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What is Regenerative Farming?

Published on March 23 2020

When we talk about saving the planet, it’s a bit misleading. What we’re actually working towards is saving the planet’s ability to sustain human life. If we continue to damage and demolish the natural ecosystems around the world, humans simply won’t be able to survive anymore. The planet itself will continue to revolve around the sun, just without people living on it.

In recent years, we’ve seen devastating fires, floods, heat waves, deep freezes, massive storms and soil erosion all the result of climate change caused by humans. Whether we admit to it or not, we are already in crisis and it’s up to us to turn that around. Regenerative farming is one way to do that and consumers have as important a role to play in that as the farmers themselves.

What’s wrong with farming today?

A great deal of agriculture today is focused on getting the highest yields possible in the shortest amount of time possible. This type of farming can be extremely profitable in the short term, but also extremely taxing on the land, contributing to drought, soil erosion, low nutrient quality in the soil and lack of biodiversity. After a while, land can even become unfarmable and can take generations to recover, if it ever recovers at all.

How does regenerative farming help?

Regenerative farming is a holistic approach to agriculture that factors in the health of the land and ecosystems so that the focus is on long term, sustainable production rather than short term outputs. 

This type of agriculture is still a business and profits and high yields are still prioritized, otherwise the business wouldn’t be able to survive. In fact, from a business perspective, regenerative farming is not just about the sustainability of the land, but also the long term sustainability of the business itself. If the work is done to ensure the continued production capabilities of the land, that ensures the continued production capabilities of the business. 

In many cases, regenerative farming even improves the overall health of the land, thus increasing its ability to produce high quality, high yield crops and livestock, while preventing damage to the earth. Imagine a factory that could actually improve itself while it produced merchandise. We would consider that the holy grail of business success! 

How does regenerative farming work?

It all depends on what is being produced. In livestock farming, for example, when animals are left to graze the same land over and over again, the plants that grow are eaten before they can develop deep root systems. This prevents the soil from building up the nutrients and biodiversity needed for it to continually produce plant life and, eventually, less and less plant life will grow there. It can also cause soil erosion as soil that should be held onto by those deep root systems gets easily washed away by rain. The land also becomes very dry as there are so few roots to hold onto water.

In regenerative farming, fencing is used to control where and when livestock graze to ensure grazing land is always allowed time to regenerate and never loses its ability to sustain life. Deep root systems are allowed to grow increasing the soil quality, holding onto more water and preventing soil erosion.

There’s an incredible video here that shows how and why this practice (and others) works and what it means for human sustainability.

But it isn’t just livestock farming. Farming of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes can also use regenerative techniques to improve the soil while improving the quality and nutrient content of crops, ensuring long term sustainability of farmland and even lower carbon dioxide in the air! This article has a great run down of how regenerative farming allows soil to store more carbon, thus reducing carbon dioxide in the air, while also preventing soil erosion, improving soil quality to increase nutrients in food, and maintaining (or even creating) critical ecosystems.

Why aren’t more farms using regenerative farming practices?

It often comes down to resources - money, time, knowledge, supply and so on. Farms are huge, complex operations and it’s no small feat to completely change the way things are done. What’s needed is for trends like regenerative farming to really pick up steam, get support from consumers, and get support from government to start making positive changes.

How can consumers help?

 try regenerative gardening at home

Remember the power of positivity. Instead of condemning harmful practices, let’s turn our energy towards supporting and advocating for those practices that help preserve the planet’s ability to preserve us!

Pay attention to where your food is coming from. There usually isn’t much information available in grocery stores about how food is produced, so you may need to do a bit of research on your own, and even look into local farms that you can support.

If you have the time, space and inclination to grow your own vegetable garden, you can even try regenerative gardening on your own!

Changing the way we shop is one of the most powerful things consumers can do. Equally important is how we vote. Many farmers are deeply connected to the land and want to start using better practices to protect it. But, they need support to do that. Using our buying power and our voting power, we can play a powerful role in saving our planet… ahem… we mean saving ourselves.


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