Ray Archuleta has more than 30 years of experience working with farmers and ranchers as they work to improve their soils on their land.

Ray Archuleta.jpeg

Whether through his long career with the Natural Resources Conservation Service or his latest moves into farming and founding Understanding Ag, LLC, and Soil Health Academy, LLC, Archuleta has spent a lifetime working to improve soil.

And he’s bringing that lifetime of experience to High Plains Journal’s Soil Health U, Jan. 22 and 23, at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center, Salina, Kansas. Archuleta will be one of three keynote speakers for the two-day event, which also includes Lance Gunderson of Regen Ag Lab and Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin of Regenerative Agriculture Alliance.

Archuleta said he’s observed that farmers often want a prescription—a solution that fixes everything. But often they are lacking in the context to understand that applying a principle is just the first step of many to find success in regenerative agriculture.

“If we don’t have the right context, the right framework, we tend to interpret the world wrong,” Archuleta said. “You need to know the goal you’re working toward, or you’ll get discouraged. Context isn’t about putting a bunch of Band-Aids out there. It’s about understanding the tools and then you can use the tools correctly.”

He likens this to military strategy versus military logistics.

“Strategy is that you go into battle with a plan,” he said. “But if you don’t get bullets and toilet paper to the men, that’s logistics, and you lose the war. Logistics is how you carry out that plan.” The principles of regenerative agriculture are simple, he added, but it’s how each farmer carries them out in their own unique fields, with their unique soil types, available resources and skillsets that is how you win the battle long term.

“It’s how you carry that out on your farm that takes time and experimentation and, yes, failure,” he said. Archuleta understands that people on a soil health plan may have setbacks along the way, but it’s how they react to those setbacks that will determine their ultimate success. That’s why he recently purchased his own 150-acre farm with cattle in southwest Missouri, as a better connection to the farmers and the principles he teaches.

“To me, if I was going to be able to teach effectively, empathetically and sympathetically, I had to do what the farmers are doing, and experience their pains and what they have to deal with on a daily basis,” he explained. “Because they are dealing with a heavily complex system that changes daily. I needed to feel that same experience.

“I’ve always had a respect for farmers, but now I have more humility,” he continued. “My perspective is that nature has a beautiful design, and we should mimic and copy it. If we do that, we will do well. When I was younger I used to think the goal was yield and about forcing nature, but now I just want to mimic it.”

Farmers and ranchers and those interested in soil health will be able to hear Archuleta speak to the “right why” at Soil Health U, Jan. 22 and 23, in Salina, Kansas. Registration is open at www.SoilHealthU.net. The Early Bird Attendee Registration Fee is just $75 until Nov. 18. The price increases to $125 on Nov. 19, so don’t delay, register today. 

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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