This article appears in our 2018 All-One! Report, read the full report here.
The most technically sophisticated form of agriculture, designed to solve our future food and climate challenges? Or the most ancient, wise, and timeless way of growing? Regenerative organic agriculture is both.
At its heart is an idea—not an ideology or political belief, but a universal truth of the natural world: All things are connected. The seed, the plant, the soil, the animal on the land and the sky above, the person who raises the food and the person who eats it—one interlocking system, and a single piece cannot be treated as separate, cannot be mistreated, without affecting the others.
Industrial agriculture suffers from a sickness that sees this miraculously complex system as a linear production line. Industrial ag is about “maximizing yields” while ignoring consequences—to our soil, to our health, to the well-being of workers, animals, atmosphere, and planet. To industrial ag, soil is just dirt, a lifeless medium to plow through and soak with fertilizers and poisons. But soil is alive! A single tablespoon holds more living organisms than there are people on the planet. To sicken the soil is to sicken ourselves and our planet.
The health of soil is one of the three principles of regenerative organic agriculture that guides the way we grow: no chemical poisons, diverse and smart rotation of crops to minimize pest and weed pressure, conservation tillage, and using fertility-building cover crops to protect and nurture soil life.
Animal welfare is the second principle of regenerative organic agriculture. Industrial animal ag is one of the cruelest, most destructive human behaviors on the planet, leading to disastrous outcomes for the environment as well as the lives of living, feeling, aware creatures. CAFOs—Confined Animal Feeding Operations—are cruel not only to animals, but to the land, the atmosphere, to our own souls. Regenerative organic agriculture guides how we treat animals: as sentient beings deserving of our care and respect. And, managed carefully, ruminants grazing pasture can be a key practice for building soil health.
The third principle of regenerative organic agriculture is human welfare: fair wages and conditions for farmers, ranchers, and workers. In regenerative organic ag, social justice and fair pay are not separate issues, but enmeshed in the principles of a healthy, vibrant, sustainable food system.
And the sweetest, most profound outcome of regenerative organic agriculture: its potential to reverse climate change. Rodale Institute research estimates that if current global crop acreage and pastureland shifted to RO practices, a huge amount of excess atmospheric carbon could be sequestered in the soil.
Every day, in the food choices you make, you have the opportunity to join us in supporting regenerative organic agriculture. Eating is a political act! Every choice, every bite, is a vote for the kind of Earth we want to grow.