Healthier and happy land, healthier and happy farmer, healthier and happy community and healthier bank balance. Regenerative farming is the way forward for balancing human needs and gifts with planetary needs and gifts. A perfect balance of reciprocity for Earth and humanity.
There has been so much publicity about Regenerative Agriculture in the recent past: from practitioners Charles Massy and Peter Andrews being featured on Australian Story, Paul Hawken speaking about the merits of Regenerative Agriculture for Project Drawdown, the first undergraduate degree, to several podcast series devoted to it and a segment in the movie 2040.
But what is Regenerative Agriculture?
You could be fooled by the novice to give a definition, but academics across the globe are refusing to define it. It is a movement, a science and a philosophy all in one! My attempt at a definition comes from oft quoted people such as Daniel Christian Wahl, “Life creates the conditions conducive to life” (Dr Janine Benyus, Biomimicry Institute). Regenerative Agriculture aims to create the right conditions for life to flourish – be that by better management of the ground, the pasture, biodiversity, self or the community. Rather than going around killing and controlling as conventional and industrial agriculture does, Regenerative practitioners generally become co-creators who work to manage what they can for their property and community, creating flourishing and diverse landscapes that just look and feel abundant and welcoming.
I came to Regenerative Agriculture via a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). Permaculture is one such method to create these conditions conducive to life. I then became open to many new learnings - following this PDC with two others, a Diploma in Holistic Management and many other short courses to learn about Biodynamics and Subtle Energies. I am now continuing and consolidating my passion for learning in a Bachelor of Science (Regenerative Agriculture). I have designed the farm with permaculture principles and manage it Biodynamically and Holistically. On my farm there are cattle, chooks, ducks, bees and worms with many perennial systems in place so to help create food security and resilience for my community.
What do these methods of production mean for the larger environment?
- Less inputs and more reliance on biological management (also known as ecosystem services)
- Clean and slow movement of water
- Efficient solar capture
- Increased (bio)diversity
But how do they do it?
There are many methods of farming that would fall into the category of Regenerative Agriculture. Adaptive planned Grazing, Multi-species cropping, Natural Sequence Farming, Biodynamics, Permaculture, Syntropic Agriculture, Agro-forestry, Keyline farming – the list could go on – and it will increase as more and more techniques are added.
The most effective method of Regenerative Agriculture for global environmental healing and restoration is Adaptive Planned Grazing. It is seen as having the greatest impact on the most amount of land. Adaptive Planned Grazing is utilising the natural instincts and behaviours of ruminant animals to increase the effectiveness of plants in their process of photosynthesis. It is aiming to keep the plants photosynthesising at optimum levels for as long as possible. The animals are happier as they are moved to fresh pasture very regularly. The animals are heathier as they are eating pasture, not grain (omitting much less methane than their industrial counterparts) and the meat is much healthier for human consumption (omega-3 content is higher than levels seen in fish).
How do I do it?
I have 10 beautiful Dexter cows who enjoy this frequency of movement. They are excited to see me and often frolic when they reach new pasture. It is a beautiful thing to watch when they jump and dance their way to a new patch of ground, leaving behind them the makings of new humus: wee, dung as well as squashed and uneaten biomass which in return creates an amazingly biodiverse pasture. With this new management, I am also expecting to see an increase in young saplings of endemic species of trees as a welcome element of the pasture. I also mimic these moves with the chooks allowing them fresh pasture daily.
But what is in it for the farmer and the farmer’s community?
Lower inputs equate to less costs to run a farm. Every product sold from the farm results in more profit for the farmer. Their yields may be lower as they transition away from conventional farming, but the profit margin will be greater and ever increasing. This also takes the power and control away from the banks and larger multi-national companies (think seeds, fertilisers and the likes) who presently have a tight grip on farmers and their land. It is common to see Regenerative Farms having multiple enterprises stacked into one farm – increasing the likelihood of families staying on farm, rather than moving to urban areas, thus increasing resilience in these rural communities too (and an increase in farmer well-being).
How do you know if your purchased food is grown with these principles in mind?
Simple – get to know your farmer! If you don’t have access to conversations with your farmer either at farmers’ markets or grocers, then get as close as you can get. Ask the questions of the market holder/shop owner – where do these … come from? How were they grown? If the stall owner’s eyes light up after you have asked - you are talking to the right person! Look up Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box schemes to see if there is anything local to your area to support growers in this space. There is a new verification scheme coming that will allow you to choose products grown with regenerative principles – look out for “Land to Market”. Buy locally grown and made.
Find out more
- The Regenerative Journey with Charlie Arnott
- Ground Cover with Kerry Cochrane
- Find your local CSA
- Understanding the benefits of a healthy water cycle on the climate - video by Walter Jehne
- Understanding the larger environmental aims of Holistic Management - TED Talk with Allan Savory
- Understanding ethical meat eating…: Mathew Evans On Eating Meat (ISBN 9781760637699
About the author
Jen Ringbauer is a mother, wife, farmer, student and sustainability educator. She farms, educates and designs for Regenerative Food Production utilising methods found in Permaculture, Holistic Management, Keyline Design and Biodynamics. A student at Southern Cross University completing a B. Science (Regenerative Agriculture). She is the convenor for Western Rivers Environmental Educators Network (WREEN). Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org