The story behind how it all began...
After reflecting recently on how I became so interested in business, I realized that I didn’t suddenly develop an interest for it one year. The reality is that I have always been an entrepreneur. My mind never stops coming up with ideas. I have no ability to turn the idea generator off. It is a part of me, so even four years ago when I completed the behemoth task of achieving a Master's degree in Ruminant Nutrition (ruminants are animals that have an amazing organ called a rumen - cows, goats, antelopes, sheep, etc - and no, a cow does not have four stomachs contrary to what they falsely teach you in grade school!), I recall making phone calls to business schools, grazing consultants, and sheep clubs inquiring about what it takes to learn about business.
The rapid fire of questions went something like this: Who with similar interests as me is pursing this route? What are they doing? Why is agriculture not at the top of the career list for folks when wanting to get "a high-paying" job, when FOOD is the ONE THING we all need to live!? Do I have to get a business degree to pursue business? Going back to school after finally having been fledged out into the real world felt like an insult. Why can’t I just start building something as I learn? Isn’t that the best way to learn anyways? Besides, life is too short to spend learning about it. It's time to do it. Alas, while some may argue otherwise, this has been my train of thought and as a result of various other life circumstances, it ended up being the natural trajectory of how Refonte Ventures began.
Rewind to 2017, I journeyed to England, Scotland, Italy and Germany with a round trip ticket and three months in between. My mission - to experience agriculture in other countries (not to mention I couldn’t imagine jumping into a full time job after having put myself through the wringer for 2.5 years). It was one of the best decisions that I ever made. While all the countries were delightful and I learned a ton about language and history everywhere that I went, Italy was by far where I felt at home. After a one-day short course of shepherding with Mario Borarro and his herd of 30+ Sarda milking sheep, he handed me the reigns. That was hands down the best way for me to learn. And so it began, several weeks of shepherding - rain or shine. I would herd the sheep to a location that Mario told me to go to and I would sit in the field with the family of Great Pyrenees livestock guardian dogs and paint watercolors, study Italian, or just sit and wait for the call to bring the sheep home for milking time. While sometimes grueling due to the approaching winter, those days were the most peaceful, beautiful, and enriching of my life. They left me wanting for more people to know the intimate connection between a shepherd and their sheep - that there is always that one sheep that stays at the front of the herd, right by your side; to feel every little tug on the roots vibrate through the earth that I lay on as the sheep nibble on the plants around me. Most children and adults that I know have never, and will never experience, these sensations that make life beautiful, that make us feel connected in a large way because we understand our purpose - the vital importance of feeding and protecting the sheep.
I returned to the United States and eventually landed a full-time position, contracted with the government through a conservation organization. While I learned applicable skills and began to understand the federal funding process that is intended to support folks who own and operate land by partially funding the implementation of best practices on the land, at the end of the day it was all transactional. Tax dollars being put back into the system attached to a VERY long paper trail. I covered a lot of ground in order to check off boxes in the process, and myself and the archaeologist were probably the only ones who had and would cover that ground on their own two feet (as opposed to in a 4-wheeler or bulldozer) for years to come.
Eventually, my lack of enthusiasm for being part of such a system, in combination with logistically forging a new route with my fiancé, led me away from that position, coincidentally, during the time of the “Great Resignation”. During all this transition, I was awkwardly trying my hand in the insurance industry as I was curious about how money works and I was intrigued by this group of “go-getters”. I naively thought I might be the one to get these people who are so obsessively focused on wealth to perhaps put their money where it mattered most - healing land and people. To no avail. My heart was never in it, and I soon found that my dreams were falling on deaf ears, leverage for an empire that meant nothing to me. This experience, however, reinforced my belief that even the wealthiest of people have little to no understanding of how wealth and fulfillment can come from stewarding and regenerating soil - the interface where both life and death begin. If everything that man has created were to crumble today, what would we be left with? The land, plants, animals, and each other. Yet, even with all of our complicated technology, our struggles primarily remain centered around our inability to manage the complexity in and amongst those four things.
It was time again to ask the question that many 20-something year-old’s ask themselves, “Now what?”. From the lessons that I have learned from these experiences, I created Refonte Ventures, which is a manifestation of who I am and why I exist - to guide a revolutionary return to the land for the fulfillment, health, and prosperity of people in community with one another. I will leave you with this:
Today is the best time to start.
Connecting with the land is how we begin to understand our purpose.
People who are making decisions on the land also need to be the ones walking on the land.
Changing the paradigms of the wealthy so that they may begin to realize the immeasurable potential impact that they can have by investing in land, programs that connect people to the land, and the people who care for the land is what our world needs.
Stay tuned as I am looking forward to paint a picture in my next blog post of exactly what this looks like based on my adventures last week!