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A Force for Healing

Behind the Mission, Spirit and Ethos of Mad Agriculture

Article by Lisa Van Horne

Photography by Courtesy of Mad Agriculture

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

It’s hard not to be inspired when talking with Philip Taylor about Mad Agriculture. Whether he’s discussing the origins of the organization, the inspiring feeling of seeing his employees thrive or the joy of supporting farmers on their regenerative agriculture journeys, Philip’s passion for the relationship between the Earth and its people shines through.

“I love exploring humanity’s relationship to place,” says Philip, founder and executive director of Mad Agriculture. “There are big questions that humanity needs to be asking right now on this topic. What does the land want to be? What does the land need us to be? Agriculture has been one of the most disruptive forces on the planet, but the promise and potential of regenerative agriculture is to convert that history and turn it into a force for healing.”

Philip grew up in a small farming community on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. In his career he immersed himself in the world of academia as an ecologist, with research and works published in many journals and leveraged in numerous projects. But Philip felt the need to get closer to the ground when it came to creating ecological change. He was particularly inspired by the call to create a society based on love, reciprocity and ecological principles in the poetry of Wendell Berry. In 2016, this inspiration turned into action as Philip and his partner, Nicole Brinks, founded Mad Agriculture.

“This honestly feels like my life’s work,” says Philip. “It’s pulling together a million different threads of my personal and professional story into one holistic expression.”

Mad Agriculture was founded to promote, support and educate around the principle of regenerative agriculture, an approach to farming that nourishes both people and place—where the land and the steward are able to thrive through reciprocity. Mad Agriculture hopes to inspire a regenerative revolution in agriculture—a movement that brings together unexpected allies to help create a world that is more just, beautiful and regenerative.

“For us, agriculture is the critical nexus point between planetary and human well-being,” says Philip. “It’s the relationship that guides our mission.”

As an organization, Mad Agriculture encompasses multiple arms that facilitate a holistic approach to supporting farmers and their transitions to regenerative agriculture.

“Every farm has slightly different barriers to adopting regenerative agriculture,” says Philip. “To help each farm move from vision to action, we developed a suite of offerings that can address individual pain points and support them where they most need it.”

These offerings address the spectrum of farmers’ regenerative agriculture journeys, including providing equitable financing and long-term financial partnerships to farmers as well as strategic planning, boots-on-the-ground technical assistance and impact measurement. The organization also helps farmers connect to value-aligned buyers and educates the community by showcasing the stories of the farmers that the team works with.

While Mad Agriculture began along the Front Range in Colorado, it now operates in 25 states. One example of the organization’s local work is through the Restore Colorado program, a collaboration between Mad Agriculture and multiple private, nonprofit and governmental entities that supports farmers’ regenerative agriculture projects.

For Philip, the mission of Mad Agriculture comes down to the basic human principles of sense of place, sense of belonging and sense of community—shared values that he notes transcend today’s often polarizing political arena. He also notes that agriculture is a sector that is anchored in these deeply held and deeply felt human virtues.

“Some of the largest challenges that humanity faces have been created or perpetuated by agriculture,” says Philip. “Reimagining agriculture is key to solving these problems. This is the urgency that drives Mad Agriculture.”

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