Agriculture, Education

What is Regenerative Agriculture and why should I care?

Regenerative agriculture is a farming technique that improves soil health, increases organic matter, and creates a more diverse culture for crops to grow in. It focuses on bringing life back to soils that have been destroyed by conventional chemical-based farming practices.

We believe that practicing regenerative agriculture is one way we can help combat climate change, as Regeneration International states, ‘the solution to global warming and the climate crisis lies right under our feet’.

To understand the necessity and impact of regenerative farming, we must look back to where it originated. Before the invention of chemical-based fertilisers, communities relied on regenerative farming without noticing, but after the industrial revolution, demand for goods soared and artificial farming practices became widely accepted to meet this. The Rodale Institute however, rejected this, believing that organic farming would lead to better soil health that in turn would lead to healthier and better crops. They are now believed to be the pioneers of regenerative agriculture.

Rodale’s practices have now been adopted by many, and across the world land managers are becoming more innovative in their practices. For example, Alan Savoury in Africa, who through simulating large herd animal behaviour on farmland has built back fertile soils and Joel Salatin in the USA who is evangelical about his work to produce healthy and high welfare food in a regenerative way, to name but two.

At Re-generation Earth we believe that sustainability is no longer good enough, and to truly fight climate change we need to regenerate our soils, water quality and biodiversity. Unfortunately, this is not the opinion of everyone and regularly farmers who work to regenerative practices are vilified in their communities. They are considered to be bad and unprofessional land managers because they will allow ‘weeds’ to grow and often their crops will look tatty, in essence they are doing everything differently to their neighbours. But we believe that this disruption is not only necessary but essential and it is worth remembering that some of the country’s most successful innovators were once
considered outliers.

Regenerative agriculture is being practiced on a small but growing number of farms across the UK with the shared goal of enacting significant and positive change. On the Re-Generation Earth host farm in Kent, we have slowly reintroduced longer and more diverse crop rotations, planting 3-year leguminous crops to fix free nitrogen into our soils (one of the major nutrients required by plants) introducing cattle and sheep back into the crop rotation as well as laying our hands on as much organic material as we can to compost and apply to our soils. We are slowly reaping the rewards but there is still a long way to go.

We aim to grow our soil organic matter levels by an average of 0.4% per year, there are crops and processes that speed up that increase in the rotation and times when it slows down, as long as we achieve an average of 0.4%, we will have met our goals.

As consumers, the best way you can support change is to buy food from known local sources, seek out the farmers who graze animals, who use compost and who always seem to have something growing on their land. A quick search on social media will help you find many farmers across the UK who practice regenerative farming.

We hope soon to be able to invite subscribers to Re-Generation Earth to visit our farms so that you can see how the soil has come alive, listen to the varied and diverse bird song, and smell the ever- increasing flowers to understand first-hand the incredible effects of regenerative agriculture.

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