Growing Good Podcast #77: Lauren Manning, Arkansas rancher

ArkansasRancher Lauren Manning Talks about Responsible Grazing And More.

by Allison Lemons


In this podcast episode, Arkansas rancher Lauren Manning talks about responsible grazing, lessons learned from starting a grazing operation from scratch and financing to support a regenerative food system.

Learn how CrossFit — the popular fitness and lifestyle program — helped shape the focus of Lauren’s legal career, from civil litigation in California to agricultural law in Arkansas. An internship at an agri-food-tech venture capital investing firm further turned her career on its head, drawing her attention toward farming and ranching. After interning with Ozark Grassfed Beef, Lauren realized how rewarding it is to work with the land and animals. Hear about how Lauren uses all that she’s learned with hands-on farming experience to benefit her legal and financial work.

Lauren’s career is an illustration of her philosophy to follow your curiosity. She talks about how just showing up and continuing to show up has led to so many opportunities for her and how you can do it, too.

Lauren talks about her work as associate director of Food System 6, a nonprofit that is working to change how financing firms choose to finance agricultural operations. She explains how they go about encouraging underwriters to see agricultural output from a more holistic mindset and gives examples of what this uphill battle looks like in practice. She even talks about the new book, Food Inc., 2, in which she coauthors a chapter on this subject.

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Get excited about a project that Food System 6 is working on to create an EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) bridge loan. This would allow farmers to apply for NRCS EQIP funds without needing the capital to finance their project upfront, which is a major barrier to small-scale farmers utilizing this federal cost-share program.

Switching gears from ag-industry details to on-farm details, Lauren talks about using the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to finance her first farm: goats on the side of a rough hillside. Through telling her story, she gives her best advice for anyone to get started with grazing animals and purchasing a farm property in general. (Also see her advice in this article online.) Spoiler alert: Patience, mentorship and experience are central to future success — also buying used equipment.

Listen to the end to hear about Lauren’s current 35-acre property as she talks about pasture development, pasture-management for horses and the uncommon practice of rotational grazing for horses.

Episode links:

Lauren Manning on LinkedIn

Lauren on Instagram

Food System 6 on LinkedIn

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