Dead Dirt’s Coming Back
1. My dead dirt’s come alive, just look and see
And I bet you wonder how that came to be
My friends and I got tired of farming like we’re hired
By someone with whom we don’t quite agree.
2. My friends and I we’ve set aside the plow
And most folks when they hear that they’re like, “Wow!”
We try not to disturb the living mother earth
We’re working with, not fighting nature now.
Yeah, we’ve got new ways to do things
And here’s the part that makes you want to smile
All the dead dirt’s coming back, the dead dirt’s coming back,
The dead dirt’s coming back to living soil.
3. My friends and I put grazing stock in play
And we move our fences several times a day
When the neighbors pasture’s chewed and brown
They see ours green and tall
And they can’t believe we’re running cows at all (Ch.)
4. There comes a time in every person’s life
What we value most, and what we do don’t jive
As the years erode away their fading voices say
If you meant to take a risk, well your time has arrived! (Ch.)
Words and music by Bret Hesla. Written on commission for Land Stewardship Project
© 2022 Bret Hesla. All rights reserved. Use with permission, please.
Bret Hesla & Six Feet Deep
Bret Hesla — lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Dan Chouinard — piano
Dave Michel — bass, vocals
Steve Kimball — drums
Tim Gustafson — lead guitar, group vocals
Rebekah Fergus — harmony vocals
Robin Nelson — group vocals
Betty Tisel – group vocals
Jane Dunlap – group vocals
Brooks Cavin- group vocals
Larry Dittberner- group 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.