Regenerative agriculture – have you ever heard of this before?
One of the biggest privileges of having this platform that I do is that I can share things that interest me with all of you. Food and nutrition are both topics that I love sharing. And I would say that I’m adequately qualified to do so. With a Master’s degree in nutrition and years of experience in the field, I feel like I can confidently share my knowledge with the readers of this site.
That being said, I definitely don’t claim to be an expert at everything. But some things I find to be worth talking about even if I might not be one of the top-level experts in the field. Today’s post falls more in that category.
Here’s the deal – our climate situation is getting dire. I’m of the belief that we’ve got to start having open and honest situations about the future of our planet and what we’re going to do about it. There’s no time to waste here.
Today we’re diving into the issues with agriculture and how these standard practices are affecting the health of our planet. While this can be a dim subject, there’s hope to be found in the practice of regenerative agriculture. We’ll talk about what that is, the heroes that are committed to practicing it, and how this could be a saving grace.
Table of Contents
Issues with Industrialized Agriculture
The definition of agriculture is “the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products.”
Greenhouse gas emissions
Agriculture is responsible for up to 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, soil and nutrient management – 40% of these greenhouse gas emissions is estimated to be methane. Methane traps heat in the atmosphere which raises the temperature of the planet.
You see the problem here?
Another practice that industrial agriculture uses is monocropping – or simple crop rotation. Monocropping is when the same crop is planted in the same soil year after year. Simple crop rotation is when two crops are rotated through the soil – like corn and soybeans.
Monocropping or the simple crop rotation method can be detrimental to the health of the soil. Nutrients in the soil get depleted, erosion happens, and organic matter in the soil decreases. This can lead to an increased use of synthetic fertilizers and/or pesticides.
Meat production is also an important piece of the agriculture puzzle. Animals are typically raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO) which lead to increased antibiotic use and resulting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not to mention, the unbearable conditions that the animals are exposed to in these feeding operations.
Water pollution, irrigation issues, and the loss of the smaller farms are some other ways that industrial agriculture has a significant impact on the environment and our economy.
This, of course, isn’t a comprehensive list of all the issues that come along with industrial agriculture. But I think it is important to acknowledge that there are costly, and potentially deadly, consequences with continuing this practice as is.
This is where regenerative agriculture aims to make a big difference. Regenerative agriculture is generally defined as “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.”
So there’s an excess of carbon in our air, and our soil – which needs carbon – is depleted. Regenerative agriculture aims to turn the excess carbon into necessary organic matter that the soil can use.
There are a few methods that are utilized to make this happen. These include practices like low- or no-tilling. When soil is plowed excessively, erosion occurs and carbon dioxide is released into the air. So by using low-tilling practices, it allows the soil to build up nutrients to make it healthier and keeps carbon in the soil.
Another practice is crop rotation and using cover crops to build up the nutrients in the soil. Not only does this introduce new matter into the soil, but it also helps deal with pest problems naturally. This can help decrease the need and use of pesticides.
For anyone that has a compassionate heart, I think we can agree that industrial agriculture’s way of raising animals is devastating. It’s efficient and cost-effective, but the other implications are worse.
Regenerative agriculture aims to give a better life for those animals that nourish us. These animals weren’t meant to live in tiny cages, crammed into one another. They were meant to move and graze and interact with their environment.
Not only is the pasture-raised method better for the animal, it can be better for the environment too. When animals are raised on pasture, this increases the soil’s ability to sequester carbon and helps keep the soil from eroding. When the animals are allowed to be in the pasture, their manure fertilizes the soil. This practice also helps increase biodiversity by attracting more insects and pollinators into the area.
And if you want to know more about why grass-fed meat is better, read our guide here.
Rural area economies
It’s also worth mentioning that sustainable, holistic agriculture helps revitalize a lot of these rural areas where farms are located. For myself, who grew up in a tiny, rural town in the midwest, this is an important piece.
I come from a family of farmers and I’ve seen the way family farms have disappeared. When farms utilize regenerative agriculture practices, it creates jobs and can revitalize the local economy.
This is just a small look at what regenerative agriculture is and the effects it can have. It is in no way comprehensive, but I hope it gives you a small glimpse into the importance of this movement.
What Can You Do?
You might think this all sounds great – but how can you support it Well, the first step would be educating yourself. Some resources I’ve found to be helpful are the following: Regeneration International and Savory.
You can also spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about holistic land management and how they can support it.
Next, use your money to support this movement. This will require that you talk to the people you get your meat from. Go to your local farmer’s market and start these conversations with your local farmers. Ask them if they use regenerative agriculture. Choose farmers who do.
White Oak Pastures
We recommend supporting locally when possible and appropriate. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have access to locally grown fruits and vegetables almost year-round because the climate here can support that.
But for some people, that may not be the case.
That’s why we like to support farms all across the country that are bringing holistically-managed products to the masses. Our favorite farm that’s doing this is White Oak Pastures.
White Oak Pastures is a 152-year-old farm in Bluffton, Georgia. They pride themselves on practicing “radically traditional farming” which includes compassionate and responsible caring of animals, a zero-waste model, and proper land management.
But it hasn’t always been that way. Just as many farms did, White Oak Pastures used many of the conventional farming practices that made things cheaper and more efficient. In the mid-90s, they did a hard, but necessary, thing. They made the switch.
You can bet that this wasn’t a popular decision. You can bet that some even thought it foolish. But the owners stuck to their values and beliefs and made it happen. Regenerative agriculture might not be the cheapest way to do things – but it is the most responsible and a core value of the family.
Organizations that have the courage to do the right thing are the ones that I want to support. And White Oak Pastures falls into that category.
For our readers, this is exciting because it offers a way to support regenerative agriculture even if you’re not in the area. White Oak Pastures offers an online shop for all your humanely-raised meat needs. Check out their Featured & Sale section to see some of their amazing products..
Now, it’s more important than ever to support practices that are going to make our world a better place. If not for yourself, do it for your children or great-grandchildren. Educating yourself on regenerative agriculture is a great first step!
Next, find out if there are farms in your area that utilize this practice. If not, ask them if they would consider switching. Point them in the direction of the resources I listed above.
Lastly, support the farms that do. We love White Oak Pastures just for that reason. Check out their online shop and get sustainably-raised meat sent straight to your door.
Your voice and your dollar matters. The world depends on it.
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