Food systems around the world are failing – and have been for quite some time.
The focus has been on capital and limitless growth above health, ecology, fairness and care.
Humans have, by and large, become overfed but undernourished. Food is cheaper than it has ever been, but also the least nutritious.
Ecosystems - aboveground, in soils, and in marine environments - have been misunderstood and abused.
Now that we have degraded these ecosystems so severely, we cannot work with the goal to simply “sustain” our degradation.
As a society, we have been de-generating. Now we must begin re-generating.
Canadian Organic Growers has been representing farmers who have seen this degradation of farmland for quite some time already, and against the grain of conventional thought, have been practicing, learning, and re-learning ways to farm with nature in mind, with humans as a part of nature, not separate.
Regenerative farming practices are those that encourage nutrient-density of food crops, rather than prioritizing yield.
They encourage many species to make their living off the land, rather than killing off other life for the benefit of only one - humans.
Practices include composting, cover cropping, growing leguminous green manures, crop rotation, mixed farming, shallow and reduced cultivation, and enhanced biodiversity.
Regenerative farming is knowledge-intensive rather than input-intensive. This includes working to understand insect life cycles rather than spraying “pests” and building soil health over the long-term rather than fertilizing plants with nutrients for the short-term.
Regenerative farming is respectful. Towards the millions of other species we share the planet with both above and below the soil (even if we don’t think that species benefits us humans). And towards other humans who, for example, work on farms, in food distribution, or preparation; or who live in communities surrounding farms or mines where farming inputs are sourced.
Regenerative farming considers the whole chain of events to produce a crop – from the fertility inputs, to the seeds, to the farm tools and supplies, to the carbon used in production, packaging, and distribution.
Above all, regenerative farming seeks to continuously improve. Unlike a set of standards where a farm can have achieved it and then maintain it, regeneration is a never-ending process of always learning, always adjusting and improving.
The foundations of organic farming were based on these same practices outlined above.
While the organic standards and regulations encourage these practices, they have been adopted most heartily by those farmers truly passionate about the organic farming philosophy and the 4 organic principles (health, ecology, fairness, and care) throughout the world – whether certification was an appropriate model for their farms or not.
Taken further, the 4 organic principles showcase the social need for regenerative food systems to support social regeneration as well – through fair trade and labour practices and recognition of the need to keep future generations – of both humans and all other species – in mind.
Organic farmers have a head-start on building the regenerative farms of the future. With a commitment to continuous improvement through access to knowledge from various places and different worldviews, as well as support from encouraging customers and various levels of government from community-based to national, organic farmers can continue to build on their knowledge as well as mentor the strongly-needed next generation of regenerative organic farmers.