Help from My Friends – David Yarrow, Mission, and Biochar
David Yarrow is a New Warrior. This article is reprinted with permission shared in the article.
I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
by Gary Kline, BLOSSOM Consulting Services
“Take me to your leader”, the little green man said. I shall do that, and you are urged to come along. I’ve determined that we have a new leader who can get us to a sane and sustainable agriculture, if we only listen and follow him. Our leader is very Green – – – to the core. He’s also a peace warrior whose email ending inscription is “for a green and peaceful world, David Yarrow.”
I recently got to know David Yarrow personally after corresponding and reading his intellectual productions the past four years. I can tell you this is an incredible man who spends every waking hour (and probably while asleep) working on his mission. David is not only a true genius, he is totally selfless, compassionate, positive and also confident that he will succeed in converting the world to his goals by the power of his logic and his persuasion. It’s worked on me. Let’s not let him down. This concerns everyone.
I trust you will allow me to make a foray beyond addressing backyard gardening. But this is still about soils if you connect the dots. I suspect many readers have concerns that extend to the community, the nation and the entire world, so kindly follow along.
I just returned from a 4-day U.S. Biochar Initiative Conference held at Oregon State University (my alma mater, 46 years ago). For me, the conference was mostly marvelous. There was the usual assortment of stuffed shirts (who don’t have time for plebes), but not a plurality. The information gleaned, the contacts and sources encountered made it very worthwhile. In a way, this is my conference report.
When I found out David was coming to the conference and was on the program, I realized this was a rare chance to meet him and hear his words of wisdom. However, because of the high cost of the conference, I was unable to also afford a motel room for four nights. So I told David (by email) I would make a dash down to Corvallis the first day for his 2-hour workshop then return home. He wrote back, “I want you there for the conference.” He then said he would check with his angels to see if someone would share a room. Then he wrote, “Count on attending; it’s all arranged.”
As it turned out, the angel he found was my old biochar buddy, Jim Karnofski of Biocharm Farms in Ilwaco, Washington. Because David would be flying in and doesn’t drive, Jim offered to shuttle David all around the conference and anywhere in Oregon and Washington. Jim and I made plans to carpool from Ilwaco Monday morning. Then we learned David needed a ride from Portland to Corvallis, so we changed plans to pick up David on Sunday afternoon.
That’s when we learned David himself didn’t have lodging at Corvallis, so Jim arranged for all three of us to stay at his hotel room on campus. David doesn’t worry about these things. He just goes boldly into destiny, knowing angels will take care of him. Thank you, Jim, for your generosity.
At the conference, David gave a spectacular presentation that everyone agreed was the highlight of the whole event. He titled it “Carbon Smart Farming.” At one point, the conference coordinator called David the “Guru of Biochar.” David told me he prefers to be known as the “Wizard of Biochar.” He hails from Independence, Missouri and is somewhat like the Oracle from Omaha, but with a lot less money. Wizard of Biochar, however, is too modest a title for the vast amount of knowledge David carries around in his head from dozens of disciplines, known and unknown.
Few have done as much as David to promote and publicize the use of biochar, and he does this totally selflessly. He knows virtually everyone in the movement and industry. Indeed, he played a substantial part in getting it going. I view the biochar movement as being as momentous as the environmental movement that I had a role in furthering while co-chairman of Earth Day activities at OSU.
I can’t begin to tell you all the thoughts that go on in David’s head and the brilliant way he has of communicating them with pithy statements that always give new insight and make you say, “It’s so logical and obvious, why hadn’t I made that observation or conclusion before this?” He uses words in ways you would not think to and gives them totally new, but sensible meaning. His view is holistic, visionary, all encompassing and uplifting. You simply have to marvel at how he puts it all together and quietly expresses it.
What’s all the more amazing is that David does this while his body is daily wracked with pains from a devastating accident almost 25 years ago which nearly killed him. In fact, for a while the Social Security Administration said he was dead. Actually, David tells me he did die and went to heaven, but they sent him back to rescue humanity and heal the planet. As David tells me, he works for heaven. However, he is anything but a secret agent. He calls himself a healer and a teacher. He has a ways to go, but he’s making great progress and we have to remind him of that. Despite all his debilitating injuries and pain, David delivered a flawless, outstanding 2-hour illustrated talk – actually, twice that day. Everyone was enthralled.
Now, I don’t tell you all this simply because I idolize David as a person and teacher; it’s because of what he has to teach, and how it is changing the world – more than even David realizes, in my view. So, what is he telling us? Unfortunately, you missed the PowerPoint presentation, and it’s not yet available for viewing. But there is a way to get a big taste of what David’s message and his work does. Get the August issue of Acres USA Magazine and look up David’s straight-forward article “Down the Worm Hole”. [available unedited online as 8-page .PDF: www.terra-char.com/wormhole.]
“Down the Worm Hole” is an amazing story of a farmer’s switch from chemical agriculture to organic/biological agriculture in accordance with the recipe given to this farmer by Yarrow. This is a large farm in southeast Missouri and the farmer, J.D. Bollinger, had smashing success. This article is a documented real-world display, I believe, that has turned the corner in agriculture. It needs to go viral. Things will be different from now on, not only in agriculture, but I believe this success story is world-changing. No farmer can look at it and be unimpressed.
Before he met David, Bollinger Jr. was unable to find an earthworm on his 3,500-acre farm that had been under chemical practices for decades. Now there’s earthworms everywhere, and they’re barometers of the dramatic transformation that occurred in a relatively short time when he switched to mineralized organic and biochar treatments of his land. Indeed, Bollinger says if you have worms, you have healthy soil.
Bollinger went to a talk by David, and afterward grilled him for two hours, then came back to grill him another hour. He then went off to implement David’s program and invented special equipment to efficiently implement the method on a large scale. Importantly, this is a version of no-till soil management. To get conventional agriculture to switch over to real, sustainable practices we have to have “show me” examples on large farms. This is what we’ve been looking for as the indisputable evidence of what David, I and others have been advocating for several years now.
A practical cost-sparing measure used by Bollinger is to shallowly incorporate just 20% of the desired biochar (and his fertilizers) each year in a six-inch-wide strip in his fields. The next year, he moves over six inches, so by the fifth year, 100% has been applied and he lets the worms carry it down deep. I also learned that a tall perennial plant known as switchgrass makes a biochar far superior to softwood scrap lumber. Possibly such pests as ivy, Scotch broom and sedges or roadside cattails would be better as well.
Here are highlights of the accomplishments on Bollinger’s farm. After doing some test plots a couple years prior to meeting David, Bollinger daringly implemented a low-till/cultivation system and reduced his application of fertilizers by 50%. Upon implementing biological methods (including inoculation with microbes) he noticed his plants were thriving and his soil improving. Bollinger mixed up blends of biochar, trace elements, sea minerals, microbes, kelp, fish, crab and shrimp meals to achieve synergistic effects and did trial plots to evaluate them. He was impressed and encouraged.
Bollinger grows corn, soybeans, milo, wheat and sorghum. In 2015, after going completely to sustainable methods (no NPK fertilizer, no herbicides, no GMO seeds, etc.), the yield and quality of every crop went up dramatically and exceeded that of his neighbors and sailed through drought periods. He took first place in the state for his milo. Yields of sorghum nearly doubled. His soybean plants, instead of having pencil-thin stalks, were like small tree trunks. His germination rates were nearly 100%. He had very little insect damage and his corn fields had virtually no weeds, as the corn grew so fast and thick it smothered them. All this despite reduced fertilization, with a savings over past years of nearly $100 per acre. If you are someone concerned about chemical contamination in food, here is the way out. It pays.
With respect to his corn, it was head-high (not knee-high) by first week of June, 16 inches taller than his neighbors’, with full ears by 4th of July. Stands were a uniform dark, healthy green with longer, wider, thicker leaves and no yellowing or purple striping that is commonly seen in corn growing on less fertile soils (i.e., not fully amended and nutrient-balanced). Rars were much longer and more filled-out than in past years when yield was about 180 bushels, rather than the 235 bushels per acre harvested in 2015. Tell me farmers aren’t going to sit up and take notice when they hear this. I will bet the nutrient content is superior as well.
One thing David stresses is that agencies, and all of us, must get out and talk to farmers and learn their concerns and problems. Currently less than 2% of the U.S. population is farmers, and most are nearly retirement age. They get perhaps ten cents out of each dollar you pay for food at the supermarket or grocery store. Their children, looking at this dismal financial situation, conclude they would be crazy to take over their parents’ farm. I say we take oil company subsidies away, and give them to farmers to correctly mineralize and biochar their land. The last time I looked, a majority of people like to eat and hope to continue doing so. Agriculture must be changed, and soon.
At the conference I made it my job to tell everyone who would listen about David’s article in the Acres USA Magazine. Acres who? Establishment agriculture, heretofore, hasn’t a clue about what is going on in alternative and ecological agriculture. This despite the fact that the only sector of U.S. agriculture that is growing is organic farming and organic food sales.
David handed out unedited versions of the article when he detected someone was listening to him (www.terra-char.com/wormhole). Biochar sequestration in agricultural soils is the best hope we have for perpetuating civilization. David’s “Carbon-Smart Farming” and my “Nutri-Culture Agronomic System,” which is much the same, can truly turn around nearly everything not now working.
Here’s what I want to see for our leader. Someone needs to sponsor David so he can get around more and easier to spread sanity and the good news. Alternatively, you could invite him to speak and pay him top dollar speaker’s fees. I think both of these things are coming to you, David, and they are richly deserved.
Beyond the above, I’d like to see someone study David’s publications and visual productions. Sit down with him for an interview on his philosophy and amazing life story. Then write a book about it all. He is such a deserving and decent person.
Feel free to copy and distribute this article and remember,
Health comes only from nutrient-balanced soil.
© 2016 Gary L. Kline, All Rights Reserved