With its focus on renewing soil and working within, rather than against, natural systems, regenerative agriculture is more than a sustainable way to farm. It can heal the damage caused by industrial agriculture and build a food system that’s better for people, animals and the environment.
The industrial food system is devastating to the environment, to communities and to people. While there are many different ways to talk about more sustainable alternatives, regenerative agriculture is one of the most popular terms used to talk about an ideal food system. Although a growing number of operations are using the word regenerative to describe their practices — including big agribusinesses who use it to market industrially grown products — the farming techniques generally included under the umbrella term regenerative agriculture come from the traditional knowledge of Indigenous people and small farmers around the world.
Regenerative agriculture is a recognition that simply stopping the destructive practices of industrial agriculture isn’t enough: agriculture must also actively heal land that has been damaged by years of industrial crop and livestock production. This includes a special focus on soil, which quickly erodes under poor land management. But regenerative agriculture isn’t just one way to farm, and it encompasses a variety of farming methods that produce food in a way that works with and builds up the surrounding ecosystem. Focusing on soil and adopting regenerative methods can have immense ecological benefits. With its capacity to lower greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and its potential to make farms more resilient against the stresses of climate change, moving towards regenerative agriculture is a necessity in the face of a warming climate.
While these techniques prioritize environmental sustainability by building up soil and fostering biodiversity, shifting to a more regenerative food system requires prioritizing food justice, respecting Indigenous people’s rights and restructuring farm policy to reduce corporate influence and bring local control to food systems.