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What Regenerative Agriculture Is, and Why It Matters

A perspective from the ground

In a hurry? Here are the tidbits.

Our food system--one of the biggest drivers of climate change and land degradation--needs change from the ground up (literally). Regenerative agriculture--a farming paradigm that goes beyond organic--is one of the solutions. It focuses on soil fertility and ecological health to fight climate change and build resilience to our food system. Based on global extrapolation of farming and grazing research data, it has the potential to sequester more than 100% of current carbon emissions [1].

Got 2 mins? Read on to learn more.

burnt agriculture fields

of global greenhouse gas emissions are from the food system--making it one of the main sources of emissions [2].

degraded land used to grow crops

of Earth's soils, where 95% of our food comes from, could become degraded by 2050 [3].

To be honest, when we first set out to find out if there is any way we could help improve our food system, we didn't know about regenerative agriculture.

rice straws left on the field to protect the soil and build organic matter in one of the farms we worked at

We found it from the ground.

It's from traveling through Thailand and working on different farms that we started to notice that there is this group of farmers whose lands have healthier soil, higher yields, and thriving ecosystems than other farmers. They don't always use the same techniques, but these techniques share two common themes:

one of the common ingredients of compost is brown leaves that farmer is adding to the pile

Working To Close On-Farm Nutrients Loops and Building Healthy Soil.

Well-nourished soil is a key to farm resilience and long-term sustainable food production [4]. And as it turns out, these farmers also end up ditching those external chemical inputs that are draining farmers' incomes. Good for their pockets (and soil). Good for consumers' health.

bananas intercropped with durians

Growing Diverse Cash Crops and Native Plants Year-Round.

Keeping the ground covered with diverse living roots throughout the year--maintaining the biodiversity above and below ground--is crucial for building the land capacity to sequester carbon [5]. These various mixes of plants also provide ecological benefits from creating pollinator habitats and improving the farm's water quality to preventing neighbor's pesticides from landing on the farm.

After a lot of research, we found that there is a name that encompasses these principles. It's called Regenerative Agriculture, and it has been used in many parts of the world, albeit in different variations, to increase soil fertility, develop various ecosystem services, and sequester carbon. Later on, the above principles become our compass when deciding which farms to partner with to bring delicious food to you.

1. Moyer, J., Smith, A., Rui, Y., Hayden, J. (2020). Regenerative agriculture and the soil carbon solution [white paper]. (https://rodaleinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/Rodale-Soil-Carbon-White-Paper_v11-compressed.pdf) 2. IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, E. Calvo Buendia, V. Masson-Delmotte, H.-O. Pörtner, D. C. Roberts, P. Zhai, R. Slade, S. Connors, R. van Diemen, M. Ferrat, E. Haughey, S. Luz, S. Neogi, M. Pathak, J. Petzold, J. Portugal Pereira, P. Vyas, E. Huntley, K. Kissick, M. Belkacemi, J. Malley, (eds.)]. In press. 3. FAO, 2019. Outcome document of the Global Symposium on Soil Erosion. Rome. 4. FAO, 2005. The importance of soil organic matter. Key to drought-resistant soil and sustained food and production. Rome. 5. Chen, Shiping, et al. "Plant Diversity Enhances Productivity and Soil Carbon Storage." PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 17 Apr. 2018, www.pnas.org/content/115/16/4027.