Doniga Markegard is a mother, rancher, author, and naturalist. She has a background in nature and permaculture. In her youth she was mentored by leading wildlife trackers, naturalists and Native spiritual elders. She spent years alone and with a small group of passionate youth in the Western Washington Wilderness learning the ways of the ancestors, immersing in nature, bird language, survival skills and wildlife tracking. Along with her husband and four children, Doniga owns and operates Markegard Family Grass-Fed, raising grass-fed beef, lamb, pastured pork, chicken and dairy and supplying the Bay Area with local, nutrient dense foods. She is dedicated to finding ways to regenerate lands and community through ranching practices that build soil, sequester carbon, capture and purify water, and enhance habitat. Doniga is featured at the Exploratorium Museum in San Francicso and in the film, Kiss the Ground. Find her at https://www.markegardfamily.com and https://www.donigamarkegard.com/
In this interview, Doniga and I discuss how:
- She raises nutrient-dense foods by mimicking the way nature does things. “The root of all of our solutions is that connection and that relationship with nature.”
- Agriculture can provide ecosystem services rather than damage, and can draw down carbon rather than releasing it. Agriculture has the potential to reverse climate change.
- Grasslands are meant to be supported by ruminant animals, whether wild bison or elk, or domesticated cattle. “There is no ecologically intact ecosystem devoid of animals” and their beneficial impact on soil. “There is even more life when we bring in the cattle than when the cattle aren’t there…you have more species diversity when cattle are managed well.”
- She addresses the topic of whether our diets should include animal products.
- Her books, Dawn Again and Wolf Girl, outline her journey of finding herself through connecting with nature.
- She felt helpless at one point, seeing so much environmental destruction and not knowing what to do. “I wanted to run into the woods because I couldn’t face what was happening, the destruction of my relatives” in the natural world. “That’s when I found that we can have an agriculture system that is aligned with nature.”
- She was mentored throughout her youth by Lakota elders, including Gilbert Walking Bull, who adopted her.
- She is inspired now by the number of people, organizations, and corporations realizing that regenerative agriculture is the #1 solution for healing the planet. “If you are always thinking about what could go wrong in the world, then you create that,” so it’s crucial to focus on solutions.
To learn more about regenerative agriculture, resources to explore include: https://rodaleinstitute.org/education/resources/, the book Fertile Ground by Steve Brescia, and https://www.groundswellinternational.org/