Climate change is real!!! Glaciers are shrinking, the sea level is rising, violent storms are more frequent, temperatures are rising, plant and animal species are struggling to cope, trees are flowering sooner, etc and the list goes on…
Most analysts believe we must stop burning fossil fuels to prevent further increases in atmospheric carbon, and remove carbon already in the air. Nature has already her own natural carbon sinks, oceans, forests and the soil. One practical approach is to restore this carbon back into the soil with regenerative agriculture. The advantages of this regenerative agriculture are obvious for farmers but also very beneficial for consumers. In the long run, it could have positive effects on the food we consume, our health, our planet and possibly could reverse climate change. But this change in perspective needs large amounts of people to take part in and change their consumer habits. In this short article, I will explain what is regenerative agriculture, how it works, and how it benefits us as consumers.
What is regenerative agriculture?
By definition, regenerative agriculture practices are:
A way of farming that uses systems and principles that promote biodiversity, soil quality, improved water management and nutrient cycling, better yields, long term business resilience and enhanced ecosystems. The word “ regenerative “ would insist on the concept of putting more back into the environment than we take out. This means that when a farm chooses to operate in a regenerative organic manner, it is focusing not only on yield but on the entire ecosystem that the farm is built on. Soil health is the foundation of that system.
The aim of regenerative farming is to use farming for restoring carbon into the soil, which has the potential to both improve soil quality and food quality, while also possibly reversing the current global climate change trend that is threatening our planet.
How does this work?
Our 2 major carbon sinks (meaning it traps carbon from the atmosphere and keeps it safely below ground or under the sea) are the oceans and the soil. We cannot safely store more atmospheric carbon in our oceans. For the past 3 decades, this excess co2 has dissolved in the oceans, forming carbonic acid, and subsequently dropping oceanic ph. This mass acidification of our oceans has been killing many forms of sea life, including shellfish, corals and plankton.
Because soil is the second greatest carbon sink after our oceans, it can be used to not only improve the quality of our food and surrounding ecosystems but also as one of the greatest tools for combating and possibly reversing climate change and it’s right beneath our feet.
Our degraded soil could serve as a major carbon sink, locking away carbon, supporting farmers’ livelihood, making the soil more resistant to drought and floods and increasing soil health.
Scientists estimate that the Earth loses roughly 23 billion tons of fertile soil every year through deforestation and burning, excessive use of synthetic fertilizers, and other toxic chemicals. One of the biggest contributors to soil degradation is the common practice of soil tilling (Tilling involves turning over the first 6 – 10 inches of soil before planting new crops). At this rate, all fertile soil will be gone within 150 years.
Fortunately, a growing number of farmers realize the importance of preserving and improving their soil by adopting no-till practices. They converted to practices that include:
– Using manure or compost to fertilize the soil
– Keeping the soil covered with plants at all times
– Using a broad mix of cover crops
– Minimizing tillage
Soil naturally stores carbon. When soil is ploughed, carbon, in the form of organic material such as plant roots and microorganisms, rises to the soil’s surface. Soil carbon is exposed to oxygen in the atmosphere, it transforms into carbon dioxide, contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet.
Rich fertile soil is literally alive. It is full of bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa, nematodes and many, many other creatures. In fact, in a teaspoon of healthy soil, there are more microbes than there are people on earth. Of course, in order to survive, this teeming community voraciously consumes this carbon available in healthy soil. If the top layer of the soil is covered in plants or no-till farming is used, it will minimize soil disturbance which will help keep carbon in the soil.
WITH GOOD SOIL QUALITY COMES NUTRIENT RICH FOOD!
When I was a child I loved to hear my grandmother’s life stories. As a spanish refugee money was extremely tight but Granny Francisca ( we called her Mémé ) always managed to put food on the table. Like many people during these war times, she had to grow her own vegetables and buy meat or eggs once a week at the local farm. In fact, 50% of the food at that time was homegrown. She would tell me about composting, replanting, seeding, how useful birds, butterflies and worms were… I was fascinated. Most of it went right over my head but now all these snippets of information are coming back to my mind.
Nowadays all we need to do is walk down to the local supermarket, walk down the aisles and buy anything we desire. We live in an age where the idea of seasonality is almost obsolete, we have access to fresh blueberries and strawberries in the dead of winter, asparagus in the fall, and avocados whenever we feel like. But what do we really know about the way this food was grown, how much has it travelled, was it sprayed with pesticides, etc?
And the healthier the soil, the healthier the crop. When plants have the nutrients and root systems they need to thrive, they build compounds to help protect against insects and disease. There is also growing evidence that a healthy soil microbiome full of necessary bacteria, fungi, and nematodes is more likely to produce nutrient-dense food, promoting better human health.
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE PRACTICES
- Support Local: One of the best things you can do to support regenerative agriculture practices in your local community is to support the small farmers who are choosing to farm in this way. If you buy locally you may even be able to visit their farm and see how their food is grown. If you have to shop in your supermarket buy local fruit and vegetables and if possible in the season. This may be a bit more costly but in the long run, will make you healthier and could save you money in medical bills.
- .Choose Brands Who Support Regenerative Farming: When you choose to support companies that are involved in the regenerative farming movement, you are choosing to use your money to vote for the kind of food system you want to see in the future. For example, Danone sees regenerative agriculture as resting on three pillars: protecting soil, empowering a new generation of farmers and promoting animal welfare.
- Advocate For Regenerative Farming: Lastly, become an advocate for regenerative farming in your local community. Simply by sharing this article, engaging in conversations, doing your own research, showing up at town meetings, finding where your local regenerative farms are. No matter how small your contribution to this regenerative agriculture is, it will no doubt contribute to a healthier future for people and our planet.
Only 3 weeks ago, I knew nothing about regenerative agriculture and it’s huge potential to reverse climate change.
I am now more optimistic for the future of mankind and this beautiful planet we have the privilege to share for a brief moment in time. If you are interested I strongly recommend to find out more, by listening to Zach Bush MD, and his project called Farmer’s Footprint.
Take care my friends, don’t forget to share, until next week.
Smart living to 100