If you haven’t heard of regenerative agriculture before then you might be wondering what it is and why it’s important. Or if you have heard about Regenerative agriculture before finding our blog, you have probably heard a number of different definitions for what regenerative agriculture is and might be wondering what definition we are using.
Here is our working definition of Regenerative agriculture:
An outcomes based system of food production focused on the core values of human and environmental health.
There are two key parts to this.
- Core values: The more that I learn about myself and human beings in general, the more I am convinced that our core values dictate everything that we do. Regenerative agriculture has the core values of Human and Environmental health. These core values cause regenerative farmers to act differently because these two factors are more important than yield or money or status etc. Don’t get me wrong we still need to make a living so we need the yield and money parts as well. But with human and environmental health as the core values they take priority so that yield and money are not at the expense of health.
- Outcomes based: Regenerative recognizes that every farm and even every field is different and that managing these ecosystems has different contexts that farmers have to deal with. This means that there is not a single set of management practices that can help us to reach our values of improved human and environmental health. What we need to look at is outcomes. Did this farmer employ management practices in their different contexts that resulted in the outcomes of improved human and environmental health? This takes more work on the part of the farmer to find ways to meet those outcomes and it requires the ability to define and measure outcomes but in the end it is better for everyone.
There are some general principles that regenerative farmers have found helpful in guiding decision making about what practices to use to reach these outcomes.
- Minimize disturbance: minimize tillage, minimize pesticides and minimize fertilizer so that positive microbial communities in the soil can thrive
- Increase diversity: the more different types of plants that are grown the more variety of microbes can survive. This diversity is also important for improvement in nutrient density of plants and the animals that consume them.
- Keep ground covered: have plants or plant residues on the soil to protect it from drying out or eroding
- Keep a living root in the ground for as much of the year as possible: the microbial community in the soil requires exudates from living roots to survive and thrive
- Integrate livestock: All of the other principles are more easily achieved with livestock involved in the ecosystem
No certification system will ever be able to compete with farmers who have the core values of human and environmental health. Who are then using their creativity (and the guidance of the 5 principles) to find practices that give positive human and environmental health outcomes.