Today the Venice Paparazzi spotlight shines on Kiss the Ground’s Finian Makepeace.
Tell us about the work your organization does and the programs you run?
We create educational curriculum, campaigns, and media to raise awareness and empower individuals to support building healthy soils to balance the climate, replenish water sources, and restore fertility. Kiss the Ground also works with farmers, educators, NGOs, scientists, students, and policymakers to advocate for regenerative agriculture, raise funds to train farmers, and help brands and businesses to invest in healthy soils. Kiss the Ground has partnered with Big Picture Ranch, documentarians Josh and Rebecca Tickell, and Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio to release the self titled documentary Kiss the Ground at the end of 2018.
How did the organization start? Where did the idea or inspiration come from?
In the Spring of 2013, Ryland Engelhart, Co-Owner of Cafe Gratitude, heard about soil as a solution to climate change from Graeme Sait, a farming educator, at a conference in New Zealand. Ryland learned that building healthy soil has the miraculous ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and knew in his heart it was a story that had to be shared with the world. And it’s not just carbon storage; the ways that soil stands to positively impact lives of billions worldwide are tangible and immediate: replenished water cycles, restored fertility, regenerated ecosystems. Ryland told Finian Makepeace, childhood friend and professional musician, and together they began telling others about the power of healthy soil. They inspired a group of friends: filmmakers, marketing experts, restaurant owners, gardeners, designers, soil geeks, and activists who began to meet once a week in Ryland’s living room, and Kiss the Ground was born.
How did you come up with the name of your nonprofit?
We had several names that we tried on but when Ryland suggested Kiss the Ground from Rumi poem it just made too much sense. It was exactly what we were trying to convey. A new reverence for the ground, the soil, the substance that made the land on earth habitable and abundant.
What would you say is the best thing about your organization?
We are changing how many people in the world think. The exciting thing about regenerative agriculture and the concept of regeneration in general is that it is much more hopeful and makes much more sense than something like sustainability. Moving people from thinking sustainably to thinking regeneratively has been supper rewarding. Giving people a hopeful solution to climate change (building back soil to balance the climate), has moved many people from the “fight climate change” perspective to the “work with nature to balance the climate” perspective.
What has been your greatest reward of running your nonprofit?
Feeling like we are helping guide the future of humanity to a way that benefits all life. If humanity does become “regenerative” and not “degenerative” we actually have a chance to save the world we know and build it back.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Developing the most effective programs to reach our goals. There are so many ways that this movement is happening and so many choices on what actions could best help move the needle. As we have grown we have had to let go of some programs because they weren’t connecting as much with what we are most able to do as a group to affect change.
What do you personally spend most of your time on?
My current position is that of Media (storytelling) Lead. This means I’m in charge of the content that Kiss the Ground puts out. I am also a Co-Founder which means I am responsible for many relationships for the organization as well as representing the organization in talks, presentations, etc. This past year, I have started development on our Advocacy program. This is where we are training more people to become advocates for the cause. We host 7-week Soil Advocate Training (500 + students to date), as well as daylong workshops, and short workshops, and presentations.
How long have you been in business, and how has your organization changed or grown over time?
Kiss the Ground was founded almost 6 years ago. We have changed in that we have expanded programs and we are working directly with more farmers, farmer trainers, brands, and consumers. Our team has gone from 4 to 11 people.
What are your goals for the next three to five years?
5 year goals by Jan 1, 2024:
- 100 global thought leaders committed to speaking about regeneration and soil and partnered with KTG by 2024 (10 by 2019).
- At least 10 of these leaders are in the financial sector.
- 500 businesses trained KTG regarded as a primary news source for regenerative agriculture
- 2 million followers by 2024, 500,000 by 2020
- 30,000 soil advocates trained
- 1000 workshops completed
- 100 chapters created
- 1000 movie screenings by 2024.
- 1,000 farmers in our Farmland Training Program
- 1,000,0000 acres of land under management by farmers in our Farmland Training Program (that’s 1,000 farmers with an average land holding of 1,000 acres) by 2024. (Farmers in the program have been trained in each of the keystone crops and are exemplifying RA at small, medium and large scale agriculture. Additionally, we’ve reached out to the largest landowners in the U.S. to encourage participation. And at least 30% of farmers trained are being monitored through Regen.Network.)
- 100 restaurants listing the nutritional content of their food and 100 farmers markets with a brix testing station.
- One restaurant chain using “possible burger” or “better burger” by 2024 (from beef that has outcome verification of regeneration and carbon sequestration on the land.)
- 5,000 schools are using our curriculum by 2024. In all 50 states. Goals around standards created Each KTG team member has growth plans in place by June 2019 and ongoingly. And, we revisit quarterly architecture every quarter.
What support do you need? How can one help your organization?
- Funding. Donate at kisstheground.com and become a member.
- Become an intern with one of our programs (email [email protected]).
- Program advisors (become a program advisor).
- Join the Soil Advocate Training (kisstheground.teachable.com)
- Host a Soil Advocate Workshop (email [email protected])
- Have your favorite restaurant join our farmland program (email [email protected])
- Sponsor a farmer’s training (email [email protected])
What advice would you give someone starting their own non profit?
Believe in yourself and your cause. Be willing to ask for money. Try to develop regenerative funding pathways early. Stay in touch with your donors. Do more than you say you will do.
A FEW PERSONAL QUESTIONS:
Surprising yourself by what you have achieved in serving the world.
List 1-2 things on your bucket list, and 1-2 things on your Venice bucket list.
Have major US legislation passed called The Soil Regeneration Act. Major Beach Festival that supports regenerative efforts.
Favorite affirmation, mantra, or quote?
Don’t worry be happy.
Where do you find inspiration?
Reading books. Learning and teaching.
How do you treat yourself on your days off?
Better as I get older.
What’s one thing we can do to make the world a better place?
Compost (I can teach you).
Anything else you want to share about yourself to the world? Fun facts!
Most don’t know that I was a pro swing dancer who won national awards in high school.
Describe your perfect day in Venice:
- Morning run and yoga on the beach.
- Beach day.
- Beers at Venice Ale House.
- Night time house party on the canals
- Music and good friends
What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience?
Occupy Venice early days.
Favorite Venice go-to spots?
- Venice Ale House
- Cafe Gratitude
- Abbot Kinney back in the day.
Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?
- S.P.Y. Safe Place for Youth. They are job placing homeless youth. They now work out of our old Kiss the Ground Garden.
Venice that I moved to or Venice now? Seriously, Venice is an amazing place. However, I feel like the pace at which people have moved to Venice who didn’t move here and to integrate into Venice is shaping it in a strange way. So many folks with high paying tech jobs has lead to a new energy and cost of living that I don’t dig. When I moved to Venice (in my Van 11 years ago) it was a different scene. Many people from “old Venice” and “new Venice” combining efforts and acting in community. Now it feels like a takeover has occurred and “old Venice” is being pushed out fast. Still an amazing place but I feel like 8-10 years ago was more magical.
Any shoutouts or thank you’s?
Yes. To the OGs of the Regenerative Agriculture movement and the artists and people who made Venice what it was.
HOW CAN ONE FIND YOU?
- Website: kisstheground.com
- Twitter: twitter.com/kissthegroundca
- Instagram: instagram.com/kisstheground
- Facebook: facebook.com/kissthegroundca
- Email: [email protected]