Last Updated on August 15, 2020 by Milo Martinovich
Regenerative agriculture has gained some mainstream spotlight lately as a natural way to farm and potentially save the planet with beneficial outcomes for the environment instead of being a source of emissions, which conventional farming does.
But, does regenerative agriculture work? Does it only matter if the large farms convert to this style of farming or can each individual do their part in their backyards?
We’ll look into what regenerative agriculture does for the consumer, farmer, and world as a whole.
What are the benefits of regenerative farming?
Farming in this way can provide many benefits for different groups.
More nutritious food is grown in organic, sustainable ways.
Locally produced foods that taste better.
A healthier local economy
A healthier soil profile, which increases yields.
More water retention, so less irrigation is needed.
Less external input is needed over time, as the farmland and animals continually increase in productivity.
For the world:
Much less pollution than conventional farming. It can even create carbon sinks, improving the environment rather than harming it.
Food can be supplied locally, reducing cross-country transport and emissions.
No more mono-cropping which reduces the fertility of farmland.
A healthier population, since the food supply would be healthier overall.
Sounds too good to be true, but regenerative agriculture is farming back to the basics.
Imagine a world where you couldn’t order everything to make your farm, or garden, more productive. You’d have to farm and garden in a way that makes your land more self-sufficient and productive. That means composting, proper management of livestock rotation and food supply, working to reduce the need for excessive irrigation, developing natural fertilizers instead of chemicals, and rotating crops to reduce the reduction in soil quality and pest pressure.
That’s the essence of regenerative agriculture!
How regenerative agriculture could help save the planet?
Conventional farming harms the environment. Livestock farms release tons of emissions. Mono-cropping farms that supply the majority of food for human and livestock production ruins soil quality and fertility. Massive fields and orchards require irrigation that drain our freshwater supply and raise our energy demands.
Regenerative agriculture can do the opposite. Managing livestock and crops in a regenerative way can create a carbon sink, to absorb carbon dioxide instead of producing it. This results in a cleaner atmosphere.
Regenerative agriculture promotes more food to be produced locally by small farmers and gardeners. This reduces emissions production from conventional transportation.
Chemical fertilizers and pesticides leach into our water supply, harming the health of our lakes, rivers, and oceans. Regenerative agriculture is strictly organic and removes this.
Everybody from the backyard gardener to huge farmers can do their part to make the world healthier!
Does regenerative agriculture really work?
Yes. Yields increase and pollution lowers. There is a lack of definitive scientific data to prove how effective it is. But, there are quite a few case studies online of farmers who tested their carbon sequestering abilities of their farms and showing the amazing benefits.
Even performing these practices in your backyard will work to make your garden more efficient and create a higher yield of your favorite fruits and vegetables.
How do you do regenerative farming?
So, how can you put these practices into use? Here is a list of things that you can do to create sustainable regenerative agriculture on your land, whether it be a backyard garden or a homestead:
Compost all organic materials to create more organic matter to add fertility to your soils.
Utilize livestock to create natural fertilizers to enrich the soil.
Rotate crops every season.
Plant pollinator-friendly plants to draw in beneficial pollinators.
Mulch bare ground to increase water retention.
Plant cover crops that can enrich the soil and help avoid prolonged periods of naked soil, which hurts life in the soil.
Avoid tilling, as it disrupts soil life.
Rotate any livestock you have regularly to avoid overgrazing and help more equal distribution of manure.
Plant native perennials that don’t require excessive irrigation to thrive in your climate.
These are just a few of the best practices that even the smallest of farmers can put into use!
How long does soil take to regenerate?
Starting with barren soil without any additives to jumpstart the soil life can take a while to build into productive farmland. However, the power of regenerative agriculture is that the health of the soil is constantly being improved. As soon as you start farming with regenerative practices, it will get better and better!
Regenerative agriculture examples
So, you are interested in putting this idea into use to create your self-sufficient food supply, but you don’t know how to start. Here are some great examples to put into use in a variety of instances.
If you have a backyard garden, make sure you compost all plant material after it has been exhausted. This compost will be out back into your garden plot as a healthy soil additive, instead of relying on external potting soils or fertilizers season after season.
If you are backyard chicken farming, you can food your garden scraps to your chickens and get manure in return to further enrich your garden soil.
You can use chicken tractors to rotate chickens daily to spread manure out equally instead of one permanent spot which could promote nitrogen runoff.
If your chickens are in a permanent pen, put down carbon material, like wood chips or straw to utilize a deep litter method in the chicken run and harvest compost from the pen when you refresh the carbon bedding.
Interplant your garden with companion plants and cover crops to reduce bare soil exposure.
Plant a row of flowers on the edge of your garden.
If you have rabbits, you can grow their food in your garden and use the manure as garden fertilizer, with each part feeding the other.
Make your ruminant animals grass-fed with rotational grazing instead of relying on grain acquired off-farm.
Plant native fruit trees that can feed your household and livestock.
Utilize a no-till gardening style in your gardens, making use of compostable material, like paper or cardboard as weed block instead of plastic that can leach into the soil and your crops and back to the groundwater.
There a plenty of more examples of how to make regenerative agriculture work for you, so hopefully these gave you a good idea of things you can do as well!
Regenerative agriculture criticism
Some proponents have stated unbelievable stats on how this style of food production can help the environment and even solve world hunger. However, the science hasn’t caught up with these claims to support these ideas.
But, the fact is this: regenerative agriculture is helpful for the environment, farmer, and consumer when compared to conventional methods. The increase in yields could create more abundance as well, meaning less hunger around the world is quite possible.
Another critique is that creating our entire food supply with regenerative agriculture would be such a drastic change that it isn’t possible on a worldwide scale at any time soon.
But, we can, as individuals do our part and grow small gardens, raise small livestock, and provide a high percentage of our food intake using regenerative agriculture. This reduces the need for gigantic farms that use conventional farming.
Finding local farmers that use regenerative agriculture methods for beef, pork, and other meats will help the local economy and reduce the need for these mega-meat producing farms that harm the environment and lead to lower quality food.
Regenerative agriculture might not be the end-all-be-all of saving our environment, food supply, and health of our population, but it is a great start!
What are you going to do to create your own self sufficient food supply?
This article won’t change the minds of everyone. But, if it convinced you to start farming this way on your own, I want to hear your plans! From the tiniest backyard gardens to homesteads with many acres can do their part!
What are you going to put into action? Tell me with a comment below!