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.
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.
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.
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.