Regenerative agriculture is not new, it is how indigenous cultures farmed in harmony with nature centuries ago. It is the combination of two land use practices: permaculture and organic standards. These two practices are used to progressively improve whole agroecosystems: including soil, water, air and biodiversity.
The first land use practice, permaculture, is the idea of creating a closed loop system with as little reliance on outside inputs as possible. To achieve this, the land, water, and biodiversity of the ecosystems must create mutually beneficial relationships. Forests, wetlands, prairies, and bodies of water are perfect permacultures.
On our ranch, we take advantage of the existing permacultures of our forests, brush, and wetlands. Their inclusion in our operation attracts a diversity of wildlife, fungi, bacteria, and minerals; and it provides wild forage for our animals. Woodland and wetland wildlife aerate the soil and water, create habitats for insects and pollinators, disperse new and wild seed varieties, and attract more and diverse wildlife. This diversity also brings unique fungi and bacteria that aid in decomposition. The decomposing plant and animal life deposit minerals into the soil where the fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms then extract and provide those minerals directly to the roots of the living plants for their use. Grazing animals in these permacultures results in healthier ecosystems, healthier animals, and nutrient dense food for us.
The second land use practice, National Organic Standards, is designed to promote soil regeneration, improve water and air quality, and ensure the ethical treatment of animals. To achieve these goals, organic farmers are prohibited from using harmful chemicals and are encouraged to plant diverse pastures and cover crops, to input minerals to the soil, to utilize no-till or low-till practices, and to retain, protect, and improve forests and wetlands.
The elimination of harmful chemicals results in cleaner air, a cleaner and more abundant water supply, rising water tables, replenishing aquifers, and eliminating toxic algae blooms.
Our organic practices are helping to protect and enhance the water, air, and permacultures on our land. As we increase organic matter and rare and ultra-rare minerals in our soil, we improve drought resilience, increase the water holding capacity of the soil, and protect the water quality and wildlife. These practices also eliminate soil destruction, erosion, desertification, the loss of arable topsoil, and decarbonization.
The loss of arable topsoil is a growing concern for agriculture. Topsoil protects our water supply, improves our air quality, and is needed for good crop yields and for plants to reach their full genetic potential. Not to mention, it lessens the impacts of drought and pests.
Decarbonization is the loss of carbon from the soil, resulting in more carbon in the air. Permacultures and organic practices sequester the carbon, pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it back into the soil as organic matter. Improving and increasing our woodlands and wetlands also reverse decarbonization. Photosynthesis is the process of removing carbon from the atmosphere through the leaves with solar energy and then releasing oxygen into the atmosphere and providing sugar for the plant to grow.
In addition to the 120-day National Organic Standard for pasturing animals, we pasture our animals 365 days a year and eliminate the need for grain. It also eliminates the construction and upkeep of barns and the energy to run them. And it allows us to utilize their waste to build organic matter in the soil right in our pastures and woodlands. Allowing our animals to live year-round in a natural habitat and eat their natural diet increases the health of all our animals and make us less reliant on outside inputs for their health.
Our choice to practice regenerative agriculture is so that our land will be a reserve for wildlife, our soil will be regenerated, our water will be free of chemicals, our air quality will improve, our animals and plants will be heathier, and we can provide healthy, sustainable food to our community.