3 min read

Choose to grow in nutrient-rich soil, not junky dirt

Using a centuries-old farming approach as our guide, we explore the connection between regenerative farming and burnout.
Choose to grow in nutrient-rich soil, not junky dirt
Photo by Roman Synkevych 🇺🇦 / Unsplash

Sustain issue #55 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

I’ve made the case the last few Earth Days that saving our fragile climate and burnout have more in common than you may think (read here and here).

This year, I wanted to shine a light on the similarities that exist in fighting climate change and burnout

So, like I do so often in my veggie garden, let’s turn our focus to the soil – the foundation we give ourselves. However, not all soil is created equally and as our climate has deteriorated more and more soil is turning into mostly unusable dirt.

But because nature is amazing, unusable dirt can be rehabilitated back into beautiful soil. In fact, it may be one of the most important ways to fight our worsening climate emergency. That’s where regenerative farming techniques come into play, as outlined in last year’s Kiss the Ground release on Netflix.

As we’ll explore, regenerative farming and ending burnout have plenty in common.


Regenerative farming is the call to return agricultural practices to methods that have been proven for centuries. Proven to grow healthy food and also sustain a healthy planet. This consists of rotating crops from season to season and year to year, using cover crops, and generally treating the land more kindly. The focus on diversification actually creates healthier environments and more nutrient-rich food.

This is in stark contrast to single-crop lands that are tilled in disruptive ways, given tons of synthetic nutrients (i.e. medication) to offset the failing soil health, and asked to produce without enough rest & against its natural cycles.

In other words, the land is literally and metaphorically burned out from growing the same thing.

Burnout from work is the same. If you try and churn out too much work, the product might be useable but it won't be nutrient-dense. And you’ll just be degrading yourself over time to the point where you are no longer usable, like the soil.

And be sure to give yourself time to rest and rejuvenate. If you try and plant seeds when the soil isn't ready to produce, you’re not going to be happy with the outcome – nor is your boss.

A singular focus

For the last several decades, big agriculture has gutted massive swaths of once-healthy land. Their method of maximizing the yield of one crop drain the soil of essential nutrients, dries it out, and releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

Our burnout is the same. We have our sights also set on maximizing one thing. Usually the connected elements of money and power. Like crop fields, we drive ourselves into the ground with such a singular (and surface-level) definition of success.

Putting food on the table

Big ag farmers have come to believe that they can make more money torching the land. And sadly that is still the case at times due to subsidies. However, as Kiss The Ground shows, it’s possible to make as much using regenerative techniques – and way more rewarding.

At work, you can be highly successful while working 38 hours a week, like I do, and make just as much money as the person working 60 hours a week. Plus you get the life-changing added benefit of building and sustaining a rich foundation that powers your happiness and meaning.

Working in a sustained fashion lets you blossom in nutrient-rich soil. Hustling forces you to struggle to grow in junky dirt.

Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.

✉️ Want my top tips? I share my full step-by-step playbook in How I Quit Burnout, my premium newsletter. Get the next one delivered straight to your inbox >

🗄️ See the past issues of Sustain