Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin @ Tree-Range Farms
A Regenerative Poultry Ecosystem
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin is a Co-Founder and the CEO of Tree-Range Farms. Tree-Range Farms is supporting regenerative agriculture with its regenerative, tree-range chicken that is raised in a "jungle-like" habitat that honors the true nature of chickens. Tree-Range Farms is nested in a group of entities that are working in unison to create a regenerative poultry ecosystem.
Tree-Range Farms sells great-tasting chicken that is raised in its natural, “jungle-like” habitat. Their slow-growth chickens are raised on organic feed in forested pastures where they can forage on plants and bugs (like the omnivores they are), without the need for antibiotics or restrictive confinement. Tree-Range believes its production model and ecosystem approach creates long-lasting, positive outcomes for animals, people, and the planet.
Tree-Range Farms’ chicken is available online via Blue Nest Beef and at select retail partners in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota.
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Returning Chicken 2 The Jungle
Tree-Range farmers focus on establishing or maintaining a "jungle-like" habitat that honors the true nature of chickens. The chicken species originates from Southeast Asia and is a jungle fowl. Chickens are most comfortable in shaded environments with a combination of both an upper and lower canopy that protects them from predators and keeps them at ease.
The key to designing the agronomics of Tree-Range’s production process is “asking the chicken” how they would like to be raised. This question results in the answers that guide how they've designed their production units. The chicken would like protection from predators, a diverse and complete diet, shade from the sun, an adequate amount of space, and a safe place to return to for sleep each night.
Centering the needs of the birds is opposite to the homocentric (human-centered) approach taken by the vast majority of chicken farmers. Regi believes that centering the chicken in the design process is the key to achieving the highest standard of animal welfare where a low mortality rate is the leading indicator of success.
“Well, you have to remember that we started taking animals out of their natural environment. And started putting them in artificially structured, human-centered, and homocentric ideas on what animals need. You know what we did was we weren't doing it for the animals. That was not ever the intention. We were doing it because we are in an endless race to the bottom to make everything cheaper. And to make everything cheaper, you have to mechanize as much as possible and pass the cost on.” - Reginaldo
Image Credit: Regenerative Agriculture Alliance
Creating An Ecosystem
Tree-Range chicken is the end result of a regenerative poultry ecosystem that aims to create regenerative outcomes beyond just the meat they sell. The brand, Tree-Range Farms, is the consumer-facing, go-to-market entity that brings the chickens to sales channels and markets them to customers. The Regenerative Agriculture Alliance is a non-profit entity that owns and operates the processing facility the birds are butchered in while supporting the onboarding and capitalization of the ecosystem’s farmers. These farmers are trained through the courses and consulting offered by Regenerative Agriculture Solutions LLC.
This ecosystem extends beyond these three entities to various partners and other stakeholders. This includes financial institutions, technical assistance providers, and realtors to name a few. They support the ecosystem through the financing of the various entities and initiatives, helping to operationalize new production units on farms, and finding land that fits the unique production model.
“Behind this company is what we call a business ecosystem and a landscape-based ecosystem management strategy. That ecosystem of enterprises includes the full design (economic, social, and ecological) of the farm operation. The farm operation is triggered by what we call the production unit. The production unit is the engineering element where we put the agronomics, the protocols for the chicken, and the standard for how the chicken is raised. Tree-Range Farms buys the chicken from those farmers, and those farmers are trained and supported by the other two entities.” - Reginaldo
Image Credit: Regenerative Agriculture Alliance Annual Report 2022
Moving Beyond Agronomics
Reginaldo reminds us that “regenerative” is new only in name. What we now call regenerative is based on ancestral indigenous wisdom, and he cautions us to not let regenerative just be about on-farm practices.
“Don’t whitewash this concept. We inherited an incredible concept from our ancestors that is now being called regenerative. But it was a concept that allowed us to think, to behave, to relate, to know, and to learn in a way that results in attitudes, practices, and things that then regenerate. It's a mindset and a way of knowing not just knowledge for the sake of having facts in your head, but the wisdom to know how to use those facts…that's knowing.” - Reginaldo
Reginaldo also challenges all of us to be better aligned with our indigeneity and innate intelligence. He believes their regenerative poultry ecosystem is an example of a transformational model that is regenerative for countless reasons beyond just the chicken that is produced.
“Remember we are all indigenous to this planet. And we are born both indigenous and colonizers because we are living systems as well, and we have this survival instinct that makes us colonizers and extractors because we want to survive at any cost. But the indigenous mind is also the one that sees everything, which is the other 99% that the colonized mind doesn't see. The indigenous mind sees it when you use your innate intelligence. Then you are able to actually conceptualize the world and our relationship with each other and with those other living systems in a way that results in regenerative engineering, regenerative economics, and regenerative social relationships. That is what makes a system regenerative. Not whether the chicken was free-range, organic, or whatever.” - Reginaldo
Our Path to 50% Market Share 4 Regen
Reginaldo is steadfast in his belief that creating a regenerative food system will take numerous transformational ecosystems like the one they are building. This can only happen with relentless, disciplined, and militant collective action from various affinity groups. This coalescing requires personally connecting with thousands of people, which is something Regi credits for their success. He also sees this as the most effective and long-lasting way to build a market for regenerative products, as these people become your customers. The magic, according to Regi, is giving people experiences that inspire hope.
“They will never go back to where they were before because now they know that things are possible and that they are easier than we thought. And this idea that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and that we are all doomed disappears. And you are one with yourself again. And you can now have hope again. The hardest thing to restore in people is hope. Who doesn't want to have hope that their future children will be fed food with integrity? Who doesn't want to have that hope? Which parent doesn't want to have that for their children or for themselves so they can grow old, healthy, and vital? I mean, who doesn't want that? That to me is the best way to actually build market share, but it's actually not building market share. It's simply shifting the market so that we can live with more integrity and express the fullness of our potential as human creatures to be the best we can be.” - Reginaldo
You can check out the full episode with Reginaldo from Tree-Range Farms HERE.
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This ReGen Recap was produced with support from Kristina Tober