Boundless Earth

The Boundless Earth

Photo: Land Stewardship Project

My folks got land when it was free.
Land full of trails we didn’t see
Times were hard.
But we were young and full of certainty.

We pulled the rocks. We cut the trees
We cleared the sod, made room for seed
Times were hard.
But we were young and full of certainty.

We turned the soil, played by the book.
Pulled fences down, did what it took
Times were hard.
But we were young, and full of certainty.

Land Stewardship Project

The cities grew. The memories waned
Most of us left those thinning plains
Times were hard.
But we were young and full of certainty.

That Eden land we stumbled on
That boundless earth: where has it gone?
Times were hard.
And we were young and full of certainty

We got this land when it was free
Land full of trails we didn’t see
Times were hard.
But we were young and full of certainty

Words and music by Bret Hesla. Written on commission for Land Stewardship Project
© 2022 Bret Hesla. All rights reserved. Use with permission, please.
Recording Credits:
Bret Hesla & Six Feet Deep
Bret Hesla — lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Dan Chouinard – accordion, piano
Dave Michel — bass, vocals
Steve Kimball — percussion
Tim Gustafson — lead guitar
Rebekah Fergus- harmony vocals
Recording Engineer Dave Michel
Recorded at Orchard House, Minneapolis, Minnesota

This song is part of the series Six Feet Deep, a collection of six songs written on commission for the Land Stewardship Project.  The songs reflect the words, hopes, dreams and practices of farmers who are using the practices of regenerative agriculture.

In 2019, I was commissioned to write a song for the Land Stewardship Project. They wanted a song about their Soil Builders program. Doug, my liaison, gave me a few brochures, a few notes, and offered to connect me to some farmers to interview. So, knowing nothing about farming, I went to a field day in Mower County put on by farmer Tom Cotter, to tell other farmers about his work. About 25 farmers (and me) showed up. Amazing set of practices he’s blending together–no-till, no plow, cover crops 24-7-365, innovative grazing techniques, mycorrhizal fungi, science, ecology, joy, health, honesty. These farmers doing what they’re calling regenerative agriculture seem to have re-imagined their work as building soil for the long term, which not only leads to healthier food and better yield, but helps fight climate change by storing carbon in the soil. Then I went to visit another farmer from around Cannon Falls, Kaleb Anderson. A super fun conversation that further opened my mind to the work these folks are doing. He recommended a book called, Dirt to Soil, by North Dakota farmer Gabe Brown. So I read that, too: kind of a regenerative ag bible. And on and on.

I ended up writing a suite of songs — two recorded in 2020, and four more in 2022. Most of the images in these songs come directly from the comments of the folks I talked to or read about.

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