With climate change beginning to heavily affect agriculture, as well as a  growing world population, there is a growing concern about whether current agricultural practices are enough to provide for everyone. Current, mainstream agricultural practices are contributing to soil degradation and loss. Within 50 years, there may not be enough soil left to feed the world, according to regenerative farming organization Regeneration International. Intensive farming also churns up CO2 naturally stored in soil and releases it into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. However, regenerative agricultural practices might help fix the problems that are currently developing thanks to climate change.

What Is Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that seeks to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm. This system places heavy importance to soil health. Attention is also paid to water management, fertilizer use, and more. This method of farming is meant to improve the resources it uses rather than destroying or depleting them like traditional methods.  

Regenerative agriculture has  much emphasis on looking holistically at the ecosystem when farming, using techniques such as conservation tillage, diversity, rotation and cover crops, and minimizing the physical and chemical disruption of the crops and soil. Conservation tillage involves adopting low or no-till practices, which minimizes physical disturbance of the soil. This method  increases levels of soil organic matter and creates healthier, more resilient environments for plants to thrive. Increasing the plant diversity of fields can help create rich, varied, and nutrient-dense soils leading to more productive yields. Rotating which crops are grown and deploying cover crops can infuse soils with more diverse soil organic matter and prevent pests and disease. Additionally, minimizing the amount of chemicals and physical disturbance of the soil can help maintain the natural relationship that plant roots and microorganisms in the soil have with each other.

What Impact Does Regenerative Agriculture Have Internationally?

There are already organizations trying to encourage regenerative agricultural practices all over the world. 

Restore Africa, a new carbon finance model established by the Global EverGreening Alliance, aims to restore 1.9 million hectares of land across six African countries – Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The project will show how corporate investment can significantly increase the benefits of farmer-led land restoration, explains Chris Armitage, chief executive of the alliance. Money from nearly half of the carbon credits will also go back to the communities.  The project connects multiple stakeholders to create the scale needed to transform and restore ecosystems. Though it is designed to be attractive for corporates and organizations looking to offset their unavoidable carbon emissions, there will be stringent controls and initiatives that must be signed off by an advisory committee involving Oxfam and Care International. Restore Africa includes technical assistance, inclusive employment opportunities, and better routes to market. Through this project, they also contribute to the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative, which aims to bring at least 100 million hectares of degraded land under restoration by 2030.

McCain committed to implementing regenerative agricultural practices across all of its potato acreage worldwide by the end of 2030. Through its Sustainability Incentive Program, FCC customers who are McCain suppliers are eligible to receive an incentive payment for their farm sustainability efforts. The calculation is based on a portion of their total owing for eligible lending with FCC to a maximum payment of CAD $2,000 a year. Participating McCain potato growers will also receive free access to FCC AgExpert farm management software for a year.

What Impact Does Regenerative Agriculture Have in Canada & KW?

There are already organizations in Canada that are working to encourage and incorporate more regenerative agricultural practices. Regeneration Canada is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting soil regeneration in order to mitigate climate change, restore biodiversity, improve water cycles, and support a healthy food system. To achieve this goal, they create spaces for farmers, landowners, scientists, agronomists, businesses, community organizations, governments, and citizens to learn, connect and take action to regenerate soils.

There are also farms that are individually using regenerative agricultural practices to grow their food as well. One example of these farms is Little Fields Farm, a diverse small-scale ecological farm growing vegetables, cut flowers, pasture-raised chicken, turkey, pork, and eggs using regenerative farming practices located in Bright, Ontario.

Another farm using regenerative agricultural practices is Alexandra’s Farm, which operates in St. George, in Brant County, south of Waterloo region. Alexandra’s Farm partners with Growing Hope Farm, a rotational, pasture-raised livestock farm, to turn Growing Hope’s animal manure from their rotationally grazed livestock into compost. This compost feeds the soil ecosystem that feeds the plants.

With so many areas around the world and in Canada that are trying to incorporate more regenerative agricultural practices, it could become the future of farming. So what do you think about regenerative agriculture? Let us know by tagging us at @SustainableWat!