Regenerative Agriculture is More than Just a Buzzword
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By Virginia Montgomery Many of us see buzzwords in modern homesteading such as permaculture, no-till, and regenerative agriculture and roll our eyes. I see it in my own family when I discuss these topics with them and how we really need to be changing the way we farm and even care for our own yards.
We see these words and think, “Oh, they’ve done another marketing tactic again!” Honestly, this was me. Call homesteading whatever you want. Whether you want to say you run an organic farm or whatever, I did not care.
Regenerative agriculture is more than just a buzzword though.
We are in a crisis when it comes to our food security, global warming, and so many other issues that are a direct result of commercial agriculture.
What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
This is a way of growing food with the most minimal to zero amount of damage to the land. The goal is to generate food and help the ecosystem in the process. Essentially, it is the same as permaculture.
This idea was initially coined by Indigenous Americans and later adapted into modern usage. The idea is a philosophy where we as growers recognize the vital part our ecosystem plays in our lives and thus we work with the ecosystem rather than against it. The ecosystem can be damaged with modern agriculture.
Working towards improving the overall health of our soil and healing it from the ground up is vital to ensuring a better future for us all.
Regenerative agriculture can be used in many ways including your own backyard. Permaculture has become a popular method for homesteaders to do as well, but essentially they are the same.
Permaculture allows for the farmer or homesteader to use various methods that work together in symbiosis. Think of the three sister garden method that the Indigenous Americans coined.
Using these methods, you are working with nature instead of against it.
Similarly, with regenerative agriculture, you are working towards improving the soil rather than taking from it.
Why Should Regenerative Agriculture Matter to Me?
Often, I talk about regenerative agriculture and some people do not understand the importance of improving the soil. With modern agriculture, soils nutrients are depleted rapidly by crops. Eventually, the land becomes barren and then erodes with rain.
By working to improve soil rather than taking from it, we are effectively eliminating all issues that modern agriculture can have on the planet.
In the long run, crops begin to get stronger with the healthier soil and that eliminates almost all need for pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Another main focus of regenerative agriculture is biodiversity. You may have heard about the bees, but it isn’t just bees in danger. By focusing on biodiversity, we are helping save beneficial creatures like bees from potential extinction.
Permaculture can also be viewed in the same light. As our need for food and farmland grow, so does the need for change. Permaculture and regenerative agriculture are great for that!
Permaculture also helps lessen food waste as everything is used to help build better soil. Food scraps are taken and composted for future soil.
Starting with permaculture with your garden and homestead is relatively inexpensive and can be an easier way to do most of the work. Your garden and animals should work for you. For me, chickens are used to till my garden and turn my compost. This creates less work for me and they also are fertilizing these areas at the same time.
I have known others to use permaculture in ways that reduce flies, ticks, and other bugs by using poultry in tractors. This can help eliminate the need for pesticides. Commercially, the addition of regenerative agriculture can help reduce the amount of pollution in waterways as our chemicals from the crops will not be running into streams.
Regenerative agriculture and permaculture could also be the solution to many of the ethical dilemmas in commercial animal agriculture.
Ways You Can Start a Regenerative Agriculture or Permaculture Life
I always tell people wanting to start fresh to start small. Get a few chickens and learn to tractor them. These chickens can help ready beds for you for your future garden.
For those of you already growing your own food, try implementing permaculture methods into your everyday life. These can be as small as composting or as large as running chickens behind your cows to help spread their manure.
Every small change can make a large difference when it comes to pollution from our food system.
Overall, the amount of strain we are putting on our environment is harsh, and eliminating the need for various chemicals is essential to helping stop climate crises.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you get started in regenerative agriculture or permaculture. Starting today is the best plan of action!
Originally published in the November/December 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.