Doug Fine: Working For Goats
Suburbanite turned hemp farmer and regenerative living expert
Follows goats to his sustainable destiny
TV Docuseries, American Hemp Farmer, in Development
(LOS ANGELES) Doug Fine’s hemp advocacy and expertise are planted firmly in his concern for our endangered planet, but he says it’s important to laugh. That’s why he has shared his Funky Butte Ranch in rural New Mexico with Taylor Swift, Stevie Nicks, Björk, Bette Midler, and Natalie Merchant.
No, the hemp cultivator, author, journalist, goat herder, speaker, and regenerative farming expert doesn’t live with the renowned singers. These are goats, named after singers Fine and his family enjoy, and who have a bit of baa in their voices. “The goats do love music,” says Fine. “I love to play the saxophone, mostly bad renditions of John Coltrane, and they follow me around the ranch when I do.”
Humans, Fine says, have been interacting with goats as long as we have dogs. But there’s a key difference between goats and man’s best friend.
“There is that same symbiotic relationship,” Fine says. “Goats love you, but they won’t just do anything because you’re the human and you gave a command. They will only do it if it sounds good to them.”
They’re also, shall we say, headstrong.
“We keep them inside the ranch house during wildfires or when bears are around,” says Fine. “But they’re just too smart. They’re escape artists, always paying attention to how you open doors and food jars. Stevie Nicks especially will eat almost anything.”
Fine loves his goats-he even named his performance and regenerative living company The Goats Are in Charge, LLC. The animals are truly key to living the regenerative lifestyle at the Funky Butte Ranch. They provide companionship, milk and goat cheese, plus perfect manure for his hemp crop’s soil. “They’re also our yoga partners,” says Fine.
The goats also played a vital role in Fine’s decision to spread the regenerative lifestyle as a career. In 2013, Fine saw a bear fleeing a wildfire that encroached on the Funky Butte Ranch. It attacked the goats before his family’s eyes, killing most of the herd. This was when Fine knew he had to make regenerative farming advocacy and education his mission: climate change had literally arrived at his doorstep.
“It’s not a dress rehearsal; it’s really happening,” Fine says, pointing to all of the news of unprecedented heat waves, wildfires, floods, and melting glaciers.
Now, when Fine isn’t toiling blissfully at Funky Butte, he teaches cultivation and food security, writes books and articles about hemp and regenerative farming, and speaks-including giving a TED Talk at TEDxABQ titled, “Why We Need Goat Herding in the Digital Age.”
Fine is also developing a TV docuseries around his most recent book, American Hemp Farmer (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2020). The series will see Fine-a former suburbanite-sharing his hard-won regenerative hemp farming expertise at newlyweds’ homesteads in Vermont, on tribal lands in South Dakota, and even at George Washington’s historic Mount Vernon Estate. The series will also showcase Fine’s wit.
“Those colonial sickles work,” he reports in the series pilot, after cutting his thumb on a 200-year-old hemp harvesting tool. And his too-clever goat sidekicks bring their own brand of caprine humor to the show.
In addition to American Hemp Farmer, Fine is the author of five other books including Too High to Fail and the Boston Globe Bestseller, Farewell, My Subaru. His writings and expertise have led to media appearances (Conan, Tonight Show, BBC, CNN) as well as a TED Talk (TEDxABQ) and testimony before the United Nations regarding “the right to farm whatever a farmer pleases.”
Experienced, grounded, and funny, Fine is the perfect person to shepherd us through the conversion to regenerative living. “Being outside in your hemp field is the most fun you can have outside the bedroom,” he says.
“Doug is a great writer and performer, but on top of that, he actually lives this regenerative life-he builds his seed stock and milks goats in the middle of nowhere,” said Eric Steenstra, president of the industry group Vote Hemp. “Thousands of folks already look to him for guidance in this regenerative renaissance.”
Most recently, Doug has cultivated hemp for food, farm-to-table products and seed-building in six U.S. states. His own hemp seeds have been used to clean contaminated soil in a New Mexico University study.
“Humanity is in the bottom of the ninth with two outs,” he writes in American Hemp Farmer, “but you’ve got to have fun along the way.” The Washington Post adds, “Fine is a storyteller in the mold of Douglas Adams.”
A website of Doug Fine’s print and radio work, live event schedule, United Nations testimony, television appearances and TED Talk is at dougfine.com. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @organiccowboy.
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