The Future-Proof Farm
Changing Mindsets in a Changing World
FROM THE AUTHOR
by Roain Atwood, Wrangler
Steve Groff with Roian Atwood, Senior Director of Sustainability, Wrangler, in Thessaloniki, Greece at the AgroTecnica Exposition. Why was Steve there with Wrangler? It's just one of the many compelling stories you'll read about in "The Future-Proof Farm; Changing Mindsets in a Changing World.
When Steve Groff introduced himself to me at a Missouri soil health conference where we were both speaking, I knew immediately that I wanted to learn more about his approach to farming responsibly in this world of rapid change. Friendly and jovial, Steve stands out in a crowd by proudly wearing a signature felted hat. He is generous with his passion and knowledge as he offers sage advice on the intersection between agriculture and the preservation of soils. And, as I have had the opportunity to get to know Steve more over the years, it is obvious that his respect for nature and the land drives his commitment as a steward.
I have long admired people with such a commitment to stewardship—John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Helen and Scott Nearing. Their words and philosophies inspire a connection with nature that lives outside ourselves and humbles the human experience. From an early age I aspired to better understand the steward’s commitment and devote myself to learning from the marvels of nature. For four summers, in between college courses, I was a canoe guide in the wilds of northern Maine, leading river trips for a week or longer into the backcountry for fellow adventurers. Combating the black flies, we would return bearded, wet, tired, and hungry and with sublime experiences and memories—like sidling up to a group of loons in full chorus under the moonlight in the middle of Grand Lake Matagamon. Later I worked with indigenous tribes in remote villages of Alaska, teaching swimming skills in a land where the water claims so many lives.
Those early days are forever etched in my heart. It was a time of deep connection to nature, but also with a yearning to share with the world what I had experienced. My next level of stewardship commitment was to bring these ineffable nature lessons into the human world. In reality, these two worlds are connected. Nature does not discriminate between the animal kingdom and human society. We cannot isolate ourselves from something that is part of us. We can make a conscious choice, as a society and species, to evolve from a force of destruction to a symbiotic collaborator with the natural world.
At Duke University, I added some credentials to my passion, graduating with a master’s in environmental management. In radical collaboration, my classmates and I sought to tackle wicked problems by exploring all possible solutions, whether from policy, economics, or governance. I developed an interest in and excitement for the private sector because I saw the speed at which ideas could come to fruition.
In the years since, I have found my place as director of sustainability for Wrangler, a brand that most everyone recognizes and that symbolizes for many the values of courage and connection to the land. This is a company where I can fulfill my stewardship commitment. With a dedication to protecting the resources of our planet, Wrangler offers “tough denim, gentle footprint, responsible action.” We strive to team with farmers worldwide who produce cotton in a way that protects and regenerates the soil. The earth provides for us in so many ways. We at Wrangler recognize our duty to give back to it.
I have a deep respect for our agricultural community. Farmers bear an awesome responsibility to feed and clothe us. They do it faithfully, year in and year out, despite a host of hardships and risks. The weather and pests can ravage their harvest. The economy and shifting markets can evaporate their profits. It’s not an easy way to make a living, but most would prefer to do nothing else. Farming is more than a business. It’s a way of life, one worth preserving – and farmers are finding that a good way to accomplish that is to take steps to preserve and restore their primary resource, the soil. Understanding soil is like understanding nature, with all of its nuances and nebulas of deep ecological interdependencies, microscopic alien creatures with Latin names; and the next frontier of regenerative agriculture is that opportunity for a symbiotic collaboration with nature.
It is my privilege to work closely with cotton producers who are dedicated to the stewardship of the land and have made strides toward farming responsibly. Their ability to adapt is critical. And that is why I am privileged to know Steve Groff, a true man of the land and a born educator. He is teaching farmers around the world how they can adapt and thrive, taking meaningful steps today to accelerate their own stewardship commitments. Steve is always welcome at my campfire. As a champion for cover crops, no-till farming, and regenerative agriculture, Steve has dedicated years to cultivating the new mindset that will future-proof our farms.
Senior Director of Sustainability
What people are saying about
The Future-Proof Farm
“Every part of the story that Steve tells in this book rings true to me. I saw so much of it with my own eyes since I first met Steve planting no-till potatoes in his kitchen garden with his now-grown son on his knee. I'm a professor, but Steve has been one of my greatest teachers. For twenty-five years I have been taking my college students up to Cedar Meadow Farm to learn from Steve. So, it is very gratifying to see his wisdom and insight now available in a book for all to read.”
Professor of Soil Science, University of Maryland
"If you want to be successful and make a lot of money farming, you should only accept advice from farmers who have achieved the same goals you are striving for. The most successful farmers think differently than most and see the world differently. This book is your chance to glimpse how a very successful farmer and farming coach thinks differently about agriculture and food production."
Founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture
"Farming in nature's image is a skilled art and mastery which few embrace or understand. Steve Groff is an artisan of ecological life. For decades, he planted diverse cover crops-the most transformative, renewing, and healing force on the living soil. Read Steve's Journey- learn from his collective and well-traveled wisdom on how Regenerative Agriculture can transform and heal our earth"
Missouri Farmer and Regenerative Agriculture Advocate
“Once I started, I didn't want to stop. Very well done! I sincerely appreciate Steve putting his journey on paper. No one has done more to educate and advance the use of cover crops than has Steve Groff. A must read for anyone who enjoys great food! This is the incredible journey of how a vegetable farmer from Pennsylvania is changing the way the world looks at food and fiber. Steve Groff is not only a true innovator, but a visionary who shows us the path to a healthy future!”
North Dakota Farmer and Author of Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey Into Regenerative Agriculture.
“Food production is at the start of a momentous change. As usual, Steve anticipates what his audience needs to know and explains new concepts in a commonsense, accessible way. In this book, the Cover Crop Coach steps out of the field, leading farmers to reorient their mindset and their business for success that will last for generations to come.”
Owner, Resource Smart, LLC
“Steve Groff may be the Cover Crops Coach and the father of the Tillage Radish, but now we get to add Explainer-in-Chief: this book is a clear, concise, and useful guide to practical farming for the future of good food.”
Author, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York
“The Future Proof Farm is a wakeup call to us as agricultural producers. It is time to open our eyes and meet our new bosses and start delivering what they are demanding. I appreciate how Steve clearly lays out that the future relevancy of our farms will depend on the regeneration of both our mindsets and our soils.”
Co-owner and Sales Manager Green Cover Seed
"It is only fitting that the Cover Crop Coach should package his knowledge into helping us all "Future-Proof" our farms. Steve's years of innovation have laid the groundwork for the next generation of innovators. I am excited to be one of the young guys to pick up the torch, rally the troops, and carry on the legacy of Steve and other innovators who have laid out the path to a sustainable future in agriculture.”
7th generation Iowa Farmer and Founder/CEO of Continuum Ag
“Decades ago, Steve and I talked about our nutrient-depleted soils and their effects on human nutrition and disease susceptibility. As a nature-oriented allopathic Family Physician (University of Pennsylvania Medical School), my interests were to see soils enriched naturally and topsoil replenished, so that both animal and human foods would provide the micronutrients crucial for fighting or preventing diseases, and reduce our reliance on prescribed pharmaceuticals. Future-proof farmers around the world are learning from Steve’s websites, blogs, videos and live talks. Here in your hands you get a front-row seat to the future of farming!”
Dr. Ken Hurst, MD, FAAFP
“Farmers listen to other farmers. Innovative farmers with credibility are the most effective mentors. Steve has Cedar Meadows Farm as evidence that he ‘walks the talk’ sharing his experiences making the soils richer in carbon, healthier, and more productive and profitable.”
USDA-ARS Retired Soil Scientist
“Our survival on this planet is dependent on the success of our farmers and the health of our soil. Steve’s book is the perfect resource for farmers to get a handle on their changing role. The work he’s doing with hemp, especially his leadership role in the community, is laying the groundwork for the farming of the future. This is an inspiring book!”
Digital Editor, Lancaster Farming Industrial Hemp Podcast
“From my own medical viewpoint, it is becoming increasingly clear that our gut biome is intimately related to our overall health, in which the quality of the food we eat is key. Steve addresses the high nutritional value of food produced by regenerative techniques. This book is well written, informative, interesting, and down to earth. It is gently sprinkled and seasoned with faith quotes, Steve showing his credit and appreciation to his creator God. Get this book: it is an easy weekend read.”
Dr. Loren Helmuth, MD
“I got to know of Steve's work on cover crops through YouTube videos. In November 2019 I had the great opportunity of personally soaking up his knowledge for a whole week as we traveled with him for a series of meetings in Argentina and Uruguay. Now after reading his WAKE-UP CALL book, I have learned more about his farming awareness of the environment as well the social issues of farming healthier.”
Argentine Farmer and leader of Suelos y Sistemas (Soils and Systems) in Argentina and Uruguay
“When it comes to agriculture, regenerative, sustainable, and respectful use of the land is the only way to be responsible to our children’s children – from whom we borrow the land. I can only hope that today’s land stewards adopt the simple soil-saving steps so clearly laid out in this book.”
VP, HEART for the Nations
“Steve was already innovating, restoring soil, and growing more nutritious food when I met him twenty years ago. Farmers of any size can thrive by following his roadmap to the future of farming. His new book shows the way to solve numerous problems hurting our farmers AND the quality of the food we all eat. In particular, food nutrient density has been declining in the US for at least 100 years, caused by the steady loss of minerals in the soil that our crops are grown in. When the full array of essential minerals are not available in the food we eat, our immune system and other important functions are compromised.
Importantly today, as we face a global pandemic, it is well established that zinc and selenium are protective against viral infections, including the COVID-19 virus. Zinc and selenium, as well as other essential minerals in the soil, have declined largely because soil organic matter has been lost by erosion and oxidation caused by plowing and heavy chemical application. Without organic matter to hold them, minerals simply wash away with the rain. Steve’s innovations, described in this book eliminate the need for plowing, and explain how to launch a cover crop program to rebuild the organic matter that is essential to hold the minerals we need to protect ourselves and our food crops from disease.”
Organic Farmer, Nutritionist and CEO of Apex Harvest Soil Company
“What I like about this book is that it lays out a plan for the future to farm beyond today. Agriculture today is focused on the crop this year, not 25-50 years in the future. Steve’s innovation proves cover cropping will work and consumers are demanding a better food, with less chemicals that’s good for the planet and them. This book tells a great story of how Steve has changed his farm and his life to help other farmers understand soil to keep it going for tomorrow.”
Oklahoma Farmer and South-Central Regional Director of USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation
“Steve’s book puts the pieces together for a farming system using ecological principles for food production. Transforming modern agriculture from a monoculture dominated system to one that embraces polycultures is the model our society needs.”
Executive Director of No-till on the Plains
“I enjoyed the book very much. It’s engaging, full of that original Groff spirit with which he approaches in everything he does, a nice blend of personal and agriculture, a nice blend of ecology and economics, and it’s practical/useful stuff. I met Steve Groff 20 years ago when we teamed up to provide locally grown vegetables to supermarkets in Philadelphia. Steve is one of those people who can sense the winds of change long before the rest of us do.
He was using cover crops, experimenting with no-till, and applying tons of organic matter to his fields when the language of sustainable agriculture was only beginning to enter common usage. Now we get to benefit from his decades of learning, experimentation, mistakes, and proven accomplishments. Whether you’re a farmer, or someone else who wants to know more about regenerative farming, this book shows how cover cropping and related practices are beneficial for the soil and profitable for the farm business, at the same time.”
Founder Red Tomato, and co-founder Equal Exchange
“Like cover crops, no-till, and the Tillage Radish that he has promoted, Steve Groff is a deep-rooted farmer. His operation, through 30 years of practice, has been his teaching room- his lab, but also it has been the filter between theory and real life in the field. Whether we like it or not, the consumer is our boss and big food and fiber companies have already made some great moves towards farming practices and farmers who take better care of their soils and indeed the local as well as the global environment main big challenges. We will reap what we sow. To future-proof our farms, we must keep planting now the seeds for success.”
French Farmer, Founder of TCS Magazine (Soil Conservation Tillage mag) and 15 years Chairman of the Farmers Association BASE (Biodiversity, Agriculture, Soil and Environment)
“After two decades as a consulting wildlife biologist, I’ve never been so optimistic about restoring soil through regenerative wildlife agriculture. It’s hard to imagine the library of a wildlife “food plotter” without a copy of The Future-Proof Farm. Steve Groff, cover crop pioneer and innovator of the roller crimper, does a fantastic job discussing the practices of building a more resilient recreational property. The agricultural principles of biomimicry promoted in this book are having long-lasting, positive impacts on wildlife populations and their habitats! Groff delivers a road map, with remarkable clarity, for each of us to follow during our journey!”
Jason R. Snavely
CWB, CEO, Drop-Tine Wildlife Consulting
“I think of Steve Groff as an early cover crop pioneer who helped me with my own Changing Mindsets. He continues to lead the way toward more resilient soils with The Future-Proof Farm”
Soil Health Specialist
Retired, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture
“Several years ago, we produced an award-winning PBS documentary, narrated by Matt Damon, about Steve Groff and his cutting edge no-till farming techniques. Steve’s new book, “The Future-Proof Farm” goes well beyond what we covered and is a must read for anyone interested in saving the planet.”
Executive Producer, The Journey To Planet Earth PBS Television Series
“Steve’s book lays out in full detail the impact no-till, cover crops and regenerative ag will have in meeting the demand for higher quality, better tasting and environmentally-correctly produced food. This book is a wakeup call as to how consumer habits and changing food tastes will impact the way you farm. Steve maintains that continuing to produce crops and livestock the way you’re doing today will make your farming operation obsolete in a few years. Gear up for change, as the way you farm today won’t cut it 5 years from now.”
Editor, No-Till Farmer
“I first visited Steve Groff’s farm in the mid-1990s, at a time when he was one of the earliest farmers to be experimenting with cover crops combined with no-till. I’ve been back to his farm a few times over the years, and as he describes so well in this book, his progress towards regenerative agriculture has been remarkable. Any farmer or individual interested in food production can benefit from reading about Steve’s experiences not only with his own farm, but in traveling around the world to advise farmers and companies on cover crops, no-till and regenerative approaches.”
Rob Myers, Ph.D.
SARE National Liaison on Cover Crops and Soil Health
"I have seen Steve speak several times and I learn something every time. As one of my mentors I wish he had written this book 15 years ago so I would have been able to get everything I need to know about cover crops in one spot. The book would have saved me form making a lot of the mistakes that I have made. It was great to read his story while learning through all his experiences”
Maryland Farmer, Harbor View Farms
“Steve is truly a ‘Pioneer’ who has weathered a lot of storms in his life and has come out strong. He has been a mentor for me and has helped build my confidence to be a leader in the promotion of Soil Health. Steve has helped change the “Mindset” of many in the field of Cover Crops and Soil Health.”
Pennsylvania Farmer and President of the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance
“Cover crops—An investment today that strengthens our global future. Steve provides the incentives and directives to start. And that is the most important step in your farm’s future- just start.”
Washington Farmer and author of “Too dumb to Fail, Too Smart to Quit” The story of Shepherd’s Grain
“I read the entire book in three morning sessions- I could not put my computer down. I love Steve’s writing style- Down to earth .... more like "farm talk! As a stream and river ecologist, I love and respect Steve’s simple message – farming with no-till and cover crops conserves water and soil health leading to less pollution, more nutritious food, and increased farm profit, which is what consumers want. His book is timely, further advances sustainable agriculture, and convinced me that cover cropping can and does lead to clean fresh water, which is what I want!"
Distinguished Senior Research Scientist, Stroud Water Research Center
"It is not an exaggeration to say that Steve inspired me start my cover crop business. He has been a great mentor along the way, and his book is just like an honest conversation with him: you get practical, first-hand and ready-to-use advice from ‘The Coach’. I'd recommend The Future-Proof Farm to every cover cropping farmer and consultant who want to get it right for the first time."
Founder of Démétér Biosystems, Hungary