June 5, 2018

#20: How the hell are we gonna feed 10 billion people?

#20: How the hell are we gonna feed 10 billion people?
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In Episode 20, Quinn and Brian wonder: How the hell are we gonna feed 10 billion people?

Enter Fred Iutzi of the Land Institute, where they’re focused on the incredibly modest goal of working to displace the predominant industrial, disruptive system of agriculture by providing staple foods without destroying or compromising the cultural and ecological systems upon which we so very much depend.

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Fred Iutzi on Twitter

The Land Institute

Long Root Ale by Patagonia

“The Importance of Soil”, NY Times

“Why the paleo diet is half-baked”, Scientific American

Motorcycle death data

Trump’s Book Club: Becoming Native to This Place by Wes Jackson

Quinn Emmett on Twitter

Brian Colbert Kennedy on Twitter

Intro/outro by Tim Blane

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Ok that’s enough good lord


Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.

Brian: And My name is Brian Colbert Kennedy.

Quinn: And this is episode 20.

Brian: Episode 20.

Quinn: With Fred Iutzi. We're talking about how the hell we're gonna feed 10 billion presidents, Brian. 

Brian: There will be 10 billion people soon. Yes. This is the Andrew Jackson of podcast episodes.

Quinn: Jesus. That is a horrific- 

Brian: What do you want? 

Quinn: He was a monster. 

Brian: That's the first thing that came to my mind when I thought 20.

Quinn: Okay. But he was ... I don't want to be associated with that. He's a monster.

Brian: This is the years of your life when you just get drunk all the time off podcast episodes. 

Quinn: Wait. Isn't he getting kicked off for Harriet Tubman though?

Brian: Yes. He is, which is fucking awesome.

Quinn: So, let's back this up. 

Brian: This is the Harriet Tubman of podcast episodes. 

Quinn: Fuck yeah it is. 

Brian: That is way better. 

Quinn: That's what I'm talking about. Fred Iutzi is the president of the Land Institute in Kansas, where they're focused on the incredibly modest goal of working to displace the predominant industrial disruptive system of agriculture by providing staple foods without destroying or compromising the cultural and ecological systems upon which we depend.

Brian: I mean, we literally talk to some real shit bags on this show. 

Quinn: Right? People are just like, "Hey, man. Get off the couch and do something with your life."

Brian: Yeah. Unbelievable what these guys are doing. 

Quinn: Right? Yeah. Fred's just like, "Hey, wheat. Fuck you."

Brian: Fuck you, wheat. 

Quinn: Right? Yeah.

Brian: We did something. I'm so excited for everybody to listen to this episode. We did something we've never done on the podcast before, and I'm not gonna ruin it. 

Quinn: Yeah. Unclear if it's allowed, but it'll be fine. It'll be fine. 

Brian: Yeah. It was a really great conversation. 

Quinn: Speaking of great conversations and other things we can segue into, because I feel like we're kind of killing it these days on the subject of food, is yesterday at lunch I said, "What's your number one meal, your go-to end of life or deserted island, number one food?"

Brian: Deserted island. Well, I asked you, and you had a great answer.

Quinn: You asked me first, and I said, without hesitation-

Brian: So fast.

Quinn: ... as a almost 10 years pescetarian now, who eats just basically colorful vegetables, "Thanksgiving sandwich. No question. Hands down."

Brian: With so much cranberry. That's what I was really surprised about. 

Quinn: Cranberries, it's not the main focus, but it accentuates the flavor.

Brian: You in great detail described the sandwich, and there were at least three layers of cranberry. 

Quinn: Yeah. No. My homies at home will appreciate that. This is like a religion to us.

Brian: Sounds awesome. 

Quinn: You got to have great bread, but the bread isn't the focus, but it's gotta be good. 

Brian: It's the vehicle for the-

Quinn: It can't fucking fall apart. 

Brian: No. 

Quinn: Because this thing has some heft to it, right? Then you've got your first layer is this dressing I told you, it's called house dressing. It's amazing. Then you've got some cranberry. You've got some thick cut turkey. You've got some melted cheese. That is good, because the whole sandwich is gonna go on the broiler for about 30 second later. 

Brian: Is this a specific type of cheese, by the way? 

Quinn: You know, I-

Brian: You have cheese pref?

Quinn: I have cheese once every 365 days, so to me it's a little bit of whatever's out there. 

Brian: Whatever. Yeah. 

Quinn: Otherwise, bad things happen. 

Brian: Got it. 

Quinn: Yeah. The thick cut turkey. Then you're gonna put a little more cranberry. Then a chunk of stuffing. 

Brian: Stuffing?

Quinn: Oh, yeah. For sure. A little more cranberry, some more of that house dressing, and then you're gonna close the sandwich on top, or if you don't close it right away, you put it, again, on the broiler pan. Don't close the oven all the way. You'll roast your fucking sandwich too fast. The broiler is not to be messed with. 

Brian: But I like some extra toasty-

Quinn: No. You will, but I'm telling you, you close that door, A, you're gonna walk away and forget about it. 

Brian: You can't fuck with the broiler, man. 

Quinn: Right? You leave the door cracked open a little bit, and you leave it open faced, so that the top piece gets toasted. Then you take it out and you close it. I'm telling you, you need like 30 seconds. 

Brian: That sounds fantastic.

Quinn: Then that's it. I'd eat that every day for the rest of life, except for one day a year. 

Brian: Well, you'd be dead. Yeah. 

Quinn: Basically, all of the things on that sandwich I eat one day a year, and I pay for it. You know what, man? You only live once.

Brian: My answer is the same. It's literally a thing that I have once a year.

Quinn: And yours is?

Brian: Mine's an Italian beef sandwich with a side of a hot dog. 

Quinn: As discussed, as much as mine won't make me feel well, yours is gonna fucking kill you. Say it out loud one more time. What's you go-to? What is it? 

Brian: It's an Italian beef sandwich with a side of a hot dog. 

Quinn: With a side of a hotdog.

Brian: Yeah. You can't, and I don't think I've ever had an Italian beef sandwich without a hot dog after. They go together. 

Quinn: Tell everybody what an Italian beef sandwich is.

Brian: An Italian beef sandwich is I would say, aside from pizza I guess, the food of Chicago. 

Quinn: No, but tell us what it is.

Brian: It's very thinly sliced roast beef. You know, it's cooked in a big vat of au jus with spices and shit. I don't know what's in there. You go to the place.

Quinn: Trans fats, that's what's in there, but keep going.

Brian: You go to the place. You put a big pile of that on bread, very specific bread. I forgot the name of it, but the bread is important in this situation. You gotta dunk that shit in the au jus. I like mine soaking wet.

Quinn: Wait. Is it just meat on bread? Is there anything else?

Brian: Yeah. Yeah. I'm going through the steps. This is in chronological order. You take the bread, you apply the meat. You dunk.

Quinn: Wait. Are you building this yourself? 

Brian: No. No. No. A professional sandwich maker is doing this for me. Then after it's soaking wet, they apply green bell peppers, jardiniere, mozzarella cheese, and you're finished. They wrap that up, and then you have a Chicago style hotdog.

Quinn: Is the cheese cold or warm?

Brian: It's room temperature, and then it gets warm on the hot sandwich. I prefer mozzarella. You really don't have to use cheese on this sandwich, but it's a nice touch.

Quinn: At this point, why not? 

Brian: Yeah. Why not? Right. Exactly.

Quinn: Then how are you eating this thing? Is there a special way? Do you have like a side of juice next to your side of hotdog? 

Brian: You don't need a side of juice, because you have completely submerged your sandwich. I'm not kidding. It just falls down your throat. It's in your mouth for enough time for you to taste it, but it just slides down. 

Quinn: Can I tell you what? I have a real issue with a soggy sandwich, just like my brother, who's listening to this, friend of the pod, you know what he does? Here's what he does, and now my son is starting. It's awful. 

Brian: Oh, no.

Quinn: He pours the cereal, pours his milk, walks away so that it gets soggy-

Brian: No. That's gross.

Quinn: ... and then eats it.

Brian: That's disgusting.

Quinn: It's horrible. 

Brian: Listen. I'm saying something specific about this. I would never ... I don't want any other sandwiches soaking wet. You need this one to be soaking wet. I promise. It's such a good meal.

Quinn: All right. On that note, let's go. I got to think about this. Let's go talk to Fred.

Brian: We should talk to Fred.

Quinn: I'm gonna go eat some vegetables. Our guest today is Fred Iutzi, and together we're gonna try to answer the question, how the hell are we going to feed 10 billion people? Fred, welcome.

Fred Iutzi: Thanks. It's good to be on. 

Brian: Very good to have you here. So, Fred, tell us real quick who you are and what you do.

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Well, you know, homo sapiens, located in the middle of Kansas in North America here, at the Land Institute. We're a nonprofit organization here that has been working for about 42 years now with the sort of modest goal of completely transforming agriculture and righting almost everything that's wrong with human habitation on the planet, so kind of typical nonprofit stuff here. I am from a farm background, a family farm background in Illinois originally. 

Brian: Fellow Illinoisan here, Fred. 

Fred Iutzi: Well, that's very good. Very good. Prairie state. Somehow I wound up in Kansas, and I'm making the best of it here by leading what I think is the most important organization in the world, at least in terms of ensuring that humanity is gonna be able to move on as many more generations as my family has been on the land in Illinois and be able to do that all over the world.

Quinn: Well, it sounds like your daily to do list is a little more daunting than either of ours. 

Brian: Just a little bit. That's so great. That's so great. 

Fred Iutzi: Well, we overlap on podcasts, right?

Brian: Perfect.

Quinn: Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

Brian: All right. Let's set up our conversation for today. Our goal here on the podcast is action oriented questions, so we're going to establish some context for our wonderful listeners, and then together, if you don't hate us, develop some specific steps that we can all take to actually make a difference on this planet. 

Fred Iutzi: Perfect. 

Quinn: Rock and roll. Fred, we kick things off usually with one important question to really get to the heart of what you're doing here, both on the line with us and on this planet. Instead of saying, "Tell us your life story," and you hinted at this a little bit, we like to ask, why are you vital to the survival of the species, Fred?

Fred Iutzi: Right. Well, I don't know that I'm vital, but I can tell you why the Land Institute is vital here- 

Quinn: Don't be bashful. 

Fred Iutzi: ... and the movement that we have behind us. Well, I find that my radiance shines through even when I contradict it. 

Quinn: Perfect. 

Fred Iutzi: Essentially, we are trying to get to the heart of the matter on why agriculture, like almost all human land management, is screwing everything up so badly, through no fault of the intentions and the integrity of farmers or of consumers, but just as this kind of consequence that we can't keep pushed down. We're the people who are going all the way back to the start of the story to figure out where things got off track. I would say that it is our willingness to do that, to take on, kind of answer that impossible question, and develop the impossibly bold solutions to that that comes from that. That makes us probably number one, certainly when we started up, the most ill advised organization in the world, but now the most important organization in the world. 

Quinn: Yeah. That'll do. Right?

Brian: Not a terrible answer. 

Quinn: I'm a big fan of starting ill advised organization.

Brian: Yeah. 

Quinn: I feel like I've got a lot of those in my history.

Brian: You seem pretty vital.

Quinn: You, Fred, not me. 

Brian: Oh, yeah. Sorry. To be clear, I was talking to Fred. 

Quinn: All right. What were gonna do now is establish some context for our question of the day, which is a big one. Fred, listeners, this is your friendly reminder that this context 101 with Professor Brian, not an official title, hasn't earned it, is pretty oversimplified, sometimes off course, and sometimes, though never intentionally, incorrect, but that's why we've got Fred, Mr. [inaudible 00:11:17], on the line to correct us. Brian, Professor Brian, talk to us about agriculture. 

Brian: I've earned the title. Okay? 

Quinn: Okay. Give us the entire history and importance of agriculture. Go. 

Brian: I can't fit this in my brain every week. It's a lot. 

Quinn: Well, the people need it. Let's go. 

Brian: All right. What is wheat, and why is it important? 

Quinn: The paleo folks already hate you.

Brian: Yes. They do. They did before this. Anyway, we've been eating grains and stuff for, I don't know, 100,000 years. Then I'm pretty sure we actually started cultivating it, like rye, wheat, peas, lentil, flax-

Quinn: Flax is amazing. 

Brian: You love flax. 

Quinn: Yup.

Brian: We started cultivating that about 10,000 years ago across the planet, and then sheep, and cows, and pigs, and sugar, and cocoa, and cotton. 

Quinn: How did we make such a jump?

Brian: Well, living near rivers helped. Then shit got crazy in the Middle Ages. 

Quinn: Getting specific, huh? 

Brian: Yeah. I'm doing my best here. China opened up. Explorers loaded up on foods and [inaudible 00:12:24], sadly. Columbus, who we all love, brought a bunch of New World stuff back to Europe. 

Quinn: Fucking ass hat. 

Brian: Yeah. He's the worst. Then, you know, so many new innovations, crop rotation, advanced fertilizers, fish traps, better irrigation, using animals for farming and not just eating, and then we went from primarily subsistence farming, feeding your ungrateful children, you specifically, to intense farming, which is feeding everybody. Then, well, machines helped.

Quinn: Robots? 

Brian: Not yet. They will come. 

Quinn: Fuck.

Brian: The robots will come. 

Quinn: [crosstalk 00:12:58] They cannot come soon enough. 

Brian: All good, right? We fed a ton of folks. Everybody had jobs. We used the land. We fed ourselves. You know, why chase animals for food, when we can grow it? Grains are amazing. 

Quinn: If I can honestly ... The Paleo guys, we probably don't have a lot of them, but I think they're mostly Crossfit anyways, and they're strong. I've done it, but let's just say the endurance training side of Crossfit is underdeveloped. 

Brian: I'm gonna get hell from my best friend, Chris, over this comment. 

Fred Iutzi: Honestly, most Paleo people I know, self-identified Paleo people, use metal tools, and so they're fairly inauthentic on that. 

Quinn: I have so many questions about the whole thing. Thank you, Fred. 

Brian: [crossatalk 00:13:40] All right. We'll just finish up here. Too much is too much. You know? We cut down basically the Amazon-

Quinn: Whoops. 

Brian: ... among other large, beautiful, necessary forests. The byproducts of turning the planet into a giant farm are endless, pesticides, chemical runoff, water usage, crushing natural environments, greenhouses gases. 

Quinn: Cow burps, right?

Brian: Cow burps and farts. 

Quinn: Right? 

Brian: Oh. We love talking about that. Yeah. Anyway, right now, aside from pumping our livestock full of antibiotics that could very well lead to zombies, we've got another issue, and that's that the population has doubled since 1970. 

Quinn: That's Infinity War. We can talk to Thanos about it. 

Brian: Please, don't talk about it. I haven't seen Infinity War yet, Fred. I don't know if you have either, but don't spoil anything. 

Quinn: Thanos would love this episode. It's the whole point. 

Brian: All right. Just stop it. Anyway, despite basically zero babies being born in Japan and elsewhere recently, we're barreling right towards 10 billion humans, which is-

Quinn: That's a lot of mouths. 

Brian: ... a lot of mouths to feed. But I should note we do produce a fuck ton of food. 

Quinn: Is that a technical term?

Brian: Yeah. It's a unit of ... Actually, oh, you talked about this with Emily Cassidy in episode 14, right?

Quinn: I did, but you declined to join us for that one.

Brian: I didn't decline. I was on vacation. The point I'm trying to make is Americans waste about 21% of edible, available food. In 2010, the US food supply provided 4,000 calories per person per day. The daily recommended is what, 20,000?

Quinn: No. 2,000.

Brian: Right. 2,000, so that's a lot of waste. 

Quinn: 20,000. 

Brian: Can you imagine? 

Quinn: That's like Michael Phelps and his pancakes.

Brian: I think you misheard me. I said 2,000. What did you hear?

Quinn: Sure. The point is it seems to be a lot of waste. We're making a lot of food, but we've got to feed a lot of people. Thanks for that, Brian. 

Brian: It's Professor Brian.

Quinn: People's ears are now bleeding now.

Fred Iutzi: No. I'll say, I mean, it was quite beautiful. I felt like I was present for the writing of We Didn't Start the Fire [crosstalk 00:15:40]. 

Brian: Fantastic song. 

Quinn: All right. Fred, you're very kind, and if you haven't clicked the off button yet, let's focus on our topic, now that we know what the hell we're going on about, which is how the hell are we gonna feed 10 billion people? Fred, I do want to start by digging into that last bit of context that Brian brought up. I guess it's kind of two related points, which is there's some estimates, and this is way more complicated than I'm about to give it credit for, but we, humans, already produce enough food to feed the entire world as it is now, but simultaneously we waste an enormous amount of it. Again, it's more complicated, shipping, availability, spoilage, et cetera, but I want to make sure our listeners understand the fundamentals of the situation, not just we aren't making enough food. We need to make more. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. That's dead on, and in almost every way that situation is really lamentable, but in a sense, it gives us kind of the operating space we need to confidently say that it's possible to reduce the environmental impacts of agriculture. If we can, at the sort of astronomically high crop yields that are achieved in conventional agriculture now, produce 50% more, 100% more, 150% more calories that are needed to actually feed people, if we had a more equitable distribution economy and just a more kind of rational food system, then that gives us pretty good confidence that even if we have to get into territory of only 90% of astronomical for crop yields that we've got, we've got some operating space here to kind of not get confounded by this false dichotomy that traditionally has been drawn between feeding the planet and, quote unquote, saving the environment, as if there was a future for feeding people with no natural resources anyway. But this is the point where these issues really come together is that calories figure. It's the right thing to focus on. 

Quinn: Again, we're always trying to ... Dumbing it down is not the way to go, but put it on the level of our listeners listening to this on the subway, which is can you just give us the fundamentals of crop yield and things like that, so they have a basis to go on here, where we are now and what we're trying to fix?

Fred Iutzi: Right. Yeah. I'm gonna give you the historical arc of agriculture here, because that'll be super relevant to stuff I'm imagining we'll discuss here in a little bit. People started out, 10,000 years ago, when what we really call agriculture started, eyeballing native plants, wild plants, especially grass species, like the ancestors of wheat, and finding the plants that had instead of kind of super thin, wispy, tiny seeds, seeds that were only kind of tiny, thin, and wispy. Wild plants only need a large enough seed to reproduce successfully and enough of them to reproduce successfully, and that's it. People need more than that to use it as a source of carbohydrates, of calories. 

Fred Iutzi: Those kind of ancestors of crops had yields that would be on the order of a few pounds per acre maybe, and gradually over 10,000 or so years we got from there with kind of the folk plant breeding that was happening, you know, accidental and sort of folk ways, intentional eventually, so that corn, and wheat, and rice were yielding many times what their wild ancestors did, still only a fraction of what they do today. Then here we come to basically the very tail end of the 19th century, the start of the 20th century, sipping over a few things that happened before that, and we get the start of modern applied biology, and modern agricultural research, and then at the same time kind of an expansion of the technology base for farming in a mechanized and kind of external fertilizer input fashion. 

Fred Iutzi: There this kind of gradual increase in yields, going all the way back to 10,000 years ago, takes a sharp, upward turn as you get people, again, starting at the 20th century, who had modern understanding of plant genetics, plant physiology. They had tools like statistics and experimental design, started laying down the principles of plant breeding, and could start really intentionally and rapidly increasing crop yields. Then at the same time, as we get into the 20th century, private industry started sinking even more money than the public sector into that, and you get this sort of military fertilizer industrial complex that kind of comes together to supercharge the agriculture sector with cheap nitrogen fertilizer and cheap sources of other fertilizer inputs.

Fred Iutzi: That's where yields really start climbing and have climbed steadily to where they are today and still climbing. A lot of the environmental impacts of course of agriculture have been proportionate to those increases, and they haven't, quote unquote, fed the world exactly, but I guess just sort of as a feat of biology, kind of like a feat of bodybuilding or something, there's this incredible expansion of yield, to the point where even ... Even when I was growing up in the early 80s, there'd be maybe a few farmers in our county would have 200 bushel corn would be the yield that you dreamed about, just to illustrate how this has been ongoing. Now, my parents are disappointed if most of their farm isn't 200 bushel corn, just to kind of illustrate how we're still on that trend to some extent.

Quinn: To be clear, most of my reference point is Field of Dreams and Kevin Costner.

Fred Iutzi: It's about like that. You measure baseball in slightly different units than corn production, but it's the same principle.

Quinn: But they were so mad, because he wasn't getting the yields. They said, "You're gonna have to close up the farm," and he said, "No. There's ghosts playing baseball, and that's gonna bring in revenue," which I'm just saying you should consider. 

Brian: Have you thought about this?

Quinn: All right. Well, that is all super helpful. You mentioned in there, and we've talked about this quite a bit, which is ... and it's not sort of the point of today. Obviously it's an association, which is the downsides of these increased yields, and these increased farming, and all the byproducts that come with it, which is pesticide and herbicide use, and water runoff, and things like that I can imagine, right? 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Exactly. And soil erosion is kind of the one that unites the deep past and the present. 

Quinn: Gotcha. Now, this is something I know a little about, but not too much. I'm trying to educate myself a little more. Does no-till farming have any role in that, in improving that situation, soil erosion or water runoff?

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. It does. Let me set up kind of a ... there's sort of a progression of three kinds of farming that are going on. There are three ways to improve on these negative environmental impacts of agriculture. One of them is to make, quote unquote, conventional farming, main stream farming put as many sustainability tweaks onto it as we can. So, no-till is the most important example of that, so we're doing less soil disturbance. We're keeping the soil more covered by plant matter. We're not churning it up and aerating it in a way that results in the organic matter breaking down and soil particles being washed away, not using as much fuel for extra tractor passes, stuff like that. That's an example of a tweak that's an important way to sort of slow down the bleeding. Yeah. Go ahead. 

Quinn: No. I was just gonna say, we haven't done a good enough job of digging into that, and maybe you're the right person, and maybe this is a separate conversation entirely. It sounds like the state of American soil, period, is not in a good place. Is that right? Did we really beat it up pretty bad?

Fred Iutzi: So, the state of human soil, human civilization's soil is not in good shape. If you go basically all the way back to the beginning, to Mesopotamia, Fertile Crescent, there have always been kind of boom and bust cycles in human civilization driven by soil erosion. We have never found a mode of farming that doesn't steadily deplete soil resources. We've learned in more recent times to apply some tweaks that slow it down, but over the long term slow is almost as bad as fast. Improvements to conventional ag, like no-till, are one strategy, which helps. Another strategy is to shake up farming with the crops that we currently use, more than that, using organic or regenerative farming methods, and that helps. We need more of that, again, to further slow down the bleeding.

Fred Iutzi: But we know, if we kind of look at the harsh, unforgiving data here, that none of these farming systems on average can actually stop soil erosion. They can bring it down to a very small level, and I'm talking about less than a millimeter a year of soil loss, for example, but if you let the clock run, ultimately it doesn't matter whether you're using a meter a year or a millimeter. Eventually, you're gonna lose the soil, right? That's where our problem statement and kind of proposed solution to this comes in at the Land Institute is what's sort of the third approach that goes back more fundamentally and addresses how you, instead of having very slow, negative soil formation, how do we have positive soil formation, like happened under natural ecosystems to build our soils in the first place?

Quinn: Gotcha. 

Brian: Considering all that, do those tweaks and adjustments that are being made, will that be enough?

Quinn: Yeah. It sounds like you guys feel like an overhaul is the way to go.

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Here's the metaphor that I usually think about it in, that you're in a car wreck here.

Quinn: Great. This sounds great. 

Fred Iutzi: You're laying on the street bleeding. [crosstalk 00:27:52] This is actually how I start job interviews with candidates. 

Quinn: By the way we talk about ... You probably haven't listened to us much. We talk about this all the time, because Brian rides a fucking motorcycle in Los Angeles. 

Brian: I ride a fucking motorcycle. 

Quinn: So, we talk about potential car wrecks all the time. 

Fred Iutzi: This is on point, right? So, Brian is on-

Quinn: Yup. Brian's bleeding. 

Fred Iutzi: He's on his suicide rocket here-

Brian: Right. Oh. Good name.

Fred Iutzi: ... and bites the pavement here, bleeding out on the pavement. 

Brian: I'm just gonna go. 

Fred Iutzi: It would be really helpful for an ambulance to show up and some paramedics to jump out and put a tourniquet on it, put a bandage, whatever, stop the bleeding or slow it down greatly, so that Brian can live to get to the hospital and face the insurance bill, right?

Quinn: Chances are slim though. 

Fred Iutzi: Okay. But it's really important that there's a hospital waiting there with a team of doctors who can actually patch up the wound, right? So, the metaphor here is that the tweaks that we can do to farming with annual crops, tweaks like going to no-till, tweaks like going to organic methods, that's the paramedic, right? It's vitally important, because otherwise the patient dies before we can do anything. 

Quinn: Brian's toast. 

Brian: Brian. Brian. 

Fred Iutzi: It's not enough. You can't go home at that point. You've got to get actually patch up, some surgery at the hospital or something. That's where we come in is working in the background to create this kind of big fix in the form of a perennial agriculture based on perennial grain crops. 

Brian: And now we're talking kernza. 

Quinn: Right? Is that where we're headed there?

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Kernza's a leading example. Yeah.

Quinn: I have been a little obsessed with kernza for a little while, before I knew your name or who was actually involved. Then we started to hear a little more about it. Then one of my favorite companies started making a beer with kernza. If you could tell our listeners what kernza is and why it's important, and while you do that, I actually have a couple cans of that beer here, and we're just gonna open it up and see how it tastes-

Brian: Yeah. We're pretty excited.

Quinn: ... because I haven't tried it yet.

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Well, perfect. Perfect. Yeah. So, kernza is the trade name that we came up with for a grass called intermediate wheat grass that we have bred into a grain crop. Despite the fact that the phrase intermediate wheat grass just rolls off the tongue, you know, it's highly motivational, we still thought we'd put a different name on it and came up with a name that evokes both kernels of grain and the kanza territory, the root word for Kansas that we are here. 

Brian: Ah. Very cool. 

Fred Iutzi: Basically, what this is it's intermediate wheat grass. Kernza is a cousin of wheat. It's related to wheat, like barley or rye. It's not a kind of wheat, but it's similar. It's been used a little bit as forage crop, a hay crop in the western US, but really minor forage crop, but for a hay crop, it has really big seeds starting out. Big seeds, like we were talking about with the dawn of agriculture, still pretty small, but noticeably bigger than the other kind of native grasses around. 

Quinn: Two things, if I can pause you real quick.

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Go ahead. 

Quinn: One, kernza's delicious it turns out.

Brian: I am going in. 

Quinn: Two, not everyone is in Kansas or from Virginia, like me. Could you tell us the difference between wheat and hay, as far as why that's important?

Fred Iutzi: Right. When I refer to hay, I just mean grass that you harvest the stems and leaves for cattle and other livestock to eat, so you're not harvesting a seed off of it for grain. Well, let's take a step back here and talk about perennials here, because that's where the distinction comes in. If we look at all of the bad stuff that happens under grain crop agriculture, and grain crops are kind of the base of agriculture, and we look at how all that same bad stuff is not happening in native ecosystems, you know, a prairie, a rainforest, African Savannah, whatever, and then we look at what the difference is between a field of corn, or wheat, or rice, and a prairie, one of the biggest differences is that the prairie is made up of perennial plants that regrow from year to year, and the agricultural grain crop field is made up of annual plants that only live for one year, really a fraction of a year, and then have to be replanted all over again. 

Fred Iutzi: So, there's lot of reasons that we can go into, if you want to, about why perennial plants perform a lot better, but they perform hugely better for building soil, sequestering carbon, clean water, all that stuff. Obviously, converting grain crop production to perennials would be great. There's only one big problem with that, and that's that perennial grain crops have never existed in the 10,000 year history of agriculture. 

Quinn: Oh, boy. 

Fred Iutzi: The only way that we use perennials in agriculture, I mean, it's very important, is in hay production, pasture grazing for livestock, and nut and fruit crops, tree crops, things like that. So, that connects back to where I'm talking about finding a pasture crop or a hay crop, an intermediate wheat grass that has some potential ... it's a perennial, and it has some potential to become a grain crop with some help from plant breeding and agricultural research. 

Fred Iutzi: So, basically, we took this kind of modest forage crop, hay crop, and our plant breeders here and increasingly now plant breeders at universities and in collaborating sites in different parts of the US and in the world have been doing what amounts to really, really fancy version of growing a bunch of kernza each year, and looking at each plant one by one, picking the ones that look good, and throwing the rest of them out, and then planting the seed from the one ... If you get a PhD and use a lot of fancy statistics, and do that, then you're a plant breeder. 

Fred Iutzi: So, every time we do that the seeds get a little bigger. They get a little heavier. The plant doesn't drop all the seeds on the ground, you know, quite as much before it can be harvested. All of these traits that map exactly to what was happening 10,000 years ago when the ancestors of wheat were becoming wheat, except instead of doing it over centuries and millennia, we're doing it over years and decades here. We've gotten to the point with kernza ... So, among all the other perennial grain crops we're working on, kernza's kind of out in the lead here, in that it's to the point where we have plants that are actually perennials. 

Fred Iutzi: They don't live as long productively for grain as we want them to eventually, but they live for several years producing grain. They're perennial. They produce a usable amount of grain, a yield that's high enough to actually harvest commercially on a limited basis, and the quality and the taste is useful and even to discerning palates like yours, outstanding, right? So, we've got a crop. 

Quinn: Easy. Easy. Easy. 

Fred Iutzi: I have never been sarcastic in my entire life, right? 

Brian: Not even once. 

Fred Iutzi: Take everything I say at face value. Kernza represents the first perennial grain crop, the first meaningful perennial grain crop in the history of humanity. 

Quinn: Be honest. 

Brian: Wow. 

Fred Iutzi: That's what's in that can you just opened, right? So, that's the point we're at. Kernza, it has a long way to go to sort of achieve the level of crop-ness that it needs to be at, but it's a crop now, and it's actually in really limited production. So, that's kind of an amazing fruition of the work that's been going down here and that'll be continuing. 

Brian: That's so great. 

Quinn: It sounds awesome. 

Brian: All right. Let's get a little controversial here and back things up a bit.

Quinn: Because it sounds amazing.

Brian: It sounds like, yeah, a revolution. Quite a wheat. Talk to us about GMOs. Is kernza a GMO? 

Fred Iutzi: Right. Usually when we say GMO, so genetically modified-

Quinn: [crosstalk 00:36:44] Again, the more you can first grader illustrate this, because everybody sees it on the packaging. Everybody has taken a side, and nobody realizes how complicated and what this really means, which isn't surprising. 

Fred Iutzi: The words, genetically modified organism, sound like they mean any time you take something and change the genetics in any way, but that's actually not what it means at all. It's something much more specific, where you use a particular set of biotech methods to take DNA from one usually relatively unrelated organism and put it into another one. We're talking about taking a gene from a bacterium and putting it into a corn plant, so that the corn plant resists insect pests. That's GMO. I mean, to do it, just to sort of illustrate how kind of interventional a technique this is, to do that they actually take essentially a BB, like a steel BB, and they roll it around in a solution with this DNA, and then they literally shoot it at some corn tissue, right?

Brian: Whoa.

Quinn: What?

Fred Iutzi: Then it's sort of forcibly injected into the tissue. If they do that a bunch of times, then at least one of the samples will take. So, that's what you should-

Brian: That's crazy. 

Fred Iutzi: ... think of when you think about the-

Quinn: It sounds very aggressive. 

Fred Iutzi: ... when you think about the term GMO. I mean, it really, really is. Again, it's sort of the military agricultural complex here. That tool, there's a lot of frivolous things that can be done with it. There's probably some useful things that can be done with it, but it's a very specific thing. More broadly, what human beings have been doing for 10,000 years by first accidentally and increasingly intentionally doing plant breeding, you know, we're modifying the genetics of a crop by doing that, just simply that process of growing two plants, picking the one that looks better, and throwing the other one away, and then planting the seeds of the one that looks better. 

Fred Iutzi: That is what we call traditional or classical plant breeding. That's most of the improvement in crops that's happened throughout human history, including the last 100 years, even the last 30 years. Most of the big changes and improvements have come through those means. Now, these days they're backed by a lot of fancy statistics, a lot of fancy biotech tools, where you can kind of look at what the genome looks like, and you can track your progress, but for the work that we do to date is essentially entirely classical plant breeding. Interestingly enough, most of the work that even the big, private companies do is classical plant breeding. The GMO stuff is just the most kind of controversial, and costly, and visible. 

Quinn: So, if you're not doing anything radical to create kernza, I guess the question is A, why did it take so long, and B, why was it difficult to create and is such an innovation, and C, what are the obstacles kind of going forward? 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Excellent question. 

Quinn: Sorry. It's like four parts. 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Well, no. That's what we call a simple level question out here, right? Maybe throw me 16 or 20 next time. 

Quinn: We're pretty simple.

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Yeah. I've already forgotten essentially all but one part of it, so [crosstalk 00:40:27]

Brian: Perfect.

Quinn: Basically, if you're not doing anything radical to create kernza, if you didn't have to do that to innovate it, to create it, why is it the first time something like this is showing up, and also why is it such an innovation? Three, I guess what are those obstacles? Like you said, it's in limited production, you know, if we're using pretty inherently traditional methods.

Fred Iutzi: The start of that is it's taken a long time for anybody to define the problem in as basic terms as the Land Institute and its collaborators have and then actually be crazy enough to try to do something about it, to basically page all the way back to the first chapter of the choose your own adventure book, right? 

Brian: Those are so good. 

Fred Iutzi: And reexamine that very first fork in the road that was taken in domesticating annual species, rather than perennials. You pretty much have to go all the way to the beginning. It's taken a while for anybody to be sort of crazy enough to focus on such a fundamental issue. Two, this is not an easy task to do the plant breeding, to turn, again ... to take the example of kernza ... We work on a number of other perennial crops, but to take something that has just been sort of fat and happy as a pasture crop for the last 300,000 years or something and then convince it all of a sudden that it needs to grow a much bigger seed and a lot more of it, and do that every year, and so forth changes that it takes, and again, not the kind of science fiction changes where we're putting eel DNA in it or something, but just the-

Quinn: Interested. 

Fred Iutzi: ... reshuffling-

Brian: Have you guys tried that though?

Fred Iutzi: ... the order that the intermediate wheat grass genes appear in, that the changes that it takes genetically and physiologically are significant, and it takes a lot of slow and steady kind of gradual work to get it done. Slow and steady gradual work and a delayed payoff are not what we're geared to do in our society, in terms of taking on research projects. 

Quinn: What do you mean?

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Right. Light bulb. The private industry isn't set up to do it, because they need profits the next quarter or whatever. Government isn't set up to do it, because they need a win during the current election cycle. So, even once the problem was formulated, it's taken a while to get people to pay enough attention to it that it's actually worth that this is so critical, that perennial grain crops are so critical to the future of the planet, that we need to inconvenience ourselves to work on them, to do something that doesn't fit into the template for either private sector or public sector agricultural research. So, we're getting into something here.

Fred Iutzi: With the point that kernza's at we've been working on it ... We've been working on this problem overall for 42 years. We've been working on kernza more like a dozen years. That's what passes for super fast progress, right, in this kind of problem is like a dozen years. It's gotten to the point where it's just ready for basically a beta test on the market here right now, including the beer that you chugged down in one go here. 

Quinn: Easy. Easy. 

Brian: Oh. Mine's gone. 

Quinn: Yeah. You're a monster. 

Fred Iutzi: I'm gonna point out too it is still morning where you guys are I think. 

Brian: It's 5:00 somewhere, Fred. 

Quinn: This got really judgey. 

Fred Iutzi: No. It's not judgey, because I'm putting an asterisk on it that says not judgey. 

Brian: Oh. Perfect.

Quinn: Perfect. 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. What we're really hoping to do, and in fact what we're seeing, is that we get into this kind of iterative thing here with developing the crop more, putting it out commercially on a limited scale, and then kind of capturing people's imagination that way, right? It's a lot easier to visualize the future of something that you can actually hold in your hand, that you can taste, that you can feel, than it is when it's just an abstraction. 

Fred Iutzi: So, we're hoping that this is the beginning of a cycle where we can develop it, get it a little more broadly on the market, capture the attention of eaters, you know, of farmers, of policy makers, researchers, foundation grant officers, and get more interest and more funding ultimately into not just us, but everybody who's helping to work on this worldwide, and develop the crop that much better, get it more visibility, get it even more out on the market, kind of trigger another wave of increased attention and funding, and kind of climb the ladder that way, to the point where kernza is not just a beta test, and it's not just the start of a crop, but that it's a really robust crop, anad that we have not just kernza, but we have half a dozen, a dozen, as the years go on, many perennial grain crops that can be adapted to local conditions around the world and different parts of the food system and so forth. That's kind of where we are there, as we're climbing that ladder and kind of iterating along that process. 

Brian: Yeah. You're talking about the sort of long term plans of kernza and these other perennials. Can you be specific about a big impact, a potential impact? 

Quinn: Yeah. What are sort of the details on growth, and how you see this being built out, and how that then translates to an effect of, again, by mid-century feeding 9 to 10 billion people?

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. In terms of effect, let's actually go here, but kind of the quick summary version to exactly what it is a perennial plant does that an annual doesn't. We have this picture that we usually display at this point at the ... I don't know if you can see it over the microphone right now or not, where we have-

Brian: If I squint, I can. 

Fred Iutzi: We have a kernza plant with its full root system side-by-side with an annual wheat plant with its full root system. The wheat plant, a farmer would look at that and smile. It's a very healthy, vigorous plant. It has a root system that in this photo is maybe five feet deep. Next to it there's this kernza plant that has this root system that ... People call it the ZZ Top photo sometimes, right? It's got this root system that's improbably long, dense, shaggy, kind of mat of roots. It's showing like 12 feet of roots, not only vastly deeper than the wheat plant's root system, but denser, more massive, right? 

Fred Iutzi: Every ounce of root tissue that's there below the kernza plant, that's how carbon gets into the ground. That's how we build soil organic matter for soil health. That's how we sequester carbon, so that it's not in the atmosphere. That root system more broadly is how the plant intercepts all of the fertilizer nutrients, before they run off and pollute ground water, you know, how it resists drought, kind of all this stuff. So, the benefits that kernza has at any grain yield level, like we're already at the point where we're getting 100% benefits below ground. The impact that we can get from it just doing its perennial plant thing on whatever acre of land that it's on is kind of fully on display there. That's kind of where the crop is at, in terms of that part of the impact.

Fred Iutzi: Then in terms of the rest of the question, the grain that's being produced right now ... There are hundreds of thousands of acres of corn production in an equivalent region in the US where we have 400 acres of kernza production at this point, so it's like pure beta test right now. It's really rocking and rolling on those acres, but it's absolutely inconsequential as an overall change to the landscape. So, it really is, it's to demonstrate it. It's to learn by doing and kind of get us positioned to increase the yield of the crop to the point where the demand for it and the practicality of growing a lot of it is greatly enhanced. 

Fred Iutzi: So, we're at the point ... In terms of number, if you were to measure kernza in the same units that wheat is measured in, kernza yields about 12 to 15 bushels an acre right now. Wheat would yield anywhere from say 35 to 100 bushels an acre, depending on where you are. We don't need to be at 100 bushels of acre with kernza ultimately, but we need to be a lot higher than 15, right? We're starting at this kind of specialty crop positioning, where we're growing a little bit of it, and it's going into premium beer and premium breakfast cereal and things like that to drive more and more of this plant breeding process that's gonna get it up to the kind of yields and get it up to the kind of acreage where it's starting to displace a significant fraction of the wheat acres in the world. 

Fred Iutzi: Together with the other perennial crops that we and our collaborators are working on, that we're ultimately replacing annual crops with perennials, and so we're getting food that is for practical purposes as abundant and is certainly even more nutritious and enjoyable as we have, but we're getting a net benefit to soil, and water, and air, rather than a net negative. 

Quinn: What are your biggest obstacles to reaching that?

Fred Iutzi: I mean, just to list them off, funding, funding, and funding. 

Quinn: Sure. Sure. 

Brian: You don't say. [crosstalk 00:51:21]

Quinn: Because you guys are nonprofit. Who owns kernza?

Fred Iutzi: Nobody owns the biology. We've been very intentional about that. We actually own the kernza name. It's a trademark that we registered, and we set some standards that essentially dictate that you actually have to be growing kernza in order to sell a product and call it kernza is basically what that amounts to. You can estimate all of the spending on research on annual grain crops, corn, wheat, soybeans, rice globally at about $10 billion a year, billion with a B. With us, I mean, at this point we have two or three dozen collaborating institutions on every continent, except for Antarctica, you know, a huge increase since the early days, when it was just some crazy guys in a shed in the middle of Kansas working on this stuff.

Fred Iutzi: But still at this point, the global annual spend on perennial grain crop research is not even to 10 million, million with an M, yet. If we want to be serious about this, the way that we're serious about squeaking out the extra [inaudible 00:52:39] yield from corn, so that we can be more awash in high fructose corn syrup, if we're serious about this, then we need funding, funding, and finding basically. I don't mean just to the Land Institute. I mean to this whole collection of universities, and government agriculture ministries, and farmer groups, again, worldwide. We have partners that are in the biggest agricultural universities in the US, ranging all the way to we're working with a women's farmer group in Mali to help develop our perennial grain sorghum. 

Fred Iutzi: All of the people who make decisions about money that goes into agricultural research or who influence those decisions need to be tuning in here to, again, if we want to take this really transformative solution as seriously as the next round of tinkering with annual crops, we've got to get serious about funding it. We don't need $10 billion a year. We can work a lot smarter, not harder kind of than that, but we definitely globally there needs to be a lot more than $10 million dollars a year.

Brian: Are there other companies doing similar work? Does kernza have competition, besides wheat I guess? 

Quinn: Or alternatives? It doesn't have to be about competition, Brian. 

Brian: With me it does. 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Well, you know, competition, it's an ecological phenomenon. It's all comes out-

Brian: It drives success, okay? 

Fred Iutzi: ... in the overall ecosystem performance, but at this point, everybody who's working on this is kind of one big, happy family. 

Brian: Oh. That's great.

Fred Iutzi: So, it's more collaboration on ... and they're not even alternatives, but they're complementary crops. We don't envision replacing all crops with kernza, right? Kernza is a replacement for the soft wheat that goes into crackers and pastries and things like that. 

Quinn: I love pastries. 

Fred Iutzi: We're working on a perennial wheat that is a replacement for the bread wheat that goes into raised bread-

Brian: Yeah. I was reading about that. 

Fred Iutzi: ... and perennial sunflower for vegetable oil, on and on. There's about six of these crops that we're working on here, and for each of those crops we have collaborators spread around the world, and then there's another perennial crop, perennial rice, that we sponsor work on, but don't do it here in Kansas. So, we need all these to keep moving forward steadily, because no one crop is gonna be sufficient to [perennialize 00:55:20] agriculture.

Quinn: That seems to make sense. We'll take competition where it comes. We got to feed a lot of people.

Fred Iutzi: Whatever agricultural economy that we have in 10 years, in 50 years, in 100 years, that's the agricultural economy that perennial crops will be in, so for the foreseeable future I'm assuming that we're going to have a market economy here. The process of commercializing this, we're already just in the first stages of there being enough companies, enough food companies purchasing this and offering products with it. They re just starting maybe to compete with each other just a little bit, and we'll see people competing eventually with releasing different varieties of kernza, people competing to be the best and most effective company for cleaning kernza and de-hulling it, and all those kind of things will arise as the crop kind of leaves this beta test phase and really, really gets going. 

Quinn: Sure. Sure. 

Brian: So exciting. 

Quinn: So much of this sounds like has been done and understandably done, you know, I don't want to say behind closed doors, but out of the reach of general American society, which is kind of how everything is when it comes to agriculture, which is why things like the nightmare that is the Farm Bill don't change. What are the other steps that our listeners need to be aware of or to be voicing our opinions on? What else gets momentum going? 

Quinn: Because you talked about funding, so let's get, again, specific. You know? Is it sending funding to you guys? Are there other places that are doing similar work? Are we writing to and calling specific senators and representatives to affect the Farm Bill and things like this, or maybe it isn't Farm Bill related? Are we writing to specific food behemoths, corporations, using their dollar to use kernza as their wheat? Talk to us about how we can start to formulate some steps here for folks to take.

Fred Iutzi: Right. It's all of the above we need. The people, where the answer is most satisfying at this point, are people who are in a direct position to influence this or who are within a degree or two of somebody who's in a direct position to influence this, so foundations that make grants, to environmental causes or agricultural causes need to be considering supporting this work, whether it's at the Land Institute, whether it's at the University of Minnesota, or whether it's at-

Quinn: Specific examples. That's what I mean. You say people who give these grants. Who are we talking about? 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. I mean, I'm not gonna name foundation names, but every region of the country is loaded with charitable foundations of various sizes that have different kinds of grant making portfolios. Any foundation that is remotely in the area of environment, food, or agriculture, if they're serious about making a difference in any of those areas, ought to be supporting the development of a perennial agriculture and food system. The same for public sector grant programs, the USDA. This is one of many places. The Farm Bill is sort of involved in this. The USDA, the US Department of Agriculture, has grant programs that are a really important source of funding for universities and organizations, and in some cases companies to develop kind of cutting edge ag practices. Once again, if we're really serious about this, those programs ought to be supporting more perennial agriculture research.

Fred Iutzi: Here's the point where for the average person, you know, you want to kind of grab a pitchfork and a torch and march into the street and make a difference, or at least that's how we do it in Kansas still, but it really takes more the form of things like writing to your elected officials and just getting this on their radar screen, right? Of your US representative, your US congressperson's office has an ag staffer, make sure that that person knows what the Land Institute is, knows what perennial grain crops are. These are like placing little grains of sand onto the scales, so it seems pretty insignificant for any one person to do that, but ultimately we've got to build up the awareness and a sense of possibility of relevance and importance here with the decision makers on this kind of thing. 

Fred Iutzi: Needless to say, if you're in a position where you're able to shop at a store that is carrying one of the few kernza products that's out there now, by all means but that. That's important, but mostly anything that you can do to influence and just spread the word that the idea of a perennial agriculture exists and that it's what we gotta do to kind of close the sustainability gap in ag.

Quinn: Can I ask an actually specific question? Because we're big fans of getting people involved and firing up as local as their city council. Where specifically can kernza be grown? What sort of a hardiness zone does it need?

Fred Iutzi: At the moment, where it grows best is probably in a band kind of from central Kansas up to Northern Minnesota, kind of in that region. If you take the example of wheat, wheat is grown over, I don't know, like a third or a half of all of the United States and a lot of Canada. Ultimately, kernza will be adapted probably almost that broadly regionally, but at the moment it performs best in that part of the mid-west. It'll do okay in a lot of other places. 

Quinn: Okay. That's just helpful, because we don't need people in Tallahassee going, "We should be growing kernza," and they're like- 

Brian: Yeah. Where the fuck's my kernza, man? 

Quinn: ... "We do oranges. That's it." 

Fred Iutzi: Here's the thing that makes this kind of new territory. For so many problems related to sustainability, and justice, and equity we've figured out that we actually have all the solutions we need, and so it's not so much a matter of developing new solutions as implementing the one that we have. This is like the one area where the next big thing is actually to develop, to fully develop out, to build out the solution. 

Fred Iutzi: In a lot of other cases, if you're talking about the transition from farming annual crops conventionally to organically, people just need to go buy more of it in the store and farm more of it, and that's the action step. That's a little different here right now with kernza and other perennial grains, because we have about as many people raising it as makes sense for the state of the market right now, and so the action is to get the research and development spooled up here. 

Quinn: Gotcha. That makes sense. Okay. Brian's giving me the stink eye, but I'm gonna ask you a cross disciplinary question that we definitely don't have time for, but I'm gonna ask anyways, because you're a big idea guy. Are you ready?

Fred Iutzi: No, but go ahead anyway.

Quinn: All right. This is so far off base. 

Fred Iutzi: This is gonna be about robots, isn't it?

Quinn: Hold on. Do we need to be simultaneously need to be planning a back up/sec civilization on another planet to take some of the load off? 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Robots. 

Brian: Like Asgardia.

Fred Iutzi: It's about robots. 

Quinn: No. Asgardia is a failed state. 

Brian: Fred. Do you know about Asgardia? We could talk about this later. 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. 

Quinn: I'm saying this will all sincerity, knowing that it'll take an unfathomably long time and probably fail over and over again, and it'll start like Matt Damon obviously and a few more folks. 

Brian: Me. 

Quinn: I just feel like we need to be thinking about alleviating some of the pressure on Earth. 

Brian: You should check out Asgardia, Quinn. 

Fred Iutzi: The main struggle that we're engaged in right now is to make sure that the Earth does not become like one tenth as bad as Mars is, right? Because if we even get like 10% in a direction towards Earth being like Mars, we're totally screwed. If you visualize the effort then on the other side of it that it takes to make Mars Earth-like enough so that it's even relevant to anything, even these really tough questions, like completely reforming grain crop agriculture from scratch, look easy relative to this robot fantasy here.

Quinn: I'm just trying to consider all options. That's all I'm saying. 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Well ... 

Brian: You guys should think about maybe just joining the civilization that will be Asgardia. 

Quinn: [crosstalk 01:04:35]

Brian: We're getting pretty close to time here. 

Quinn: Yeah. Sorry. 

Brian: Fred, thank you so much for being here and talking with us. 

Quinn: We really appreciate it. 

Brian: Very much appreciate it. 

Fred Iutzi: Awesome. If you guys know Matt Damon though, I mean, I'm kind of thinking about that last point you made, send him our way. 

Brian: Absolutely. 

Quinn: Yeah. No. No. For sure. He's a friend of the pod. 

Brian: Hey, Fred. Do you have any recommendations on who else we could talk to here on the podcast? Not just only conversations and topics like this, but anybody that might be able to help us save the Earth? 

Fred Iutzi: Right. 

Quinn: People that are driving things that are affecting humans and Americans. We've got listeners all over the world right now or will be in the next 5, 10, 20 years, people who are making those moves here to either, again, to save the whole joint or even upgrade us to something better. 

Fred Iutzi: Right. Yeah. Are you wanting something that's podcast air friendly here, or is this just [crosstalk 01:05:38]

Brian: Whoa. Whoa. What are you offering?

Fred Iutzi: Okay. All right. Well, I'll pause, so you can edit this part out. Anybody who is working on a sustainable, rational economy and a pathway to get there that will help people make better decisions than we've historically made collectively, that's ultimately going to have to be out there if even a completely transformative solution on the economical side, like perennial grain crops and a perennial agriculture, is actually gonna make any difference. If we just parachute that new idea, that new paradigm into the middle of the kind of messed up economy, and politics, and kind of business culture that we have now, it's not gonna go anywhere.

Fred Iutzi: We're always in the market for hearing from people who have an equally bold vision for how we order our economic life that we have for how we manage land and grow crops, and that helps. Anybody who's working on other dimensions of land management in a really far reaching way, people who want to have really good pasture and grazing crops, the crops that are already perennials, are right on point, people who have a vision for sustainable natural resource management, whether it's fisheries or forests or whatever.

Quinn: Do you have any specific recommendations for folks for us to talk to, like along those lines?

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. I'll email you. Let me think about that, and I'll email you. 

Quinn: Yeah. For sure. 

Brian: That'd be great. 

Quinn: No. No. No. That's super helpful, just because, you know, we want people like you, who are like, "Listen, there's some big things that need to be fixed, and I'm working on that day to day." That matters, and people need to know about those folks and be able to support their mission. Awesome. This has been so fantastic. We really can't thank you enough. As you pointed out, folks, listeners, there's so many great environmental charitable organizations that are out there, across the country, across the world, that are doing great things. Use tools, like the always amazing Charity Navigator, to check them out and talk to them, and ask if this is something that they're working on, or are interested in, or have even heard of. You can point them our way for education if you need it or straight to the Land Institute. 

Quinn: Write to your elected officials. Bring up the importance of this industry, whether you live in the current belt or not. Ask if they know what the land institute is. Do they know what perennials are? On the small scale, like you said, buy products that use kernza. It seems like a little thing, but that stuff does generally and hopefully add up to spread the word, especially with the way everybody is connected and amplified these days. Awesome.

Brian: Beautiful.

Quinn: Yeah. 

Brian: Hey, Fred. We ask everybody on the podcast a few last questions, a bit of a lightening round, if that sounds all right. 

Fred Iutzi: Sounds good. 

Quinn: Okay. This one, it's just not in the-

Brian: Yeah. We got to fix this one.

Quinn: It's not lightening round, but feel free to make it so. When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful? 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. I mean, it was really early on, because I'm fortunate to have both of my parents have a really strong compass that way and really the idea that you can walk into any situation and be sizing it up to make it better. So, I was really lucky that that moment probably arrived age five or six or something. 

Quinn: Awesome. That's pretty early. 

Brian: Amazing. 

Quinn: That'll drive you.

Brian: All right. How do you consume the news, Fred?

Fred Iutzi: New York Times online primarily and then whatever my motley social media connections are posting on their timelines. 

Quinn: Of course. All right. We like this one. If you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would that book be?

Fred Iutzi: Oh, man. It has to actually literally be a book and not just something else that looks like a book?

Quinn: It has to be a real book. If he can read it, he will. If he can't read it, Pruitt or some aid will. 

Fred Iutzi: Maybe it'll be read to him or something?

Brian: Absolutely. Audio book. I mean, anything. 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Where to start. It would have to either be-

Brian: We've had people go in a lot of different directions. 

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. It would have to either be one of the fundamental books behind the Land Institute, like Becoming Native To This Place, or maybe it would be A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, kind of one of those fundamental works

Brian: We've gotten that before. 

Quinn: Yeah. We've had that. It's so perfect. Awesome. Awesome. We've asked most of our guests this question. We put together actually an Amazon list called Trump's Book Club, where folks can go on and literally click, order it, and it gets sent right to the White House. 

Fred Iutzi: Brilliant. Brilliant.

Quinn: Whether they read them or not, we're just trying to send a message. Fred, this has been fantastic. Where can our listeners follow you and the Land Institute online?

Fred Iutzi: Yeah. Twitter, @NatureAsMeasure kind of describes our paradigm. is the website. They can follow us in the real world this fall when we have our annual Prairie Festival Gathering here in Salina, Kansas, September 28th through 30th. This is something that the New York Times once wrote about, described it as an intellectual hootenanny on the prairie. There's a mix of-

Brian: I love hootenanny. Great word. 

Fred Iutzi: ... scientific talks, kind of rousing activist talks, barn dances, field plot tours, prairie walks, music, all that kind of stuff. Details on that website. So, people should come on out for that. 

Brian: I can only assume you'll be serving-

Fred Iutzi: You guys should. You could ride that motorcycle out. 

Brian: ... Long Root Ale. 

Quinn: Yeah. It's a business expense for you. 

Brian: Why do you have to bring up my motorcycle again?

Quinn: Oh, god. 

Brian: All right. 

Quinn: All right. 

Brian: All right. Thank you. Thank you so much, Fred. 

Fred Iutzi: Thanks, guys. 

Quinn: Yeah. We really appreciate your time and all that you're doing out there. 

Fred Iutzi: Thanks.

Quinn: Take care. 

Brian: Take it easy. Thank you, Fred. 

Quinn: Thanks. 

Fred Iutzi: [crosstalk 01:12:05]

Quinn: Thanks to our incredible guest today, and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute, or awesome workout, or dish washing, or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at It is all the news most viral to our survival as a species. 

Brian: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter, @ImportantNotImp. That's just so weird. Also, on Facebook and Instagram at ImportantNotImportant. Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. So, check us out. Follow us. Share us. Like us. You know the deal. Please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. If you're really fucking awesome, rate us on Apple Podcast. Keep the lights on. Thanks.

Quinn: Please. 

Brian: You can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, 

Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening, and finally, most importantly, to our moms for making us. Have a great day. 

Brian: Thanks, guys.