Before Regenerative Farming There Was Regeneration
Regenerative farming has a long history in both philosophical and action contexts. Regeneration started as a whole systems theory of explaining wholes vs parts. Humans are part of the WHOLE that is earth, not apart. This is a paradigm shift that is still in process.
1. Indigenous cultures from all over the world, have lived, and many still do live in a regenerative relationship with their natural surrounding. Many 21st century regenerative farmers work their land with the same reverence and use many of the same farming practices used by indigenous people.
2. 1928 – Hugh Bennett (often called “the father of Soil Conservation”) and William Chapline wrote Soil Erosion: A National Menace. It was written during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. When the New Deal was enacted in 1933 the Soil Erosion Service (SES) was created, now named the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
3. 1938 - Dr Charles Kellogg, a soil scientist, and then Chief of the USDA’s Bureau for Chemistry and Soils stated: "Essentially, all life depends upon the soil…There can be no life without soil and no soil without life; they have evolved together."
4. 1970s - Charles Krone developed the term “Regenerative.” He was an architect and systems thinker. He described 4 "Levels of Work" which every living system or entity "…must continually engage in if it is to be sustainable in a world that is nested, dynamic, complex, interdependent, and evolving."
Existence – Operate
Potential - Improve
Regenerative Agriculture Starts To Gain Recognition
Regenerative agriculture gained definition in the 1980s. There is still no clear-cut definition of regenerative agriculture because it is site specific. Some practices will work for one farm but won’t work for another. One key role of a regenerative farmer is to observe. Walk your rows, check the water downstream of your fields after a rain, test your soil. Being proactive is much easier than trying to solve a crop problem halfway through the season.
5. 1980s - Rodale Institute, in Pennsylvania, started using the term “regenerative agriculture.” Bob Rodale felt that only using sustainability as a goal was not challenging enough. He thought we needed to not only sustain but to regenerate agriculture.
Bob Rodale set out the “7 Principles of Regenerative” which was a broader vision than we usually think of when we are talking about Regenerative Agriculture. They include not just agricultural values but personal and societal values. His 7 principles were Pluralism, Protection, Purity, Permanence, Peace, Potential, and Progress. Read them in their entirety here.
6. 2017 – Regenerative Organic Certification established by the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), a group of farmers, business leaders and experts in soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness.
Adding Biology To Your Soil
7.It can take hundreds of years for nature to build soil but using regenerative farming practices a farmer can increase organic matter and improve soil function in just a few years.
8.Soil food web health is increased with no-till or low till, cover cropping, and rotational crop systems.
2Adding native flowers to your field edges attracts pollinators and beneficial insects.
10. In drought years, yields of regenerative crops are consistently higher. Organic corn yields were 28-34% higher than conventional in the Rodale Institute’s long running Farming System Trial.
11. With regenerative farming the diversity of crops brings in bees, both honeybees and native bees, who are wonderful pollinators.
12. According to Project Drawdown, converting the 736 million acres of abandoned and degraded farmland globally to regenerative farming or native vegetation could lead to an absorption of up to 20.3 gigatons of CO2
13. Ray Archuleta’s 3 soil health principles: 1) The soil is alive. Plants and microorganisms feed the soil ecosystem and improve soil health. 2) Everything is connected. If you don’t know how all the parts are connected you can do a lot of harm by using the wrong tool. 3) The goal is to emulate nature (biomimicry). Yield isn’t the #1 priority, creating a healthy ecosystem and soil food web will lead to high yields.
14. The food web; soil, air, water, critters (including humans) is a closed loop with no waste on a regenerative farm.
15. The microorganisms that mediate the breakdown of soil minerals into plant soluble forms leads to nutrient dense food for you to eat. You are a healthier you!
Regenerative Farming Isn’t Only About the Food
16. Healthy plants, grown in healthy soil, are medicinal. As an example, skin ailments and debilitating conditions in the ear, nose, and, throat can be treated by eating basil, borage, fennel, ginger, sage, asparagus to name a few.
17. Holistic planned grazing of livestock, one aspect of regenerative agriculture, will allow your pastures to recover so you can graze longer in the season, improving your bottom line.
18. Millennials and Gen Zs increasingly want to know the farm practices behind their food purchases. They are also looking for full supply chain transparency and asking what food companies are doing to combat climate change and food nutrition.
19. 82% of all consumers believe that companies with socially responsible initiatives have higher quality products.
20. The Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC), being launched by the Regenerative Organic Alliance sets a higher bar for organic and regenerative farmers. It’s based on three pillars 1) soil management that increases soil organic matter and sequesters carbon, 2) improvement of animal welfare, and 3) farmer and worker fairness, providing fair wages and economic stability for all farmers, ranchers, and workers.
21. Consumers are interested in not only the sources of their food but also the sources and quality of their clothes, footwear, bed linens, and cosmetics. Farmers are being led into organic and regenerative farming practices by consumer demand. It’s where the money.