Regenerative: tending to or characterized by regeneration. To regenerate means to bring into renewed existence, bring new and more vigorous life to, or revive.
Regenerative farming is based on this idea of renewing, reviving, and bringing new and more vigorous life to the land, the plants grown on the land, and the animals pastured on the land. The land or soil is the connector.
The precise definition of regenerative farming or regenerative agriculture is hard to nail down. There are different groups who have attempted to define what regenerative agriculture means over the years. Rather than giving a precise definition, the Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC] states that "regenerative agriculture asks us to think about how all aspects of agriculture are connected through a web—a network of entities who grow, enhance, exchange, distribute, and consume goods and services—instead of a linear supply chain" (1). There is a theme of connection and cause and effect within regenerative agriculture. What is apparent is that, despite differing definitions, certain principles are consistent over time.
The key principle of regenerative agriculture is soil health. Everything else stems off of this principle. According to the Rodale Institute, the term "regenerative organic" was created by Robert Rodale who states that "the number one priority in regenerative organic agriculture is soil health"(2). Regenerative farming focuses on soil health as the health of the soil effects everything: the plants we grow, the animals we tend, and the foods we eat. As such, many regenerative farmers use practices that restore and renew vital nutrients to/in the soil. These practices include cover cropping, composting, mulching, rotating crops, planting hedgerows, and limiting soil tillage. Each of these practices serves to feed the soil, decrease erosion, and increase diversity in the soil.
Connected to soil health are principles such as carbon sequestration (capture of carbon in the air), restoration of ecosystems and waterways, biodiversity, food production that battles food insecurity, animal integration, and so much more. All of these principles are connected like a web and impact one another with soil health underlying it all.
An important point that the NRDC points out is that indigenous communities have practiced regenerative farming and agriculture for centuries. We are tapping into practices that have been in place and proven to bring health and life to the soil and the community over the years.
As I continue to learn about Regenerative Farming, I am convinced that it is a philosophy of utmost significance for Sourwood Creek Farm and for our community. Our farm was founded on the principle of the importance of soil health. This is reflected in our own practices of using mulch, compost, crop rotation, no till practices, animal integration, and cover crops. However, there is so much more that we can do and learn about to care for the soil, the land, our community, and our planet. We are on a journey to continue learning. Thanks for being along for the ride.