Back on the ranch with Travis Krause of Grazing Lands

Maia Welbel

Travis Krause is the CEO and Co-Founder of Grazing Lands, a regenerative agriculture business working to build a healthier and more sustainable ranching industry. We are so excited to partner with Grazing Lands as one of Farm’s first collaborators, and wanted you to get to know one of the bright minds making it happen. We sat down with Travis to talk about sustainable land management, his path as a lifelong rancher, and helping to create a decentralized regenerative economy for U.S. agriculture.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is Grazing Lands?

Grazing Lands manages ranches for grazing livestock, using regenerative practices and principles to improve soil health, biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services — we call it ‘regenerative ranching to build natural capital.’

What do the terms ‘regenerative ranching’ and ‘natural capital’ mean for y’all?

There is some disagreement about what does and does not qualify as regenerative, but for us, regenerative ranching is an all-encompassing methodology to practicing land management and animal husbandry. It’s a holistic idea of everything from caring for the soil to treating the livestock in an excellent manner, all the way to the community that we're offering our products to.

We're working with nature rather than against it...

Natural capital is about running an ecologically-focused business where we are improving ecosystem functionality through regenerative ranching practices. We're working with nature rather than against it by utilizing grazing systems that protect the soil and allow plants to grow back stronger and healthier than they were before. By doing so, we can increase the profitability of the ranching operation itself.

Regenerative ranching builds up overall land functionality in terms of carbon sequestration, cleaner water, cleaner air, enhancing the mineral cycle… ecosystem services that we all need. We believe that the business model should encourage ranchers to provide a greater level of service towards those public resources. Investing in the quality of the land and the resources that you have there for the long term rather than just figuring out how to profit from it in the short term.

How are you helping to facilitate those values at Grazing Lands?

We are essentially a full livestock management service. It starts with the high integrity people who come work with us that we help develop into superstar ranchers. Everybody from the ranch manager down to the ranch technician — creating a really strong team environment is where it all starts. It’s the people with the boots on the ground rotating cattle every day through the thick brush and rattlesnakes who are making it all happen.

Ranching is in desperate need of a paradigm shift.

Then, of course, we have our administrative side that helps the business function by providing support and long-term strategic planning. In addition to the land management and livestock management aspects of our business, we want to develop a desirable, nutritious product for the consumer marketplace. Part of our long term vision is to develop a scaled approach to selling regenerative beef. We really want to see that market grow and help drive demand. We work with buyers throughout the industry and they purchase our product directly as whole animals.

Ranching is in desperate need of a paradigm shift. Not just for the farmers and ranchers, but for the greater communities across Middle America. It's pretty evident the path that we've gone down — the centralization of the ranching business — isn’t working for any of them. We have the opportunity with Grazing Lands to create a decentralized model.

Can you tell me about the experiences that led you to co-founding Grazing Lands?

I grew up here in Texas on my family's ranch, which has been in my family since 1846. I was involved in everything ranch life entailed, from building fences to working cattle. My dad leased a lot of country and ran a lot of livestock, so the commodity downturn in the 80s was pretty devastating. He ultimately had to get a job in town even though ranching was what he’d always wanted to do. So I was raised with the mentality of my parents telling me not to come back to the ranch or the ranching business, just get out of the agricultural industry as a whole. I think a lot of people in my generation were raised that way, and that continues to be the case for most people now.

When I was at Texas A&M University studying wildlife and fisheries sciences I got really into international conservation work. After college I ended up working at a laboratory in India researching parasitic diseases that are transferred from livestock to people. I was having fun, getting to travel around the world in the way that people dream about, but I was working in a region of extreme poverty. We were there looking at parasitic diseases and around us were people without access to adequate food or shelter. It felt wrong to not be addressing these much larger fundamental problems.

Once I started learning about regenerative agriculture it was an aha moment.

I had started reading about permaculture and opening my eyes to this other type of farming that I had never really thought about or explored before. Once I started learning about regenerative agriculture it was an aha moment. Like, why isn't everybody doing this? So I started doing some research and realized I couldn’t find anyone practicing that way in Texas. That’s when I decided to go home and start what we now call Parker Creek Ranch.

My wife and I ran the ranch as a B2C business based in regenerative principles for ten years, but there are some things about that model that are not scalable. We started asking ourselves, how do we scale up regenerative agriculture?

I had been doing consulting work with Lew Moorman who is one of the principal partners at Soilworks Natural Capital, and through our conversations, we were realizing that there is a total lack of infrastructure to allow people to get into regenerative agriculture and scale it up to a model that even makes sense. Even at Parker Creek Ranch, which we had built up to a million dollars gross revenue, we still weren't making margins. That’s how Grazing Lands came to fruition. We wanted to help provide a backbone for this regenerative economy.

What are your visions for the future of Grazing Lands?

What I really would like to do is provide opportunities for people that want to be in the ranching business but don't have a way to get there because the capital investment required to go out on your own is prohibitive. We want to be able to provide a meaningful career for those people and bring them into a healthy, positive team environment.

I really believe in the mission of what we’re all doing with regenerative agriculture. I believe in the power it has to do positive things for the world. There are a lot of people who are trying to diminish that every single day right now, and man, we all need to stick to our beliefs and be fearless about it.

That’s why I see the power in collaborating with people who share the same vision, like us being able to collaborate with Farm. It feels like after doing this for 13 years the momentum is finally there. That’s why it’s so important that we all keep trucking forward.