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Regenerative Farming

New Documentary Film Urges Us To Rethink Our Relationship With Soil

Comment on industrial agriculture mostly appears in the mainstream only when something has gone awry. The current avian flu epidemic comes to mind, but it’s rare for the general public to step back from the alarm of novel threats to take a more comprehensive look at why our current system doesn’t work for its supposed purpose of feeding people. Common Ground, a new documentary now screening in AMC theaters across the country (and 2023 Tribeca Film Award winner), isn’t afraid to point its finger at Big Ag for the problems with industrial agriculture.

Tribes Take The Lead On Regenerative Agriculture

Not only do the bees produce honey that is sold, but the tribe’s agricultural operation, Ioway Farms, also uses the bees to pollinate its orchard. It’s all part of the work the tribal nation is doing to better farm the land. Rhodd says just a few years ago they used the same row cropping practices as the rest of the Midwest. “What folks didn’t see was the financials of our operation. We were spiraling downwards,” Rhodd says. “Financially we weren’t a profitable farming operation, and it’s due to the mindsets that’s been instilled in us.” The tribe decided to stop “chasing yields” and start implementing practices that are better for the soil, such as prescribed burns and cover crops that keep the ground planted all year round.

‘Regenerative Agriculture’ Is All The Rage

Decades of industrial agriculture have caused environmental and social damage across the globe. Soils have deteriorated and plant and animal species are disappearing. Landscapes are degraded and small-scale farmers are struggling. It’s little wonder we’re looking for more sustainable and just ways of growing food and fibre. Regenerative agriculture is one alternative creating a lot of buzz, especially in rich, industrially developed countries. The term “regenerative agriculture” was coined in the 1970s. It’s generally understood to mean farming that improves, rather than degrades, landscape and ecological processes such as water, nutrient and carbon cycles.

Expanding Regenerative Agriculture Through Open Source Technologies

Dorn Cox is a family farmer who has long been in the vanguard of improving regenerative agriculture with open source technologies. He sees participatory science and knowledge commons as powerful tools for improving agriculture in countless ways:  crop yields, soil health, water usage, ecosystem resilience. All are especially needed in the face of climate change. I wanted to learn more, so in my latest episode of Frontiers of Commoning (Episode #36), I spoke with Cox about these topics, which are extensively examined in his new book The Great Regeneration:  Ecological Agriculture, Open-Source Technology, and a Radical Vision of Hope. 

Regenerative Food And Farming: Survival And Revival

Regenerative agriculture and holistic livestock management represent the next, crucial stage of organic food and farming, not only avoiding toxic pesticides, fertilizers, sewage sludge, GMO seeds, and excessive greenhouse gas emissions, but regenerating soil fertility, water retention, carbon sequestration, and rural livelihoods as well.

Pasture Cropping – The Innovative No-Kill, No-Till System

Regenerative agriculture is a global farming revolution with rapid uptake and interest around the world. Five years ago hardly anyone had heard about it. It is in the news nearly everyday now. This  agricultural revolution has been led by innovative farmers rather than scientists, researchers and governments. It is being applied to all agricultural sectors including cropping, grazing and perennial horticulture. In previous articles we have described how regenerative agriculture maximizes the photosynthesis of plants to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to increase soil organic matter. Soil organic matter is a good proxy for soil health, as it is important for improving fertility and water capture in soils, thus improving productivity and profitability in farming.

The Secret To Farming For The Climate

A major change to how we farm is not only necessary, it’s inevitable. The 2019 Climate Change and Land IPCC report described the need to focus on changing land use and current agriculture practices in order to address the climate crisis. A quiet but growing trend of stock-free, otherwise known as veganic, farming can protect and regenerate the environment, and offer a prosperous economic future for farmers and regions alike. The agriculture ‘value chain’ (including deforestation, farming, processing, packaging, transportation, and waste) accounts for 25% to 57% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Green New Deal Must Offer Farmers A Way To Transition To Regenerative Agriculture

Right now, soil health is declining because intensive farming practices, including monocultures, deplete soil organic matter, destroy the biological health of soil, and increase the soil’s vulnerability to erosion. Concurrently, floods disperse prime topsoil from highly erodible monocrop operations while pesticides and commercial fertilizers kill the beneficial insects and microorganisms that create and support healthy soils.  As the land is being degraded, farmers increasingly feel the effects of unsustainable farming practices and climate change. For example, many farmers in the Midwest were unable to plant crops last year because of the floods. Farm debt has now reached levels not seen since 1980, and last year, Farm Aid’s hotline call volume increased 109% from 2017.
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