Purpose & Values
We work for a future in which humans flourish as members of a thriving ecosphere. Achieving this future requires reconciling the human economy with nature’s economy, and we believe focusing on food and how we produce it is a transformative first step. In this future, agriculture regenerates the soil, water, and air upon which all life depends. The agriculture we seek equitably provides for human needs within ecological limits over the long term and is stewarded by communities of people living in just relationship with each other and the ecosphere. We pursue pathways to this future rooted in an ecospheric perspective and scientifically validated. Natural ecosystems, characterized by perenniality and diversity, serve as the highest standard for ecological functionality. They inspire our efforts to develop a perennial agriculture that produces ample food for people while reaching for the levels of ecosystem service production—functions like building soil, retaining nutrients, and sequestering carbon—needed to truly call our life on this planet sustainable. Down through 10,000 years, since the dawn of agriculture, grain crops have been at the heart of food and agriculture throughout much of the world. Today, these crops still directly or indirectly supply the majority of the calories consumed by humans globally. But this productivity has come at a price: the environmental degradation associated with farming annual crops. This is why we are committed to the long view in agriculture and the necessity to create or catalyze the creation of many new perennial cereal, legume, and oilseed crops adapted to the viable grain-producing regions of the world and grown for maximum ecosystem services.
Our science has demonstrated that new perennial grain crops can be developed and that diverse, ecologically intensified cropping systems hold the potential to bring grain crop agriculture to a level of ecological function on par with native grasslands and other natural ecosystems. Perennializing the large percentage of global cropland currently devoted to annual grain crops would be a truly transformational achievement and could be our best chance to sustain human needs within an ecospheric context.
To sustain a perennial agriculture for the next 10,000 years will require attention to both biophysical and cultural systems. We must simultaneously create perennial crops and co-create the communities of people that will care for them. We understand the interconnectedness of humans with the ecosphere. This knowledge helps us repair human social and economic systems toward justice, equity, and an enduring vitality for all people.
Realizing this future is a monumental task that must rapidly expand globally and persist for decades. Our vision is to catalyze and support that movement. To achieve this, we know our work must continue and we cannot do it alone.
If we are successful, we will see on the landscape for the first time an agriculture that can truly be called regenerative. This agriculture will build soil and people rather than degrade and deplete them. It will permit reliance on contemporary sunlight more than lock-in to fossil fuels. It will store carbon in the ground while more resilient human cultures grow from the ground up. It will foster biodiversity from microbes to megafauna. It will help restore health to soils, farms, waterways, people, and communities.
While we are committed to long-term, transformative solutions, we acknowledge that the climate crisis demands urgency. We accept our responsibility to influence a swift transition of agricultural lands to available perennial, climate-mitigating production systems, and human communities to a low-carbon livelihood. To this end, we foster a broad consideration of perennial agriculture transitions beyond grains and creatively explore early uses for new perennial grains beyond current paradigms of agricultural economics. We empower and advocate for practices and projects that begin the just transition toward a perennial future today.
Our values represent the quality and depth of intention we bring to our work. These are the lenses through which all our day-to-day and larger decisions are made. They are the philosophies that inspire us.
Long-View: We consider the distant past and the distant future—tens of thousands of years. We consider what was here before and how it worked, we grapple with our current reality, and we think about how to maintain agriculture and sustain humanity long into the future. We are not daunted by solutions that require decades to realize.
Limits: We pursue our vision with the attitude that all our actions and the impacts of our solutions must be rooted in unwavering respect for ecological limits. We look for solutions to sustain human life within these limits, and we think fairly about living with them—we think both about what needs to grow and what needs degrowth. We see the human endeavor in an ecospheric context, including our own operations.
Whole Science: We engage in science that simultaneously embraces holistic and reductionist approaches. We are careful not to think the world is the model. We avoid misplaced concreteness. We engage art and philosophy to inform our scientific pursuits. We consider the entire ecosphere and then focus our intellect on real solutions created by people working with real plants in real places.
Courage: We are not intimidated by pursuing transformational solutions that don’t fit into the current research or societal paradigm and for which success is not assured. We are committed to telling the truth, including about what we don’t know yet. Our public service mission and financial independence help us maintain the flexibility and courage to do what is necessary but may not be popular or easy.