Written by Doug Gorman
Typical modern commercial farms use an abundance of chemicals to control pests that ultimately pull nutrients from the soil. These farming practices successfully increase short-term plant yields but come at the expense of vital soil nutrients. Regenerative farming goes beyond sustainability, using natural methods better for the soil, our planet, and our health.
Bacteria, fungi, and a long list of tiny organisms living within soil promote healthy plant growth. Chemicals and the machine tilling of soil used at commercial farms destroy these organisms, threatening the future of our earth.
The UN has even predicted that the planet will have less than 60 years of quality top-soil left if soil degradation continues. Anyone who’s heard the effects of the American Dust Bowl in the 1930s can see clearly how devastating this future could be.
But there is a silver lining: regenerative agriculture.
By keeping an eye out for soil health, regenerative farms go a whole lot farther than just sustaining the planet.
Regenerative farms, which cover the globe, are working to protect and improve the health of the soil.
What is regenerative farming?
Regenerative farming includes a long list of agricultural principles aimed at actually improving soil health. Its very name suggests how it goes a step beyond mere sustainability. Unlike many factory farms, they don’t use chemicals or till the earth to oblivion.
Regenerative farming is an idea that utilizes many farming practices. They require more work than many modern-day farms and force farmers to be more thoughtful about their resources. First and foremost, regenerative farms make decisions to improve the soil and the livestock under their care.
Regenerative farming principles include:
- Composting: promoting plant growth through natural fertilizers that don’t destroy the millions of microorganisms found in healthy soil.
- Organic no-till: farming without tilling the earth, which breaks up healthy soil and erodes important fungal networks within the sol.
- Using cover crops: planting crops specifically to return nutrients to soil, and protect against erosion.
- Rotating crops: planting a variety of crops in the same plot over time to add important nutrients back to the soil.
- Rotational grazing: allowing grazing grounds time to recover between feeding periods.
- Using organic feed & no antibiotics or hormones: ensuring that livestock has a higher quality of life, and that the meat you eat isn’t filled with chemicals.
How is Regenerative Farming different from Organic Farming?
The Noble Research Institute has pointed out that regenerative farming goes well beyond the certifications required to obtain an “Organic” label.
A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square. And the same goes for regenerative and organic farming.
Like 100% organic farms, all products produced at a certified regenerative farm use no synthetic chemicals or pesticides. They feed their livestock with organic feed, house them humanely, and use no antibiotics or hormones.
Yet, regenerative farms don’t just stop there. They keep working to make their land actively – and our planet – healthier. They are increasing biodiversity, improving the quality of the waterways surrounding their farms, and increasing the resilience of the land they’re using.
What are the benefits of regenerative farming?
It should come as no surprise that organic foods from regenerative farms are much tastier (in my opinion) than commercially farmed alternatives
These days, products made through regenerative farming are rarer than non-organic ones, which dominate grocery store shelves. So, all of us need to keep an eye out for labels like Regenerative Organic Certified or USDA Certified Organic.
These identifiers are stamped on products actively improving soil health and churning out higher quality meat and crops. For both plants and livestock, more soil nutrients mean a higher quality meal at the end of the day.
The lack of chemicals used in the farming process also means that you can feel better about the food you’re serving. The Mayo Clinic has even put together a long list of the health benefits of organic food compared to non-organic.
Among the health benefits of products from regenerative farming methods are…
- Increased nutrients, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids
- Lower toxicity, from the lack of synthetic fertilizers at regenerative farms
- Less risk of bacterial contamination
- Lower chance of pesticide residue (and any found are typically attributed to nearby conventional farms)
Regenerative farms are attempting to reverse the damage being wrought on our planet by overfishing, over-farming, and over-consumption in general.
Luckily, regenerative farms are becoming more common, and supporting them isn't just good for the planet - it's also good for your health!
Check out TMF Resources on making A Sustainable Shift Towards Regenerative Farmed Meats!