Fresno’s Second Oldest Business is One of the Most Innovative

Matt Nicoletti, Business Development Director for Fresno’s Penny Newman.

Transcript: Translated by Artificial Intelligence
Two Guys Regenerative Farming

Craig Scharton:  [00:00:00] Matt Nicoletti is in charge of business development for penny Newman, which we established, we think is the second oldest business in Fresno. Uh, Fresno ag has you beat by two years. Pretty close

Matt Nicoletti: though. You, you,

Craig Scharton: you still

Matt Nicoletti: look pretty young.

Paul Swearengin: So how, how old, how old is his number? Is the number two oldest company in the history of France.

Matt Nicoletti: I’d have to do

Craig Scharton: subtraction, but it’s 1878.

Matt Nicoletti: So let’s see. So is that one 42, one? Uh, yeah, 142 years. All right. And your,

Craig Scharton: your younger brain cells worked very

Matt Nicoletti: well. Yeah. Um, well it’s, uh, yeah, um, phone number. I should be tracking readily able to answer. Um, but, uh, yeah, no we’re, um, penny Newman, um, uh, uh, like we said, was founded in 1878 and it was an agricultural dry goods store.

It wasn’t all too different from Fresno [00:01:00] ag in that respect back in the day. Um, but evolved into a commodity trading business, marketing of grain. Um, uh, marketing of planting seed, um, and then it evolved into a feed business. As the livestock sector really exploded in California and the production of grain and feed type of ingredients really declined significantly in California.

So that industry became more heavily reliant upon industry structure, um, that was owned and operated by companies like penny Newman. That could bring in large quantities of grain and feed type of ingredients from out of state where, which are the largest production, larger production sheds of those types of agricultural goods.

It’s kind of inverse of what you would think of California, because we’re such a net producer, net exporter of agricultural goods. Um, but these types of commodities that make up penny Newman’s core competencies were very much a net deficit state.

Craig Scharton: And yeah, he had to keep buying bigger and bigger quantities, which is kind of an unimaginable volume.

I just can’t even picture it [00:02:00] when we were talking about it the other night. Um, but we are a huge producer of dairy products. And so you’ve got to get the grain into them. Right.

Matt Nicoletti: Indeed. Yeah. And we they’ve th the, the California produce stuff that the dairy sector consumes here. It’s mostly byproducts almond, wholes, obviously being a really popular one.

We just harvested our largest almond crop ever, you know, 3 billion pounds, um, byproducts from the food processing. You know, we’ve got a lot of grapes and the great pumice from the winery sector, the, um, bakery waste, the mill feed bride products from all the flour milling that we have in the state. Those are.

Those are very much, you know, staples in the dairy ration, but the, the most th the, the most high value, um, commodities in the dairy ration are for the most part coming in from either out of state or even overseas.

Craig Scharton: Yeah. And what, and what we wanted to kind of jump to was I was really excited to hear

Matt Nicoletti: about,

Craig Scharton: uh, your, uh, interests in, [00:03:00] um, In regenerative ag.

So we kind of nerd it out about that, uh, through our mutual friend and, uh, your employee fan Telus, and I, um, Uh, had a beer in my backyard a week or two ago. And, uh, we just, we really went pretty, pretty far off the nerd cliff, uh,

Matt Nicoletti: for most people,

Paul Swearengin: but

Craig Scharton: it was very fun to have someone local that I could do that with.

Matt Nicoletti: Thrilled to see that you were so interested in it as well with the op-ed piece and everything. I mean, it’s, it’s great to see that, you know, we’re not stepping out too far in the, in the lunacy, uh, ledge by, by, by really committing to this movement. But it’s something that I just continue getting proof of concept with in the field and, you know, with every.

Every grower that, you know, we participate with. And the more sophisticated we get about collecting data and realizing the potential of taking a more biological approach to crop production, the more I believe in that [00:04:00] legitimacy of this movement. So it’s, it’s really, really exciting, um, to see folks, you know, coming to the table and, and, and really realizing the potential.

Well, and

Craig Scharton: it’s, I think with Paul, you know, being a pastor and he’s been doing some interesting, um, panel discussions, you know, it all starts kind of lining up. Like if you believe in a creator and creation or whether you’re more science-based and you believe in the biology and, and, and, uh, you know, the inner workings of, of, uh, Chemistry about how all of these things are starting to line up with people.

You know, all, all, it seems like

Matt Nicoletti: all of our needs can

Craig Scharton: kind of be met if we start working toward or walking toward the, the programs that you guys are putting out there. So how you D you defined, uh, regenerative ag in your, uh, September [00:05:00] newsletter. I thought really well,

Matt Nicoletti: if you remember

Craig Scharton: what that was, how, how do you state it for a person that’s just tuning in, or even for a farmer that’s heard about it and doesn’t really know what it means.

Matt Nicoletti: Yeah. So, and I appreciate that question because it’s super complicated. If you were to Google it, I mean, the answers you’d come across are. Diverse. And in a lot of times there’s an emphasis on the practice. It’s about integrating livestock with crop production. It’s cover crop. It’s no till or conservation tillage, it’s X, Y, and Z.

And you know, what we tried to, uh, really convey in the newsletter is what are all of those things intended to accomplish? And really in our opinion, the simple definition is farming with an emphasis on soil health. Um, and I do think that is a succinct definition, but right. What the heck does soil health mean?

You know, so you’ve got to sort of take it one step further and define that. And, um, really, you know, no over simplification would be to say so healthy soil is that, which is [00:06:00] rich in organic matter. And biodiversity, it supports a robust population of microorganisms, bacteria, and Michael, as a fungi are the two that, you know, are sort of the main ones when it comes to the, the, the, uh, uh, the, uh, microbes that are doing the work that the plants are ultimately beneficiaries of.

Um, but the organic matter it’s, it’s really great. I mean, they can create an environment. Those microbes are what create the organic matter. It’s organic material. You know, the leaf falls off the tree when that leaf breaks down and gets incorporated into the soil. It’s being decomposed by those microbes.

Right? And so that organic material becomes organic matter, which creates an environment that is more suitable for more microbes, which are doing all the hard work of mining the nutrients and transporting the nutrients to the plant. So you get this crazy myriad of benefits from both a productivity perspective.

And an environmental stewardship perspective. It was honestly hard to believe when I really first started diving [00:07:00] into the science and the potential behind all this stuff. So, but to answer your question, it’s farming with an emphasis on soil health and, you know, it’s just a healthy living soil is really what we’re trying to accomplish with regenerative agriculture.

Paul Swearengin: So it’s, it seems like long-term having healthy soil is going to have, you’re going to have a good return on that investment. Is it. Does it lower the profit margin short term. Uh, and, and you’re doing it for charity and generosity to the earth, or does it have a, is it profitable to do regenerate work the way you are doing it?

Matt Nicoletti: So a part of our sort of ethos and strategy is everything that we’re. Implementing on farm. We like to see a return on investment in year one. You know, long-term, if you’re really, really taking a plunge and implementing every practice, that would be a part of our full program soup to nuts. You might be slightly exceeding your standard conventional budget, you know, and there’s.

Well, weird conflation and confusion with what’s the difference between organic and [00:08:00] regenerative. Um, organic, there is a huge premium and the production costs with the, just the premium on the fertilizers. The, you know, generally expected compromising yield. Um, but organic is all about what you can’t use.

Right. You can’t use synthetics. It’s not just the pesticides. It’s also this instead of synthetic fertilizers and most of our fertilizers are synthetically produced. Um, but in the case of regenerative, it’s all about what did you accomplish? You know, are you moving the needle in a direction towards healthier soil?

And what we like to see is growers get that return on investment in year one. I mean, we have a number of products that can be used as a standalone where we say use this instead of this. Make room for the budget in this, by getting rid of that other thing you’re using, which by the way, is adding, is compromising your soil’s ability to propagate microorganisms and, and host that biological life that is, you know, essentially the bedrock of regenerative agriculture.

So, um, use this other alternative [00:09:00] instead. And if you see, you know, a percentage increase in yield and quality to the point where, you know, You’re generating a significant ROI in year one, then, you know, it’s hard to argue against it, right? Because a lot of the, the, the, the challenge with different environmentally based movements, they require such significant upfront capital intensive investments, you know, clean energy, cleaning up after yourself costs a lot of money.

Right. And one of the reasons I’m so optimistic about regenerative agriculture is because of how often we see an ROI in year one for our growers.

Craig Scharton: Well, without naming names, you’ve, you’ve been doing some kind of on the ground research already. Right? So

Matt Nicoletti: what is that,

Craig Scharton: what is that yielding? What are you, what are you learning?

Matt Nicoletti: So, you know, when we first started getting into this, it might be fun for me to give you guys a little bit of context as to how we got here to, uh, because it was serendipitous. Uh, admittedly, I’d love to tell you that I was. You know, incredibly forward thinking and doing a lot of outreach and trying to figure out how we [00:10:00] can get into this space.

And there was a little bit of that in there, but, um, really it’s, it can be attributed to one gentleman by the name of Dennis butcher who walked into our office a few years ago. Um, gentleman from Utah that had an idea for a soil amendment. And we said, great. You know, that’s a market, we’re not really that active or participating in.

Tell us a little bit more about that, your idea for it. And, um, you know, you know, as, as we started, as I started gaining a better understanding of what his amendment and his agrinomic program, he has since introduced us to quite a number of other products that make up our agronomic program, um, I’m also, you know, becoming aware of this growing movement with regenerative agriculture.

And I realized that everything he is promoting, um, is exactly what this movement is calling for. It’s the emphasis on the soil health, the soil biology, the microorganisms. And so, um, it, uh, I realized I’ve got to figure out how to connect these two things, right? How do I take advantage of this movement to at [00:11:00] least just increase awareness around what we’re doing, or figure out how to reward growers for, you know, hitting these new environmental standards and those sorts of things.

But one thing that I recognized just simply in our sales process, and you know, again, we’re new to this game relatively is you have to prove what you’re saying. These things do are actually being accomplished in the field. Right. So, you know, in the case of regenerative, are we seeing an increase in organic matter?

Are we seeing increased micronutrient uptake without the addition of micronutrients, um, you know, growers spend an immense amount of money on micronutrient for, for fertilizers, zinc, boron, and the like, um, whereas, you know, what, what we’ve one thing we do in particular that is really unique is with a soil analysis.

Um, Or your standard soil analysis only shows what’s quote unquote available. It doesn’t show what actually exists. There, there is a signal in, particularly in the West. We have very minerally, nutrient dense soils. And so when you look at a, um, [00:12:00] standard soil analysis, it, it there’s because of the bonding between those minerals and the ratios being a bit out of whack and the lack of the, um, uh, bacteria that are there to break the bonds and make those things available to the plant.

Um, you’re actually not seeing the availability of what’s there, there might be 200 times more calcium in that soil than what’s showing available. So what we like to do is. Something called a natural nitric acid or totals test. Um, and not a lot of folks are doing that. It blew my mind when I found out, found out that that’s not status quo, that we’re not trying to figure out what’s there and mind what’s actually there that we’re adding these, you know, expensive, typically synthetically derived inputs to make up for that deficiency.

And I think a lot of folks don’t recognize that, you know, we’re really aren’t that deficient in, in, in mineral nutrients, we’re deficient in biology. Out here. And, um, so a lot of the stuff we’ve been doing is revealing the, uh, the, the potential that our soils have simply [00:13:00] by just nurturing them in a way that allows you to, um, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, harvest what’s there and reap the benefits.

And so just being, and it’s, it’s super simple stuff, you know, are we getting better nutrients? Take are we increasing the soil organic matter? Are we getting better water infiltration? Um, but we are going to start getting more geeky with it. We’re going to start counting earthworms and things like that too.

So, uh,

Paul Swearengin: how do you count earthworms? Is, is it a per, uh, per a, a particular measure and you just pull up some dirt cubic foot of dirt? Yep. Okay.

Matt Nicoletti: regenerative agriculture.

Paul Swearengin: I love it. Counting earthworms that you get paid big bucks

Matt Nicoletti: for that totally. It’s a labor intensive process. And that process is yet to be automated. So it’s costly, Craig, it looks like you’re on mute.

Paul Swearengin: I lost you, Craig. You’re not on mute.

Craig Scharton: Oh, there you go. That’s my it’s my microphone.

[00:14:00] Paul Swearengin: Okay.

Craig Scharton: My grandsons don’t know I’ve been training them for that job for several years. Uh, I bought them a couple of kids size shovels a couple of years ago for Christmas. And when I come over, they go let’s hunt for earthworms, grandpa,

Matt Nicoletti: and we just start

Craig Scharton: digging in the yard and pulling them. So I’m working on your, uh,

Matt Nicoletti: your labor force mat.

That’s great. Yeah. Except I’m not sure the legalities of that. We have pretty strong labor laws here in California, regulatory intensive. So, um, we’ll figure something out there, correct?

Craig Scharton: We like to say, uh, well, they can volunteer, I think maybe

Matt Nicoletti: a volunteer. Um, and I think Fenn was telling me he got your soil, that soil, that analyses done for your backyard there so

Craig Scharton: bad,

Matt Nicoletti: we can help.

Craig Scharton: It is so bad. I need

Paul Swearengin: more earthworms.

Craig Scharton: I do.

Matt Nicoletti: What’s your average organic matter out there? Did, did he tell you

Craig Scharton: what it was? It was really bad.

Matt Nicoletti: Is it below [00:15:00] 1%? Yeah.

Craig Scharton: Uh, we did three at the joke, you know, of, I call my place Sharpton acres, even though it’s like a fifth of an acre. Um, so we called the three samples that he did the front 40, the middle 40 and the back

Matt Nicoletti: 40, uh, but it’s really square feet.

Craig Scharton: Um, he’s right there. He should yell. He should yell what it is. So I don’t look for it, but it’s like one was over one and the other were below one. So. Uh, so I think what we want to do is, is I’m going to challenge Finn. I don’t know, a hundred bucks or something, and we’re going to see who can increase their soil, uh, organic matter, like in a year’s time or something.

And turn this into a, um, a man’s

Matt Nicoletti: sport. Are you going to be, are you going to be using fin for any, any sort of product support and guidance

Craig Scharton: stuff till I challenged them for a hundred bucks and then he was like,

Matt Nicoletti: you’re on your own.

Paul Swearengin: We should probably [00:16:00] tell people tuning in that fin is sitting in the, in the background off, right?

Matt Nicoletti: Yes.

Paul Swearengin: Yep. Let me see. You can do this, Craig, if you guys can hear this, it’s been a while since we’ve done an actual podcast. So let me see if our, if our bumpers work anymore, hang on here. Oh, wait, if I can’t even hear that. Okay, nevermind. So let’s do a know your guest,

Matt Nicoletti: Craig.

Craig Scharton: We’re out. We’re out of shape.

Paul Swearengin: We are.

Geez. I don’t even know how to make this stuff work anymore. Anyway, let’s do a know your guests.

Craig Scharton: Matt, tell us, tell us about yourself.

Matt Nicoletti: Um, I’m 32 years old. I just got married in August. That’s no good wedding. It was supposed to be a big blowout ranger in September because my wife and I and our families are pretty S pretty social bunch.

Um, so, uh, it was around maybe may when we realized that our plans were not going to be coming to fruition in the way that we’d originally hoped. Um, so we, uh, we still got married. We just did took the plunge, just our [00:17:00] immediate families, um, on the beach, uh, down in Santa Barbara. And we are hoping we can have that big party at some point next year.

Um, but, uh, yeah, I grew up born and raised in Fresno. I went to high school at San Joaquin Memorial, played football there. Uh, I went to USC on an academic scholarship. Uh, after I graduated, I moved to San Francisco for a few years and worked for a startup. Uh, called Eventbrite. You guys might’ve used it for live events or to stuff.

They were, you know, just a few years old. When I went to work there, I was the 80th employee. By the time I left, there was 600 of us. It was pretty crazy. Um, and then they, they S they, they IPO it a few years ago, actually. Um, but I was on the music and entertainment team. And then that’s another passion of mine is music.

I’m a hobbyist musician, musician. I played with a group of guys up there and played in college and. I’ve got a music room right over there, one hallway over here. So, um, definitely something I intend to get involved, um, within the community, uh, [00:18:00] as years go on and I increased my personal bandwidth outside of the office.

Paul Swearengin: Awesome. I buy music. Are you a singer musician

Matt Nicoletti: producer? Yeah, so I, I percussion, I can mess around on a bass guitar and a guitar, but, um, but percussion was my thing mainly.

Paul Swearengin: Very nice. Cool.

Craig Scharton: So, so like in trying to think about what this regenerative ag thing could do,

Paul Swearengin: by the way, Craig, let me jump in real quick.

And we, somebody named Mark Mitchell, is that somebody you guys know

Matt Nicoletti: yeah. From Aquile.

Paul Swearengin: So Mark says preach it. Mat soil biology is the next wave in agriculture. Growers are finally waking up to this

Matt Nicoletti: Mark. Appreciate the shout out.

Craig Scharton: What does the Valley look like in five to 10 years? If we really

Matt Nicoletti: embrace this plus dusty.

Craig Scharton: That’s huge though. Right?

Matt Nicoletti: That’s fine. But that’s one of the things [00:19:00] that, like, I just get super motivated by. I mean, we didn’t get into the long list of environmental benefits and it can get a little bit dense if we start to do that. But one of the, one of the, one of the cool things about the benefits of increased soil organic matter is the ability for soil to retain water, right.

Uh, and infiltrate water better water is a huge issue here. We need to get, we need to be able to make. The most out of what little scarce water we have here. And the best way to do that is to emphasize soil biology, soil organic matter. And for every 1% increase, it can retain between 20 and 50,000 gallons, more per acre.

So think about if we have more

Craig Scharton: for one sec, right? Yeah. So one acre of land, you increase the soil biology from.

Matt Nicoletti: Two to

Craig Scharton: 3%. That means little critters in the soil would save would hold more than 20,000 gallons of water on that acre in the soil. [00:20:00] Then if it, if it doesn’t improve

Matt Nicoletti: and that’s per 1%, you said two to three.

So two to three, you would expect the multiple, right? Yeah.

Craig Scharton: So I would say if it goes from 2% organic. 20,008, 20,000 gallons per acre, or more

Paul Swearengin: over what period of time.

Matt Nicoletti: In a year

Paul Swearengin: and a year.

Matt Nicoletti: Well, I mean, the there’s, there’s sort of not necessarily a time correlation it’s if it’s just, if you get that 1% increase, no matter how long it takes that water should be able to retain them or that, excuse me, that soil should be able to retain the water to that.

And when you see a healthy soil, it looks like a spongy, you know, they refer to it as kind of a chocolate cakey type texture, a lot of aggregates. Um, and, and that’s another benefit of planting cover crop, and things like that is, is, is the. Uh, prevention of erosion from, from, from dust, it caps the soil, it, it retains the moisture.

Um, it’ll prevent loss from runoff erosion. [00:21:00] And then, you know, of course in our case, come, come August. We start getting pretty dusty around here when we start shaking trees and, you know, making passes. Um, so that is, that is when you say, what does it look like? What’s the big difference? I would say if we, if we could collectively raise.

The level of organic matter in California by 3% within that timeframe, which I think that’s a pretty tall order. I mean, we are setting out and committing ourselves. That is our mission in life right now. Um, because California is our backyard. That’s a big enough market for us to, you know, focus all of our efforts on, although we do have aspirations to expand elsewhere.

Um, it. That would just really, really just bring a tear to my eye if we could pull that off and really, really see the visible benefit when you’re driving to work and when I’m driving to work and I’m looking at downtown Fresno and I can, and it doesn’t look like I could eat, you know, take a piece of the cotton candy sky and eat it, you know?

Um, that would be really fulfilling. Well,

Paul Swearengin: that is it. [00:22:00] God Gregory

Craig Scharton: better air holds more water. I think about like the economics, like if the farmers are more profitable though, because they’re spending less on inputs and they make more money, which is great for our economy. Right.

Matt Nicoletti: Totally.

Craig Scharton: Um, and then, you know, I think just too about like being a leader in this tends to get

Matt Nicoletti: people.


Craig Scharton: to steady it and learn the skills and all of that as well. Like being progressive in terms of being on the front end of

Matt Nicoletti: whether it’s

Craig Scharton: technology or health or business, whatever it is like, can we really embrace something and become a leader in it?

Matt Nicoletti: Yeah. Yeah. Um, it would be it’s it’s, you know, I, I remember from our conversation, uh, Craig, when you mentioned how there’s a bit of a.

Uh, uh, Midwestern flavor to a lot of the regenerative ag stuff that’s been going on. And you mentioned the, the economic, [00:23:00] um, benefits, which again are part of the reason that I’m so optimistic mystic about it and why? I believe it has such legitimate future. It can stand up on its own two legs and a capitalist society, you know?

Um, but. California farmers haven’t struggled as much as Midwestern farmers. I think that’s one thing that gets overlooked. You know, the commoditization of that broad acreage crop, corn and soy wheat, you know, their options are limited and all the infrastructure, the, the, the, the, the processing facilities, the ethanol plants, the big corn elevators that.

Quite frankly, load unit trains and ship them to the penny Newman’s of the world. Um, they, those growers don’t have a lot of options, you know, whereas in California, we’re next to the premium consumer. Um, we grow crops that are difficult to grow elsewhere. So there’s been, you know, just more supply control and really great, you know, a couple of really, uh, excellent marketers, you know, in groups of marketers out here pushing the health benefits of the things that we’re known for, you know, fruits and nuts and whatnot.

So, um, [00:24:00] there’s been less pain points. In California, um, from an economic standpoint, driving folks to adopt regenerative practices, but per my previous comment about just harvesting the largest almond crop we’ve ever had, almond prices have taken a nosedive, uh, and a number of other commodities that are California production driven or, you know, core commodities here are, are, uh, the economics are, are, are starting to feel a lot more pressure.

So this hopefully will motivate folks to adopt these new practices, but. I think we all know out here from a regulatory standpoint, we face the most burdensome environmental regulations and things like that. So if this is a way in which you can preempt regulatory compliance and get rewarded for it in the short term, I mean, and that’s the thing, like one of the hardest parts of our job is convincing people that we’re not just.

Blowing smoke up their butt with that kind of a grandiose claim, you know? Cause that’s too good to be true, but it’s like, Hey, you’re going to have to do this in 10 years. Anyways. We’re just going to show you how to do it. And by the way, you’re going to save money and [00:25:00] your yield and quality is going to increase that’s.

I mean, when, if you actually went and gave that whole pitch, you’d be laughed out the door. So we’ve gotta be, we’ve got control. It helps, uh, in the sales process a little bit just to make sure we don’t have that sort of reaction.

Paul Swearengin: So, let me ask you a little bit about, about the business for, for people that don’t know a lot about it.

Um, I see it started as a, as a mercantile store and, and I see kind of all the different things you do, but did I hear you say most of your, uh, your business is done in the state?

Matt Nicoletti: Yeah, so we are destination market. Like our grower direct reach is predominantly California based. Um, and most of our, you know, Grower isn’t the right word necessarily.

Cause our largest market that we’re serving is the dairy industry. We’re a feed supplier. Uh, and we, we, we procure California based byproducts. Like I mentioned, almond wholes, and those sorts of things in market that is dairy feed. But again, you know, uh, really the, the, the vast majority of what we do comes from out of state or overseas.

Uh, and [00:26:00] there was a paradigm shift with the railroads where you needed to be able to build a facility that can receive a hundred rail cars at a time in order to be competitive in a given market. So that led to big solidation amongst the companies that were handling feed and grain in California. And there’s really.

Five penny Newman, white companies left of the 30 plus that there once were in the feed industry back in, you know, only a several decades ago. So, um, that, uh, the, the, we, we kind of view the rest of the country as an origination, like speaking to our core business, the rest of the countries where we originate stuff, California, Idaho, Washington is where we sell stuff.

For the most part and that’s dairy, um, pet food has been a really big growing market for us as well. Um, we sell it, we originate, you know, grains for milling, you know, human consumption, flour, those sorts of things. Um, And then with this division of our business, it’s it’s fertilizer and soil based. So, you know, a lot of, all of our dairy customers, you know, they grow their, their own feed to some degree.

Um, and many [00:27:00] of them have smartly diversified into other modes of crop production. Uh, and then of course, all the folks that we’ve sold, planting seed and bought grain from throughout the years, they’re the same folks, you know, that are now growing tomatoes, almond and citrus. Everything. So, um, it’s one advantage that we had was just having the sort of household name out here in the customer list and the relationships, it, it gave our guru Dennis, some at-bats to go out there and get his product tried.

And, you know, as, as we were learning. You know how this worked and how legit it was. We kind of had to keep pinching ourselves because it was just good news after good news after good news. And then, you know, we were like, let’s really build something here. The principals bought in and they’ve been supporting, uh, Dennis and myself and our team.

And we were able to bring fin on and Finn’s been kicking butt. He’s out a lot, added a lot of professionalism to what we do. And, um, I think is, you know, like Craig very impassioned about the potential for, um, uh, regenerative agriculture to heal some of the wrongs we’ve done. Hmm,

[00:28:00] Paul Swearengin: sorry. I was interested in that and that you spoke to that a little bit, but how, how do you get a company that’s been around that long to be, to be innovative and want to do something new?

Matt Nicoletti: Um, well, uh, I will say that, um, uh, we, we faced our share of challenges and we have to be kind of, uh, tasteful in terms of what we ask for, uh, as far as resources to support us, continuing to build this, um, We were lucky in that it didn’t take an immense amount of risk for us to get started, to give that guy Dennis, his platform to, to start getting product out there.

But I will not pull wool over anybody’s eyes. When I say that initially we were Jerry rigging it a little bit. Um, it was hard for, on him, a lot of work, and, but now we’ve gotten way more. I mean, we’ve got him dedicated infrastructure, a fleet of ball tanks and trailers, and, um, you know, a number of employees that are being trained around this is our sales process.

This is our ethos. And so the way to a way to get a company like that to, um, invest in [00:29:00] innovation is show that, that show that we can build a business out of it, you know, shows successes from the field. So positive feedback in those early years from our growers is what we needed. And we got that. So, and now we’re proving it with data.

So which, which reinforces that even better? Well,

Paul Swearengin: this is cool Craig. Cause I think we always love to highlight local central California businesses that are doing things. And when we think we don’t have anything like this, it’s always good to know. Hey, there is, there are great companies that are sending out widgets and bringing in, uh, economic growth into central California and that they exist and they exist here.

Craig Scharton: Yeah, I think it’s really going to be good too. Cause there’s really been a, I think a big split in our state. I don’t know. Every once in a while I’ll hear

Matt Nicoletti: like

Craig Scharton: there’s an assembly district that kind of is calf. Like it goes a little bit into the Valley, but it’s mostly in the Bay area and you know, they’ll just run [00:30:00] ads going.

Like I will stand up to those horrible polluting Valley farmers and I’m like, Wait a minute. How did this land on, on the central Valley radio station? And, and I mean, they actually get political gain political ground by beating up on us. And I think that’s, you know, being from here, I don’t, I don’t like that.

And I think it just perpetuates these false lines. But I think a lot of what you guys are doing there, Matt is really gonna flip that around to where people start viewing the, the Valley really is the solution, not the problem.

Matt Nicoletti: And we can

Craig Scharton: really lead the way I think.

Matt Nicoletti: I I, yeah. I mean, I sure hope so. I mean like one anecdote I would have for, you know, you guys were asking about the difficulty of getting this whole thing started.

And, um, you know, when this gentleman Dennis came in with this idea for the soil amendment and was teaching us about soil health and microbes and all those sorts of things, uh, as mentioned, you know, he, he, [00:31:00] wasn’t talking about this regenerative agriculture movement. He wasn’t a. You know, a coastal elite idealist coming in, you know, with some sort of fantastical, uh, approach without understanding the real nuances and challenges of farming.

This is somebody who. In the was, is educated in the dirt in the soil, I should say. Um, and, and, and, and was just taking a very pragmatic approach. This is the best way to farm. This is how you get the best yield and quality and be good steward of costs with your inputs. And so, you know, from my perspective, if I didn’t have dentists, they’re telling me that, and, and the firsthand observations of the results we were getting, if I was just reading the ideologically driven.

You know, mostly, you know, coastal elite type of driven publications that are publishing most of what we’re hearing about regenerative agriculture. I would approach it with a hefty dose of skepticism. I’d be going, you guys don’t understand how hard this actually is. And in fact, that’s kind of how I used to [00:32:00] be.

So, um, you know, when we, when we were in the midst of the drought years, you remember you, everybody remembers the gallon of water to grow one almond. Right? And so I have. All right. And it’s the coastal elites that just loved, they latched onto that stat and it was published everywhere and it’s like, we’ll stop eating almond butter.

Then you know, your, your, the ones you drink, you probably drink more. I’m going to go, can we do? Um, but, uh, you know, it’s, it’s what’s to your point, Craig, it’s, it’s awesome because we can totally flip that narrative. You know what I mean? Instead of just. Ha like reducing the environmental burden of food production, which that’s very much what it is.

There’s no denying it. Like, like all things production related and energy production related. It has negative byproducts and consequences, but agriculture is the one thing. That through doing it the right way. Um, we can actually heal the planet. Like there’s not a lot of healing solutions that are being presented.

There’s a, Hey, [00:33:00] let’s slow it down type of solution rather than. We can sequester atmosphere carbon. We can produce more nutrient dense food. We can clean our water. It’s amazing. And it’s all, it’s all the microbes. It’s the power of microbes. I’ve totally bought into this. Obviously drinking the Kool-Aid or combined, I should say

Craig Scharton: that’s the microbes.

Paul Swearengin: Yeah,

Craig Scharton: that, that is really cool. And then, so you’re actually, and you’re trying to create. Create a market for these products. So there’s higher value return.

Matt Nicoletti: Yup. I mean, longterm, that is the goal. I mean, like I said, you know, there should be an ROI for the grower in year one. Right. But why should they not be rewarded for hitting these new standards right.

That consumers want to see and consumers want to see, I mean, there’s, there’s other folks out there doing it, right. If you look at general, general mills, They’ve pledged to transition 1 million acres to regenerative by 2030 Cargill, 10 million acres, [00:34:00] right? Some of the largest food and ag businesses in the world, general mills is an end-user a consumer of so many food ingredients, things that we produce right here in California.

So if we can help the growers. Implement these practices that accomplish these outcomes, tell them more about these outcomes, help them identity, preserve what they’re producing here and go to those brands. And off-takers then hopefully we can help them be rewarded by, uh, even more than what they should be.

Just. Without that premium incentive, right. Uh, or that access to this new category, um, that is that a lot of folks are racing to develop right now. Organic is not going to be the only thing out there that consumers have as an option. That’s better for them and better for the environment.

Paul Swearengin: So we have a couple of comments and appreciate everybody, uh, on Facebook with us.

And our friend D says, Oh, those evil farmers. And then last, and then she said, Craig, quit trashing the coastal elites because her sister lives in. Yeah. So we’ve, we’ve [00:35:00] been one

Craig Scharton: now. I don’t think we fit the elite category, but I, we have lived there.

Matt Nicoletti: Don’t

Paul Swearengin: you just become elite when you live in the Bay area, doesn’t it just sort of naturally happen.

Matt Nicoletti: Yeah, I lived there and it didn’t feel that way.

Craig Scharton: You have to be on guard all the time. Uh, and when you find yourself with your Birkenstocks wearing your hemp clothes, uh, at the Sonoma farmer’s market, it can be real,

Matt Nicoletti: you know,

Craig Scharton: in mill Valley or something. It can be real dangerous. Very,

Matt Nicoletti: very much.


Craig Scharton: remember being at the Sonoma’s farmer’s market in the first Gulf war had just started. And, uh, and this lady goes, I just think we’re on

Matt Nicoletti: the brink of world.

Craig Scharton: Peace man. You live with a really nice bubble. I can’t can’t quite


Matt Nicoletti: it.

Paul Swearengin: How was Memorial’s football team when you were there, Matt to ask a really important question

Matt Nicoletti: for them?

Well, we were really good up until my senior year when I was the captain [00:36:00] of the team finally. And we started the year, I think with five straight losses. So. Uh, we ended up getting our, getting our act together when we won league that year. But then we won our first lost our first game in the platelet playoffs.

So we had a great run my freshman to junior year and a Valley championship my sophomore year. But, uh, I don’t know something happened when I hopefully my leadership of penny Newman, um, out matches my leadership. It’s football time.

Craig Scharton: It’s a lot better to learn your lessons on the football field than, than

Matt Nicoletti: in the middle of the company.

Yeah, that’s for sure. Absolutely.

Paul Swearengin: No, I

Matt Nicoletti: haven’t been back because of it.

Paul Swearengin: Do we want to do what’s on my mind, Craig?

Matt Nicoletti: Sure.

Paul Swearengin: Alright. What’s on my mind time where we talk about nothing in particular or whatever is on our mind. So Craig, you want to kick us off?

Craig Scharton: Yeah, cause I’m going to kind of tie it in together.

So I, I got bunnies, Paul.

Paul Swearengin: Ooh, nice.

Matt Nicoletti: I got four bunnies.

Craig Scharton: Uh, so [00:37:00] when, uh, Matt and Finn came over the other day, uh, you know, like I said, we’re turning it on this male, uh, competition thing.

Matt Nicoletti: Um,

Craig Scharton: females might not, might do that too. I’m just not one of them.

Matt Nicoletti: But I

Craig Scharton: know among males, we can do this thing where, you know, who caught the biggest fish or whatever example you can think of.

So Finn goes, well, when are you going to incorporate animals into your regenerative farm here? Sharpton.

Matt Nicoletti: Yeah. And I’m like, Whoa.

Paul Swearengin: Uh,

Craig Scharton: so I said, all right, I, I can’t get. I can’t get chickens. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can get rabbits. They’re legal.

Matt Nicoletti: I

Craig Scharton: can have ’em. They can eat a bunch of stuff I grow and they can poop and I can put that poop out.

And that gets the biology of the soil going. So, because of that, and so. We have another mutual friend, Andrew, uh, sensing from, uh, Tavern, uh,

Matt Nicoletti: as a

Craig Scharton: biology [00:38:00] professor and a farmer from the Midwest. Uh, and I had taken them a couple of rabbits that I had trapped a few years ago

Matt Nicoletti: and he’s kept breeding them.

Craig Scharton: And so I called them, said, Hey, if you ever have any baby rabbits, uh, let me know.

He goes, Oh, I have some that just when they’re ready this weekend,

Matt Nicoletti: I was like, Oh

Craig Scharton: crap. And so, yeah, so I’ve, uh, been building a hatch and, but stuff at whities forum. And he gave me four rabbits back, uh, on my investment or two that I gave him.

Matt Nicoletti: And, uh, and they’re eating like crazy. Like

Craig Scharton: there’s no amount of

Matt Nicoletti: kale or

Craig Scharton: lemon leaves or anything that I

Matt Nicoletti: can put

Craig Scharton: in there.

I’ll go back after this and it will be completely gone through again. And so I’m going to have to, uh,

Matt Nicoletti: be

Craig Scharton: planting more crop. I might have to buy more acreage

Matt Nicoletti: just to

Craig Scharton: keep my rabbits fed.

Matt Nicoletti: Has Finn got your cover crop mix yet?

Craig Scharton: Not yet. [00:39:00] Okay.

Matt Nicoletti: But over there right now,

Craig Scharton: but I got to get that. Oh my gosh. I’m so embarrassed in my little organics in my soil.

Matt Nicoletti: I’m just horrified.

Paul Swearengin: Hmm. What’s on your mind today, Matt?

Matt Nicoletti: Well, um, you know, I’d mentioned that I just got married and uh, I, you know, with COVID rearing its ugly head again. Um, I just, I would like to know whether or not we’re going to get to have that big, old party that we wanted to have originally, you know, I really miss live music.

Um, so, so dearly and every time I think about it, I just feel this like aching pain in my chest. When is the next time I get to go shake my booty at a music venue? You know, that’s that, that is what’s on my mind these days.

Paul Swearengin: That’s really sad. I mean, we’re all COVID fatigued, but, uh, yeah. To kind of lose your wedding in the midst of that, uh, definitely feel for you guys.

Matt Nicoletti: Yeah.

[00:40:00] Craig Scharton: Father-in-law saved the bank

Matt Nicoletti: and, uh, yeah, yeah, yeah. He, he’s definitely, you know, silver lining for him and he was cheating too.

Paul Swearengin: Yeah. Yeah, I heard, and we’re recording this on November 16th. I heard we’re back into purple today and fairly significantly back into purple. And so schools are in doubt again.

Um, I heard even, uh, curfews could be in the mix, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens here and makes us wonder if we had taken this a little more seriously early on where we would be today, but.

Matt Nicoletti: Yep. Some decent news with the vaccines, uh, as of late. Um, but if those don’t get deployed, I don’t know.

I might be signing up for Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, um, hilarious name by the way, where they beat us. They beat us with something into orbit and they just tend, they beat us with the vaccine deployment and they use the name Sputnik. Oh, that is [00:41:00] in our face. Just petty there’s there’s there’s really, really petty competitiveness between are the leaders of our nations here these days.

Paul Swearengin: I wonder how brutal they’re approved, you know, their testing and approval processes.

Matt Nicoletti: I think that’s why they beat us is probably not very, they can seem to get volunteers a lot more easily too. I imagined

Paul Swearengin: my volunteer

Matt Nicoletti: here. We don’t call them volunteers here.

Paul Swearengin: More like human lab, rats, perhaps there’s cheese.

Um, yeah,

Craig Scharton: we’re hoping.

Paul Swearengin: What’s on my mind is Tik TOK, man. Do you got you guys big on Tik TOK? I don’t. Maybe you’re maybe your parlor guys. I don’t know. No, no, but, uh, yeah, I delved into the end of the crazy world of Tik TOK and like people dancing and 62nd videos and drinking ocean spray and all of that stuff.

And did a video called why I didn’t vote for Donald [00:42:00] Trump. And that video has now been viewed. 442,000 times. Uh, I went to, uh, I went to bed two weeks ago. I went to bed on Wednesday night with six followers on Tik TOK. I woke up the next morning. I had 2000 followers and as of. Well, as of right now, let me look.

I have 19,200 followers on Tik TOK. So I am, I’m blowing up on Tik TOK right now.

Matt Nicoletti: That is unreal. I haven’t honestly, that’s one that I just haven’t been paying that much attention to. I’ve sort of, I still have my social media accounts, but I’ve like for a number of reasons, sort of abandoned them a few years ago.

So I haven’t really kept up with things, but the virality of that is crazy. Or maybe you just put out. Some really good content there. Paul, I’m going to have to check that out,

Paul Swearengin: check it out. I mean, and so since then now, I mean, I I’m, you know, I do a couple of videos a day and, and some of them, uh, you know, like today [00:43:00] with the one I put out, it’s only gone to 3,569 people.

So that’s a big disappointment because I’ve had others go to 179,000. Uh, 16,800. Anyway, I don’t know it’s so I’m doing this tick-tock pastor thing and it’s kind of taken off and people are liking it. And I, you know, my, I had a friend

Craig Scharton: telling

Paul Swearengin: me and people find you and old pastor Paul is my handle on tic-tacs

Matt Nicoletti: pastor Paul old

Paul Swearengin: pastor Paul.

Yeah. We’ll look at it. My, yeah, my, my social media manager told me this was a couple of years ago and he said, so Facebook is 60. And in a very short time, it’ll be 75. He said, Instagram is 30 in a very short time, it’ll be 50. And he said, Tik TOK is now 16. And in a very short time, it’ll be 25. And so, yeah, I’m trying, I I’ve been wanting to reach a younger audience because shockingly.

Boomers and older Xers like me don’t change their minds very easily or hear differing opinions anymore. So I figured I would [00:44:00] go to tick-tock and try a younger audience and they seem to like it. So it’s

Matt Nicoletti: kind of parameters. So like

Craig Scharton: it’s a, it’s a length of time,

Matt Nicoletti: right?

Paul Swearengin: So you can do a 15 second video or a 62nd video.

And that’s it, which is it’s really fun. Cause you, you have to be very creative, very succinct. You have to know what you’re saying and, but, but you’d be amazed what you can say in 60 seconds. And, uh, and then I’ll tell you it’s crazy, but it’s addicting. You get on it and you just start flipping through.

And the next thing you know, it’s, you know, it’s midnight and you’re like, wow, I’m still flipping through Tik TOK. So it’s, it’s pretty fun.

Craig Scharton: Does it stay up there? Is it like these other things where if you look at it, it’s then gone forever or

Paul Swearengin: no, it stays up there. It stays up forever. The one thing and tick-tock as your lives, don’t stay up.

If you do a live, it, it goes away. It’s just live and then it goes away. But no, the videos stay up there and people continue to, to share them and you can do this thing called a duet. So if you like. Yeah. Like what somebody says, you hit duet and [00:45:00] then it’ll go on your feed and it’ll be your picture while you’re listening to them, do their thing.

And, uh, so that a lot of people find it’s fun to do that. And so then you can promote somebody else’s video and, uh, so yeah, I’ve, I’ve really ended up. Kind of enjoying it. So one of the big ones I did is, uh, I took a scene from West wing and I mouthed Martin Sheen’s words and, uh, and it, it’s now been viewed over 101,000 times.

Matt Nicoletti: All

Craig Scharton: right.

Paul Swearengin: Do you want to see it? I could probably show it to you.

Matt Nicoletti: Yeah, definitely.

Paul Swearengin: Let me see if I can, let me see if I can find it. Yeah. Now that I said that. Okay. Talk amongst yourselves while I,

Craig Scharton: I want you to do one on regenerative ag Paul.

Paul Swearengin: Well, you’ll have to, you’ll have to point me to it. All right.

Let’s see if

Matt Nicoletti: Ben’s volunteering. He’ll be in it too.

Paul Swearengin: Very good. All right, here we go. Here we go. Let me tell me if you can hear this.

Matt Nicoletti: I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President,

Paul Swearengin: the Bible does.

Matt Nicoletti: Yes, it does. Leviticus

Craig Scharton: 1822

Paul Swearengin: numbers. I wanted to ask you a couple of [00:46:00] questions while I

Matt Nicoletti: had you here.

I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery. A sanctioned in exit is 21 seven, but she’s a Georgetown. Sophomore speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table. When it was her turn, what would a good price for her B while thinking about that? Can I ask another,

Paul Swearengin: my chief of staff,

Matt Nicoletti: Leo McGarry insist on working on the Sabbath.

Exit is 35

Paul Swearengin: to.

Matt Nicoletti: Clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself? Or is it okay to call the police? Here’s one that’s really important because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean Leviticus, 11 seven. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football?

Can Notre Dame, Ken West point

Paul Swearengin: tick-tock. I was right there.

Craig Scharton: All right.

Matt Nicoletti: You’re having

Paul Swearengin: fun. Sorry for the use of the old name of the Washington football team, but Oh yeah,

[00:47:00] but that’s it. You just do something cracky like that and a, and 101,000 people watch it and say, cool,

Matt Nicoletti: fun. What a world.

Craig Scharton: It’s good to see. You’re still stretching and trying new stuff.

Matt Nicoletti: Paul.

Paul Swearengin: Yeah. And by the way, there are like 15 year old girls that just go on and dance for 15 seconds and they get like 98 million followers.

So I’ve got a ways to go to catch up with that.

Craig Scharton: Um, have you danced yet?

Paul Swearengin: I’ve I’ve done a little bit of dancing, but, but very reserved dancing, but, uh, yeah, I celebrated a 10,000 followers with a little dance, so

Craig Scharton: now I have to check in for sure.

Paul Swearengin: All right. Yeah. And by the way, uh, you know, now China has all my private information, but that’s just, I guess, part of the deal you make.

Matt Nicoletti: That’s everybody’s got everybody’s information. Yeah. That ship has sailed.

Paul Swearengin: Yeah,

Matt Nicoletti: I agree.

Paul Swearengin: I watched social dilemma, but I think [00:48:00] that’s the deal we’re like, all right. The privacy thing is over. We’re just going to have to learn to live with it.

Matt Nicoletti: I

Craig Scharton: think the penny Newman would be a good name for a dance.

Matt Nicoletti: Matt penny Newman.

Craig Scharton: That penny Newman

Matt Nicoletti: will go to work on it. I’ll go. I’ve got to work on producing the background music. Okay.

Craig Scharton: Yeah. You’ve got the rhythm. So you got that going

Matt Nicoletti: for you. You said

Craig Scharton: shake, shake your booty earlier. So you know all the cooling

Matt Nicoletti: indeed. Oh, I think that was a pretty old school lingo. There

Paul Swearengin: was old one.

Craig Scharton: I was shaking my

Matt Nicoletti: booty.

Paul Swearengin: Yeah, absolutely. Well awesome. Matt, thanks for coming on and talking a regenerative farming Craig’s favorite, favorite, favorite topic

Craig Scharton: only because it saves the creation that you’re so happy

Matt Nicoletti: that it was created.

Paul Swearengin: Sure. Should we all have our yards analyzed for their soil value or whatever you guys were talking about?

Matt Nicoletti: We’ll do it. Gracias pro bono. So, um, we, yeah, it’s, it’s [00:49:00] a growing trend. Backyard, veggie gardens. So love, it would love to help consumers grow more regenerative nature, just like we’re helping the real pros out there.

Paul Swearengin: So how does somebody get, get you to do that?

Matt Nicoletti: Um, you can go to our website, find information there, submit inquiries, um, and, uh I’ll and Mr.

Tellis may follow up with you directly, personally.

Paul Swearengin: Okay. We’re doing, we’re actually in the midst of a redesign of our backyard right now. So we may, we may need that input.

Matt Nicoletti: Cool.

Craig Scharton: Yeah, I do on that point. I think it’s really important for people, not just to say those farmers ought to do this. It’s something, if you own a plot of land, that’s something we can all do have to just be everyone else should do something different.

We can all we can all chip in and do

Matt Nicoletti: our little part. Yeah. And that’s a big part of the movement too, is creating the intimacy between, you know, the way our food is produced, which we’ve sort of lost over the last couple of generations with the sort of efficient modernization of the food system. So hoping to rebuild that.

Paul Swearengin: So if we [00:50:00] get, if we get rid of our grass, but we don’t want to pave it in though, right? That’s not, that’s not good

Matt Nicoletti: that well, There’s not a whole lot of options you have at that point.

Craig Scharton: Yeah. That would be a very slow regenerative

Matt Nicoletti: process.

Paul Swearengin: All right guys. Good stuff. Great

Matt Nicoletti: talking to you. Thanks for having me.

All right.

Craig Scharton: Thanks Matt.

Matt Nicoletti: Keep up the good work.

Paul Swearengin: Appreciate it. And thanks to everybody listening on Facebook. Always a pleasure. Correct.

Craig Scharton: You too, Paul. Thanks for putting up with my, uh, regenerative ag passion.


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