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The Carletonian

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin on poultry, colonization and regenerative agriculture

As someone passionate about food and its intersection with environmental and economic justice, I was thrilled to learn that Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, an agronomist and the CEO of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, was scheduled to speak at convocation this past Friday.

A member of the Fair Trade Federation and founder of Peace Coffee, a fair-trade coffee company, Haslett-Marroquin began by briefly detailing his childhood. Born to a poor farming family in Guatemala, he reflected upon the memories of numerous hungry nights. Upon emigration to the United States in 1992, he continued his interest and passion for food and agriculture, earning a degree in agronomy and, later, international business management. More than 25 years later, Haslett-Marroquin remains personally and professionally embedded in the world of food, agriculture and immigrant rights through a distinctly-decolonial perspective. The establishment of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, which focuses on building a “regenerative food supply chain,” stems from an acknowledgement that “everything in agriculture is designed from a colonizing textbook.” In emphasizing the environmental domain of poultry, perennial crops, and landscape regeneration, among other topics, the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance works at a multidimensional systems level.

After discussing, broadly, the incredible work of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, Haslett-Marroquin discussed the colonization process as it relates to agricultural practices. While insightful as an overarching framework, the discussion of the theory and practice of colonized agriculture involved a multitude of complicated, visually-overbearing diagrams and charts. Due to the convolution of such diagrams, I wonder if Haslett-Marroquin started to, unintentionally, lose some of the focus of the audience. Rather than deeply consider what it means to decolonize agriculture, I had to divert attention to understanding the nuances of arrows and tables.

The clarity and flow of Haslett-Marroquin’s presentation improved when decolonization was explained by way of an example: the poultry industry. At his own farm in Fairbault, Haslett-Marroquin engages in regenerative poultry production. At its starting point, regenerative productions builds agricultural and economic systems that protect existing resources and expand indigenous knowledge and practice. Furthermore, according to the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance’s website, “regenerative poultry, when approached from an indigenous starting point and centered on its original natural jungle habitat, can deliver high level ecological, social and economic impact. Most important, it can have the largest ripple effect across the food supply chain.”

While I had been a little lost and disengaged for a significant portion of the middle of Convocation, the concrete example of poultry farming—especially given its implementation so close to campus—fortunately recaptured my attention and interest.
The question and answer ended the convocation on a sobering, yet optimistic note. A representative of the intersection between indigenous rights and environmental justice, Haslett-Marroquin noted that if just one out of the twenty chickens that an average American consumes each year were raised through regenerative methods, cultivated on indigenous lands, it would be worth $3 billion dollars annually.

Overall, while I experienced moments of slight disappointment and disengagement, I left the Chapel reflecting upon, intimately, our collective relationship to the land and its people. Ultimately, how do we honor the land and its rightful stewards in a way that promotes justice and equity along economic, environmental, and social dimensions?

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