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Community Highlights: Meet Robert Sansom of Force of Nature Meats

Today we’d like to introduce you to Robert Sansom.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I was born and raised in Austin, a home I’ve never seen cause to leave. I attended the University of Texas for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees and while in school I started my first business. After graduating I worked in consulting for a large national firm before joining a local group focused on serving the central Texas community. Ultimately I didn’t feel the services industry was giving me with the sense of fulfillment I desired. I left to pursue a path I felt would be filled with more meaningful work and results that would do better for more people. I joined a start-up where I ran all aspects of the business but sales and product development. In my first year we were #21 on the Inc 500 fastest growing companies and we stayed on that list each of the three years I was there helping to run the company. I soon left to join my friends and fellow Austinites, Katie Forest and Taylor Collins in their new venture, EPIC Provisions. The company was a few months old but they knew they were on to something special and felt the combination of our experiences would make for a great team. They were right and the three of us ran the company and eventually sold it to General Mills. I continued to run the brand on behalf of General Mills for four years before I left to co-found Force of Nature, again with Katie and Taylor.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a smooth road. Life itself is full of bumps and obstacles. Those trials are what make us better, stronger and more resilient. Each prepares and equips us for what inevitably follows. I started my first job when I was 13. I started managing teams at the age of 15. I started my first company when I was 19. I worked full time through graduate school using my PTO to take finals and pulling weekly all-nighters to study. All to get a top job in consulting. Then, when I left consulting I didn’t have a place to go. I refused to make the false step of standing still and accepting the devil I knew. I left trusting that there was something better out there for me and though I knew finding it would not be easy, I leaned into the uncertainty. I filled my schedule meeting with as many people as I could. People from different backgrounds and in different industries, each with a different story and set of experiences to learn from. I made my job searching for a purpose driven path to blend my passion for business with my desire to serve stakeholders whose interests were greater than simply making money. It was the road less travel, full of uncertainty, struggles and plain hard work. It made me who I am today.

As you know, we’re big fans of Force of Nature Meats. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
We ran our prior company, EPIC Provisions, as an extension of our own values. We built it to create food that was better for consumers, better for ecosystems, better for communities and better for the welfare of animals. In the nearly 10 years since we learned a great deal about where our food comes from and the challenges presented by the chemical industrial agriculture system that nearly ALL our food comes from whether plant or animal. We raise food on nearly 1/3 of the land on the surface of the earth, roughly 10 billion acres. Where we sow crops we clear cut the native ecosystem, till up the soil, spray herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and fertilizers all leading to the decline of the fertility in the land base resulting in more of the aforementioned “amendments”. This is chemical and mechanical warfare against nature; all done to combat natures desire to promote balance and diversity. The result is loss of top soil which leads to food security issues, dead zones in oceans, pollinator die off that could impair our ability to produce food, loss of habitat for wildlife, desertification of land, floods, droughts, toxins in our water, climate change and glyphosate (round up) showing up in breast milk. Again, all of this on a global scale on billions of acres. We are racing towards a cliff.

Fortunately, nature gave us a simple blueprint for how to course correct and reverse our race towards catastrophe. Replace chemistry with biology, replace inputs with management. By managing our agriculture lands in a way that emulates the natural harmony in nature we can again build fertility and resiliency into our lands and preserve a hope for not just the people on earth but for the lands and ecosystems we co-rely on. This is called regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture, like nature, abhors a monoculture. Instead of CAFO’s of cows or billions of acres of row crops with a single life form, regenerative agriculture removes tillage and the application of harmful chemicals, it includes planting a diverse species of plants and cover crops and it requires animals to perform the key ecosystem services they evolved to provide as the keystone species they are. The results include massive carbon draw down, healthier food, healthier lands and a path to a better future for all stakeholders on the planet.

Force of Nature is dedicated to building a global regenerative supply network of animal proteins. We are investing in people managing their land regeneratively and helping give them access to a market that rewards them for their effort. We are pulling the curtain back for consumers and sharing the truth about the food they buy and the implications of the systems they support. Simultaneously we are giving them a call to action to support a brand in Force of Nature, that more closely aligns with their values. There is no food revolution without the consumer and we hope to help ensure they understand the power they wield and to provide them with an easier path to elect a better way.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
As Wille said, Austin has always been a place that welcomed both the hippies and the rednecks. A true melting pot, we are a culture that invites different people, ideas and ways of living. Austin not only welcomed but also celebrated its differences and proved we can think, feel and act differently while still being a community who stands up for one another. I wish my greatest concern for Austin was that you can no longer practically park downtown or drive anywhere without a traffic jam. Unfortunately, my greatest concern is that we are losing our welcoming nature and supportive community. I’m seeing us go from celebrating differences to hardly tolerating them. We are as polarized as we have ever been and that means we may lose the very thing that made us special.

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