There’s been a lot of media attention lately on Regenerative Agriculture. The term Sustainable Agriculture is also being used, and there is the old standby, Conservation Agriculture. Each of these terms are attempting to describe a type of agriculture that conserves, sustains, or regenerates the land, plants, and animals.
It is nice to know that people are making the shift from “Let’s not just sustain or conserve what we have, but actually regenerate it.” After all, if we’ve spent 50+ years degrading the soil and the resources that depend on it, it’s a little late in the game to just work on conserving what’s left. Granted, it’s a step in the right direction if the rest of your neighbors are busy continuing to mine the soil with their farming or ranching practices.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines conservation agriculture as “an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and enhancing the resource base and the environment.” That sounds a lot like regenerative agriculture to me. Ultimately, the title of the agriculture system is not as important as the outcome or results of that system. We know we need to improve soil fertility, profitability, health, diversity, and quality of life as key outcomes.
At HMI, we teach Holistic Management because we believe that this decision-making and adaptive management process is the best way to help agricultural producers learn how to actually manage their agricultural businesses in such a way that they will help not only regenerate the land, animals, and plants, but also help make those businesses financially viable and regenerate the communities that depend on those businesses for food, fiber, and ecosystem services (i.e., carbon sequestration, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, water quality, etc.).
Holistic Management helps people do this because we are constantly aware of our relationship in nature. As humans and agriculturalists we are dependent on and a part of the natural ecosystem processes. The better we understand those processes and work with them, partnering with them, the more all species will benefit and the higher our food quality will be. With more people making a living on these working landscapes, the more opportunity there will be to keep these spaces open and productive for all.
The idea of regenerative agriculture has excited the imagination of thousands of people around the world, not just agricultural producers. It reminds us that we are all part of a healthy, whole food system that truly feeds us all whether we are humans, plants, or animals. Whether we are raising cattle in Namibia, goats in California, pastured chickens in Canada, or milk in the United Kingdom, we must work with people, plants, soil, and animals for the benefit of all. How and where we choose to buy the food we don’t grow ourselves helps to support that holistic food system even more.
None of us are perfect and the world is a complex place with the consequences of our decisions often far removed from our day to day life. Having a decision-making process that helps us stay focused on the decisions that move us toward our holistic goal can be a particularly critical key for each of us to do what we can to participate in a regenerative agriculture that feeds us all.
To learn how to be a part of the solution, visit our Get Connected page and learn how you can better support the growth of regenerative agriculture in 2017!