques, grasslands and ruminants working in harmony to build soil organic matter and microbiology. Regenerated grasslands have the potential to sequester over 1/2 metric ton of atmospheric carbon per acre, annually.
However, the damage to our national grass ecosystem is accelerating at a rate that simple changes in procedures and quick-fix technological gadgets can no longer correct. Loss of topsoil, compaction from overstocking and plant life degradation alone will soon lead us to catastrophic conditions if not addressed with a sense of urgency. Therefore, our grasslands can be viewed as representing both a hope for the future and a condemnation of our past.
A whole-of-industry effort is required to shift cattle production in the United States from destructive land management practices that increase atmospheric carbon toward regeneration methods that result in atmospheric carbon reductions. The greatest cover crop known to our nation is the historic western grasslands of our early national landscape – which can be restored to their former carbon sink grandeur; however, the window of opportunity to accomplish this is rapidly closing.
To remedy the severe deficiency of soil compaction, overgrazing, erosion, and ecosystem destruction this project proposes the Erosion and Ecosystem Rapid Repair Protocol (E2RP).
E2RP’s aim is to leverage the currently mismanaged land and animal potential with unique, measurable, carbon-sequestration training, techniques, and implementation for underserved and marginalized ranchers, ultimately resulting in traceable beef production and access to evolving markets.
The E2RP Pilot Project is a leap forward for Regenerative Agriculture, ranchers, and consumers. It is based on the principle that our grasslands can be regenerated and, all the while, sequester atmospheric carbon, retain water and provide underserved ranchers with a more profitable and proven business model. Moreover, it adds one critical and unique component to this equation – it achieves results rapidly, allowing participants to quickly convert from conventional to Regenerative Agriculture with as little economic and life disruption as possible to their existing systems.
Goals of Pilot Project
The overarching goal of the E2RP project is to put the tools, skills, and financial resources in the hands of capable, underserved ranchers willing to tackle a diverse and entrenched set of problems facing our grasslands, soils, and climate.
The key component of this endeavor is a newly educated, underserved, private landowner and/or herd manager trained in the skill of using cattle and husbandry to work with nature, not against nature, to achieve carbon reduction through the proliferation of healthy grasslands. The strategic focus is on growing grass, not cattle – understanding that if the former is achieved, the latter will follow in abundance.
These landowners and herd managers often share many common characteristics. First, they cannot cease production for the required period needed to convert to the regeneration process without a supplementary source of income to replace their vital revenue streams.
Secondly, they often do not understand or recognize the steps necessary to regenerate their soils or restart the long dormant grassland potential that lies beneath their feet.
And finally, they often do not have the equipment, resources, means or a competent guide to begin the regeneration journey.
To address this, we propose a comprehensive approach involving a united effort to educate, train and equip our most underserved yet innovative ranchers to spearhead the regeneration effort.
The requisite knowledge and techniques are currently too immature to be scaled to the national level – like our nation’s knowledge deficiency during the Dust Bowl and prior to the emergence of soil conservation services, we need a focused effort to engage, educate and encourage a core group of stakeholders within the ranching community to gain momentum in moving Regenerative Agriculture forward. If successful, an abundant carbon sink is again possible.
This effort, combined with unique, direct-to-market access can and will provide exceptional results. These results can be measured in both carbon reduction, organic matter increases, increased revenue for the producer and enhanced yet affordable access to the consumer.
In short, a fully funded initial effort will be required, and when the pilot program’s success is realized, it will take on a life of its own – the result will be a multitude of small farms and ranches that can revive the soils in the United States and collectively sequester enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon while simultaneously enriching an underserved community and satisfying a growing population’s demand for climate-neutral meat products.
List of Project Partners This project has three partners and four additional components. One component is not controlled by the primary applicant but has no fiduciary impact. The remaining three are divisions within Carbon Vault, INC.
The Primary Applicant is the one of three partners for this project - Carbon Vault, INC will be responsible for the overall execution of the Erosion and Ecosystem Rapid Repair Protocol (E2PR) project under the Soil Vision 30 concept.
Carbon Vault, INC is a disabled, veteran and woman co-owned business. Given its unique insight into the challenges disabled veterans face in the ranching and farming world, combined with successful regeneration projects on three farms in the past, Carbon Vault is uniquely positioned to provide an overall master road map for this pilot program. Their unique, all-encompassing experience in this arena is unmatched, and will include logistical support, any required contract writing, technical direction, and real-world experience to see the entire project through.
Education Partners – The repository of knowledge for this type of regeneration is narrow and focused. Many would-be practitioners hunt far and wide for a central clearinghouse of knowledge on the subject. Successful regenerative ranches are few and far between with little or no support network. Assembling a regeneration plan for any given ranch or farm must usually be patched together with information from conferences, books, seminars, and one-on-one consultations with successful experts. Having a history of profitable projects satisfactorily achieved, education partners SonRise Operations, LLC and its subsidiary, SonRise Ranch, INC (SRR, INC) have assembled a complete curriculum and syllabus that can be tailored to any location in the lower 48 states. With years of experience in this particular field, educational and practical skills from SonRise, INC’s excellent courses will form a single repository of knowledge and demonstrable results. This combination will provide a clear path forward for prospective underserved ranch participants.
Outreach components for processing
The largest and most obstructive bottleneck in small, regenerative agriculture ranching is the onerous bureaucratic processing and legal distribution of ranch raised meats. Whole social media discussion groups are dedicated to sharing information regarding the availability of processing and packaging of small ranch products.
The answer to this is the creation of small and very small USDA processors with a vision for regeneration shared with their ranchers. Our project focuses on production and consumer education and awareness, but between these two ends are the means, known as processing. The number of processors capable of handling this type of product is small. We believe that this component will grow in conjunction with increased supply (by the producer) and demand (from the consumer). With education and awareness, both components will leverage to increase processing access.
Wyoming Legacy Meats, LLC will serve as this project’s processing component. With over 20 years of experience, this partnership will leverage considerable strength during Phase 1 of the project. They will provide a blueprint for future processing components added in later phases of this project. Wyoming Legacy has a vision for creating the first ever carbon reducing meat brand. The regeneration and technology solutions laid out in this project fit perfectly as a model for their producers and consumers. They are self-funded and require no contract funds, as noted in the budget narrative.
Direct Marketing Component - SonRise Operations, LLC has experienced Direct Marketing components which are responsible for the implementation of proven techniques, small market research and development, and customer engagement and education. SonRise Ranch, INC has over 13 years of experience in direct marketing regenerative agriculture meats to consumers. They own the preeminent technology solution for online stores that offer direct to consumer meats. With foundational understanding and expertise regarding reach, engagement and access to the climate-conscious consumer, SonRise Ranch, INC will be leading the Direct Market efforts in Phases 1 to 5 – they require no financial commitment as noted in the budget narrative section of this document.
The combined and consolidated effort of these partner groups will provide an all-encompassing package that can educate, equip, and sustain the underserved participating Rancher for the momentous task of growing, cultivating, and harvesting our most efficacious carbon sequestration means in America today – regenerated grasslands.
Test, Evaluation and Technology Component services will provide quantifiable data to show the success of the project. Normally, significant and measurable regeneration results begin in the third year of execution; however, encouraging visual evidence and scientific test results will offer confirmation following the first growth season after initiation. The test division of Carbon Vault, INC will take initial soil samples and readings to establish a baseline for comparison, while evaluation partners will be tasked with mapping any given participant’s progress over time. The Carbon Vault technology division will be responsible for the implementation of the technology tools to measure the real, quantifiable impacts of this project from field to end-consumer.
The Aviation component in this project is essential and critical as it provides access to and regeneration of the highest physical points on any given ecosystem.
Carbon Vault’s Aviation Division will provide high-altitude dispensing of hydroseed and hydro mulch on certain landscapes. These techniques are vital to success as erosion usually begins at the highest elevation point in any given ecosystem. High elevations in grazing areas suffer the greatest damage owing to cattle’s instinctive desire to find high ground, thereby guaranteeing protection from predators. The peaks of any given grazing area are always those most damaged under conventional agriculture practices. This destructive mismanagement of grazing animals has persisted for over 100 years in North American grasslands. As the animal feeds in these higher elevations, it consumes all the plant life and over-tramples the fragile microsystem present. Once gathered for harvest or processing, the nutrients consumed are transferred to a lower elevation (usually near a corral or water source), inside the animal’s rumen. This, over time, creates a migration of all useful organic matter and organisms away from this critical high point. To make matters worse, the physical trail taken (from high to low elevation) is compacted from continued, repetitive hoof impact. This trail provides a path of least resistance for water flow during rain events. When the impact of the water from rain events occurs, generational erosion destroys plant life, removes topsoil, and depletes the nutrient base – ultimately resulting in desertification.
To reverse this destructive and relentless series of events cattlemen must first begin to focus on the soils rather than the animals as a resource. This begins by developing a Holistic Management Context and Grazing management plan to limit the time the plant systems are exposed to grazing (often as little as a few hours in duration), giving the plant life a fighting chance at growth and thereby inducing regeneration.
This poses a problem: how is growth propagated again if nothing but bare soil remains? This is where our Aviation Partners enter the equation. Although the brush that has replaced high elevation grasses cannot be removed with aircraft, a beneficial growth medium can be applied to promote and restart seed bed activity – an essential component of Regenerative Agriculture. Once growth is started, the plant roots take hold, promoting water infiltration and retention. Plants propagate other plants and eventually the cattle can return - but only if this is done in a controlled manner using holistic planned grazing within a holistic context.
List of underserved/minority-focused project partners
The underserved project partners are the ranchers involved and selected for the E2RP project. During Phase 1 of the program, a disabled veteran-owned demonstration ranch, known as Ranch 1, that includes a named creek, varied topography, significant erosion, low productive output (relative to size), poor water rights and a depleted ecosystem shall begin restoration using rapid regeneration techniques.
Concurrently, local underserved (small business, minority, veteran and/or woman-owned) ranch candidates will be evaluated as regeneration participants for Phases 2, thru 5 of this project.
Once selected, these front runners will eventually become the first generation of regenerators using their own land, cattle, and access to E2RP program equipment. They will be compensated with feed during the critical first year. This feed support is crucial since, generally speaking, “regeneration” requires cessation of all animal activity for a short period of time so that long dormant grasses can begin to grow back.
As progress takes place, these key personnel shall be employed as regenerative missionaries to the local ranching community searching for the prospective Phase 2 and 3 candidates. This modus will continue, as the top-tier participants become recruiters for subsequent Phases in the project.
Compelling need for the project
This project meets several compelling needs within the CSC concept.
- Sequestration of Atmospheric Carbon.
- Enriching underserved and minority ranchers and farmers.
- Increased water retention.
- Healthier animals, more engaged and educated customers, better nutrient cycling.
The prescribed approach to minimization of transaction costs is simple – the primary awardee will search for the best price/value combination for all service and equipment. This has already begun, as the budget narrative below will show.
There are two primary barriers to regenerative agriculture ranching; the first, a financial barrier, is significant. The allure of direct, open markets that bring ranchers higher prices using regeneration techniques that offer better yields can be combined to make small ranching a fulfilling and attractive occupation. However, one must have capital available to make the transition possible. This is nearly impossible in our current production system where ranchers barely break even in the sale of their product to large processors.
Second is the “unfamiliarity” barrier. This barrier cannot be eliminated or reduced but must be overcome through education and experience. Much of the reluctance to attempt regenerative methods is due to a lack of understanding regarding both its effectiveness and practicality. These two factors can be vanquished by formal education, demonstration, and practice.
The E2RP program is specifically designed to eradicate these two barriers – and because it is voluntary, only those with the fortitude and curiosity to overcome the second barrier will apply. In short, regenerators must want to change their methods.
Once both hurdles are removed (the economic and the practical), this productive and managerial capacity is combined to form a synergistic motivation for successful implementation. Small, observed successes will be seen by others and then leveraged to build larger gains in the climate smart sphere over the term of this project.
With regeneration, small, disadvantaged ranchers see hope and feel empowered, not isolated and overwhelmed by nature. The excitement of producing from an abundance - of up to four-times conventional production rates - rather than scarcity is inspiring. A candidate can often quit an off-farm job, thereby improving quality of life, because for the first time in generations they have been shown how the land they tend can provide a full income and a worthwhile enterprise.
 Common estimates are that for every 1% increase in organic matter, 23,000 gallons per acre of additional sub-surface water can be retained on the average landscape.
From: Ashton and Bryan Dhondt
Subj: Letter of support for Carbon Vault’s Soil Vison 30 and the E2RP Project, Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities Grant, 2022
To whom it may concern,
I am writing to you today, in support of Carbon Vault’s Soil Vision 30 Project. I have been a friend and customer of SonRise Ranch for many years. The work they do in the regeneration of soils and grasslands is astounding. Their team produces some of the best meat products I’ve ever tasted and knowing that my food dollars are working to support carbon sequestration, healthy animals and small family ranches is very important to me.
I have read Carbon Vault’s E2RP project and believe this is a wise use of our tax dollars. They are proposing to train the next generation of Regenerative Agriculture Cattle Ranchers in the way beef should be raised in the United States.
We are thrilled they are attempting this, and hope that you will carefully consider awarding their grant request in this endeavor.
Bryan and Ashton Dhondt