“The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of us all”
— Wendell Berry
What it's like today?
The negative impacts of our production cycles that keep our supermarkets permanently stocked is endless. This includes vast areas of abandoned arable land, billions of tons of lost topsoil, dangerous atmospheric pollution, choking waterways, a looming antibiotic crisis, tens of thousands of deaths from pesticide exposure and a quarter of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.
How did this happen?
We relied on add-ons that focus on improving the efficiency of one specific part of the system: yield, size, durability, growth rate, trawling area, harvesting speed and so on. We treated the farm like an engine, mechanical and predictable, when it doesn't quite work for a complex, natural system like a farm. The system of a farm sits within and relies on interactions with the larger natural system. For example, the crops need insects to pollinate, surface and groundwater to irrigate, microbes to cycle nutrients, and soil to provide a strong and fertile growth medium.
Then how can we provide healthy food for everyone?
Regenerative agriculture describes a broad set of production methods with two clear and complementary outcomes: the production of high quality food and the improvement of the surrounding natural ecosystem. Some label it a radically different form of agriculture. More accurately, it borrows from an pre-industrial form of cultivation, updated and improved based on a better scientific understanding of soil, water and the relationships that exist in natural ecosystems.
Regenerative agriculture recognises that farms are part of a larger ecosystem. It understands that agricultural activities must not just make withdrawals from this larger system, but also pay into it. The overall ambition shifts from extractive, linear thinking that prioritises high yields above all else, to establishing cycles of regeneration.
It is possible to produce food for everyone, make a decent profit, protect farmers and local communities from harm, and enhance the environment — all at the same time.
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