Recently I’ve been hearing more about something which has been of great interest to me for a while, regenerative agriculture. I wanted to share some key principles with you and hopefully inspire you to do some further reading on this practice.
This term refers to any kind of farming which actually improves the ground being used. This strikes me as a basic principle which is relevant in so many parts of life; you must put in as well as taking out to maintain balance.
What are the main principles of regenerative farming?
Minimising soil disturbance is central to this approach, many advocates of regenerative farming avoid tilling and other kinds of soil disturbance which reduces erosion and allows ecosystems to flourish.
Maximising crop diversity has also been shown to lead to more resilient soil with a diversity of soil microorganisms. Another key principle is allowing livestock to graze the land, this has been shown to be beneficial for the health of the soil with grazing encouraging regrowth and a strong plant and root system and the depositing of nutrient-rich manure by the livestock both building soil health.
It is thought that regenerative farming on a larger scale could have a huge impact on climate change, with land which uses the principles of regenerative agriculture shown to absorb more carbon dioxide and hold more water.
One of the champions of this movement is chef turned farmer Dan Cox, along with his team at Crocadon Farm.
He believes that we should all care more about soil health for many reasons. As well as the reported benefits for the planet, his background as a chef cooking at Michelin starred restaurants means he is passionate about good quality produce and knows that improving soil will lead to improved nutrition which in turn leads to improved flavour.
When even fast food giant McDonalds are getting involved it indicates that there might be something in this idea after all.
Farming UK reports on a 4 year project, undertaken by McDonalds alongside research and consultancy firm FAI, which implements a different type of grazing system for beef cattle, more closely imitating nature and allowing regeneration of the land.
With benefits from the taste of our food to a positive impact on climate change cited, we might wonder why this has not gained more traction. Using these methods rather than simply focusing on yield does of course come at a financial cost.
Things like the Sustainable farming incentive, announced by George Eustice, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, are beginning to address this. This incentive means that farmers can be paid for actions they take to improve the health of their soil.
What can you do?
As a consumer, you can help by shopping locally and supporting regenerative farmers in your area along with seeking out larger companies which use regenerative farming techniques.
You could also donate to nonprofits and research organisations involved in regenerative agriculture.
More ideas for ways in which you can support can be found here. I hope this has inspired you to think about the way our food is produced and, where you can, support those taking steps towards doing this in a more sustainable way.