I felt the need to put out an update about regenerative agriculture, or what I like to term resilient agriculture, as there is such an abundance of postings right now! Yeah! We are getting there !!! This article recognizes the smaller farm and knowledge intensive farming practices that also incorporate technology (posted on Aug 1, 2019 at https://brookingsregister.com/article/regenerating-rural-communities)
Neither the pre- nor post-industrialization approaches to farming were perfect. Both periods had strengths and weaknesses. And arguably, both approaches failed to attain their overall goal of a resilient food system.
A new movement has started from the grass roots to challenge the way that we think about farming. In key ways regenerative agriculture pairs what we have learned from the past two phases of farming into a single resilient and profitable system. It is called regenerative agriculture, and it is the future of food production.
Regenerative agriculture focuses on rebuilding soil health and conserving biodiversity to make farm products more nutritious, and farmers more profitable. Central principles of this style of farming are:
1) Stop tilling the soil. Life in the soil is the driver of the land’s productivity. And tillage sets you back, sometimes for years, in soil fertility and productivity.
2) Never leave bare soil. Plants protect the soil from erosion, capture energy from the sun, and support life on the farm. There should always be living roots on the ground.
3) More plant/crop diversity is better than less. The biology is what drives the productivity of a farm. And nearly all groups of organisms (microbes, fungi, birds, insects, etc.) are more abundant and diverse when there are more plants.
4) Integrate livestock and cropping systems. Livestock means more than just cows, because plants and animals work together to make farmers more profitable.
When we follow these four general principles, farmers are more resilient and profitable, and more money stays on the farm. Importantly, farmers extract more than one revenue stream off of a single piece of ground in a year, and they can farm smaller and better. This gives more opportunities for kids to stay on the farm, and improves the natural resource base for future generations to farm.
Seriously, who would want to start farming over a thousand acres as a young person? Quality of life, and the quality of the food being produced, should be primary considerations.
I repost parts of another blog below from https://www.care2.com/greenliving/why-regenerative-agriculture-is-the-future-of-food.html by Mary Daly on Jan9, 2019, which is not too unlike the information I have blogged in the past. Here, the focus is on how food production can also help mitigate climate change.
Agriculture has a strong effect on climate change (and vice versa). While some methods contribute to higher pollution and environmental degradation, others actually have the potential to reverse climate change. And one of those practices is regenerative agriculture.
There is an official definition of regenerative agriculture now (collaborative work of The Regenerative Agriculture Initiative of California State University, Chico and The Carbon Underground).
‘Regenerative Agriculture’ describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity — resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle,” the definition reads. “Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.”
Beautifully stated, which means that instead of having a primary farm mission of “feed the world,” the objective is to continuously improve the land, “using technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment. The practice also helps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions — a key factor in battling climate change” (Regeneration International). Thus, farmers aim to feed the soil, support the life of an ecosystem and perhaps even the landscape (keep it beautiful), and contribute to mitigating climate change, leaving the land better than when they found it by:
1. Contributing to soil building and fertility.
2. Improving water cleanliness and retention.
3. Increasing biodiversity, and boost the health of the ecosystem.
4. Lessening CO2 emissions by diverting carbon back into the soil.
By increasing carbon in the soil and reducing emissions and the use of synthetic chemicals, regenerative farming is helping to slow climate change. Well managed grazing of livestock also improves the health of the soil that leads to better land, healthier animals, more nutritious food (it is not just about quantity) and lowers carbon dioxide and methane emissions, … a wonderful chain reaction.
We can talk about benefits to the local economy and the local land too, because this approach to farming preserves “the more traditional, environmentally friendly farming practices that go back generations.” It’s not about feeding the world, but “nourishing communities” (Creutzberg, 2015 as I concluded in my Nuffield Canada report). We need to turn our gaze from this impossible mandate and be real. Communities can nourish themselves through more approachable means of growing food – shifting to a more widespread use of regenerative agriculture.