‘Common Ground’ filmmakers urge Expo West attendees to join 100 Million Acres movement

Demand for regenerative agriculture will continue to grow, they say, and CPG companies will want to be on the forefront of delivering on consumer wants.

Kelly Teal

March 27, 2024

5 Min Read
Common Ground Film
Common Ground Film

By the time the “Common Ground” documentary hits streaming services this fall, the filmmakers hope that many—though ideally all—of Natural Products Expo West’s CPG attendees will have joined their initiative, 100 Million Acres, in support of certified regenerative agriculture.

“That’s really the moment when so many people around the world will begin to look at this movement in a new light,” says Josh Tickell.

Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell are the husband-and-wife team behind “Common Ground,” the follow-up to 2020’s “Kiss the Ground.” They have filmed a number of environmental documentaries via their Big Picture Ranch production company and racked up Sundance Awards in the process.


Josh attended the screening of “Common Ground” at Expo West on March 15. He was joined by Gabe Brown, the North Dakota farmer profiled in the documentary who relies on grazing, rather than chemicals, for soil recovery. Getting in front of CPG companies at Expo West was key for the people behind “Common Ground” as they emphasize the importance of the 100 Million Acres project.

“[When] we opened ‘Kiss the Ground’ in 2020, there were less than 250,000 acres of regenerative agriculture in the U.S.,” Josh says. “Four years later, it's up to 34 million acres. And our objective is to push that number to 100 million because that's just over 10% of U.S. agriculture and social scientists tell us that 10% is a tipping point.”

In real-world terms, 10% represents one out of every 10 pieces of farm equipment, Josh says. Or one out of every 10 farmer loans. Or one out of every 10 conversations at a gas station in middle America, as he puts it.

“So what we want brands to do is get involved in providing the product so that the farmland can transition and the consumer—i.e., those of us who eat—can have access to healthier, more nutritious food,” Josh says.

Making that commitment is “very simple,” he notes. First, CPG brands work with a certifier — and which one does not matter for the purposes of 100 Million Acres’ goals. Nor, at first, does the level of achieved soil regeneration factor into the equation.

“[T]he certifiers will determine how many of [the participants’] acres are actually under certification versus in progress,” Josh explains. “And then we tally those numbers up and that equals how many acres total. So it's really it's a commitment to begin the journey.

CPG Brands: Start on regenerative ag now to meet coming onslaught of consumer demand

Within five years, the people behind “Common Ground” and 100 Million Acres expect certified regenerative agriculture to “outpace organic by 50%,” Josh says. That means CPG brands must plan now to meet the coming onslaught of consumer demand for healthy, regeneratively grown foods—because buyers will be looking to purchase from the companies that “are committed.”

“[Whether] it's a long-term play for these companies, or they want to move quicker, we're encouraging them to get on the journey now.”

Rebecca agrees.

“The flood is coming and people can feel it,” she says. “I think what people are taking away is how they can be actively engaged in growing down carbon, regenerating soil, creating dense food. … [When] people get this information, it changes their lives, and it puts them on the new path.”

As part of their work, the Tickells also are doing what they can to convince the federal legislators crafting the next Farm Bill to incorporate more money for regenerative efforts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture already has allotted $20 billion for such work, though Josh and Rebecca say that too much of that has gone to chemical manufacturers that claim to protect soil health. In the bill’s next iteration, the Tickells hope to see more provisions for companies that agree not to use chemicals, and to fund land access, cover crops and education around regenerative agriculture. Everything to do with the Farm Bill, which undergoes a reshaping about every five years, “is critical,” Josh says.

“It determines how we think about SNAP and food stamps and food programs,” he says. “It actually determines food security for everyone. Right now farmers are getting four cents on the dollar. That is a food-insecure and food-brittle country. And we need to change it across the board at the township, county, state and federal level. The way we create food security in America is by practicing regenerative agriculture, and giving the farmers back the majority of the dollar.”

Everyday People: The Real ‘Power of This Movement’

Lasting regenerative agricultural change, however, starts with the consumer, Josh says—not with government, not with brands, but with everyday people.

“If the movement itself is a source of people regenerating their own health and the health of their families, then this will spread naturally,” he says.

“That’s the power of this movement,” Rebecca adds.

And, for Expo West CPG attendees, in particular, “what we're talking about is a real integrity, the way that we create products that helps regenerate soil,” she says. “There’s a lot of green-washing out there. We have to build the trust of people who are buying products … So, if someone’s going to use the word ‘regenerative,’ it better be [about] building soil. This is a this is a delicate moment as we make this transition into a whole new food system. And people have to really bring the honor, reverence and integrity to it that is required for us to make this transition.”

“Common Ground” is in theaters now, with plans to stream later this year. In addition to highlighting Brown, the documentary features narration from environmentally minded celebrities including Jason Momoa, Donald Glover, Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson.

About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years' experience as a journalist, editor and analyst in industries including technology and health care. She serves as principal of Kreativ Energy LLC. Follow her on LinkedIn at /kellyteal/

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