Pearce and I identify our farm as regenerative, mostly because it is the only term we feel encompasses most of our growing practices we use in the field and the intentionality behind why we raise food. What really is regenerative agriculture? It’s a big topic, and there are so many elements and branches of it, but the most inclusive definition I’ve run across is from MN350. They define regenerative agriculture as:
“dynamic system of land stewardship, rooted in centuries-old Indigenous wisdom, that provides healthy, plant-rich, nutrient-dense food for all people, while continuously restoring and nourishing the ecological, social, and cultural systems unique to every place.” (MN350)
To be really clear, before the word “regenerative” becomes too intense a buzz word, I want to clarify that farmers (or food producers), while on a quest to be regenerative, cannot fully regenerate what we take away from the land. No matter what, humans are a species; a part of the food chain that rely on the land for survival. We can listen to and steward the land, and work hard to build our soils, but nothing will ever be regenerated to what it once was. So, take that term with a grain of salt. We might use it to advertise and lump our farming practices in with other like-minded food producers, but we may never be able to truly live up to the intense goal of regeneration.
As a small-scale vegetable farmer, we work hard to develop growing practices that support a reciprocal (give and take) relationship with our soils, our food, and our communities. Through following this mission and using regenerative farming methods we hope that the way we produce food can:
1) Reduce pollution/runoff. The soils built through regenerative practices are able to absorb more water. Also, chemical fertilizers are not used because organic/regenerative methods are prioritized.
2) Provide us with knowledge and trust of ingredients. There are so many added ingredients in food products. I feel that I do not trust most food, the source of almost everything we eat is completely grey and undescribed. I know some people think that nutrition facts are the most important part of a food label, but I completely believe that we need to have more information on the direct source of where that food came from and the conditions it was raised in.
3) Support a diverse ecosystem. In Minnesota, about 50% of our total land is farmland. Most of that farmland is dominated by corn and soybean production, along with other mono-cropped row crops. Regenerative food producers rotate what crops they raise and where they plant them, and keep everything diverse throughout the span of their farm. Producing food can be a really beautiful thing, but generally, our daily encounters with food production are mono-crops and large scale agriculture, subsided by the government.
4) Keep our food system local. It must be comprised of farmers who are close in location of their consumers. We rely too heavily on farmers from across the world to feed us, but the reliance on producers we don’t know is a guarantee that we can’t trust that that food will come to us. We need to look in on our communities, not out.
5) Enhance our local economies. When we invest a dollar in our local food economy, about 75% of that dollar stays right here, in our community. If we invest a dollar into the conventional, global food system, only about 20% (maybe even less!) stays in our community. The rest is dispersed elsewhere to cover costs of harvest, transportation, storage, and sales. If we invest our dollars into the local, regenerative food system that ALREADY exists in MN, we are strengthening our local economy because our dollars stay circulating HERE. Near us, supporting the people growing our food.
All of these points are just my general musings (thoughts) on what a regenerative agriculture food system can provide our communities. Pearce and I are working towards these things and keep all these goals at the top of our minds every day, we hope you’ll join us in this endeavor.
How do we, as a community, support the efforts of regenerative food producers? We need to want it. We need to prioritize it. We need to ask questions and be critical about where our food comes from. We need to be OK with change. We need to make choices with the earth on our minds, and challenge our conventional food system.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on regenerative agriculture! Feel free to share your voice with me. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.