Regenerative Farming and Gardening

Regenerative Farming and Gardening

(2 - 3 minute read)

Regenerative gardening and farming has an intention not just to feed people, but to build soils, care for ecology, and leave the entire web of life stronger, richer, more complex and more resilient after our growing systems are in place, than it was before.

Growing food regeneratively means growing food in ecosystems, not mono-cultures. Biologically diverse, stable ecosystems that can grow more vigorous and more bountiful with each passing season.

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Two completely different approaches to growing food 

Industrial agriculture extracts. Regenerative agriculture restores and replenishes.

Industrial agriculture is the practice of growing food for the purpose of selling it, as a commodity, to make a profit. 

One way to describe this is to call it "extractive" agriculture.

Industrial agriculture extracts nutrients and biodiversity from soils and ecosystems in ways that make it extremely difficult to replenish them. The only way it can do so is with a heavy reliance on synthetic inputs.

(Don't be in too much hurry to blame industrial farmers; they're often pushed into this narrow, short-term focus by the need to stay economically viable in a monetary system that does not reward holistic thinking.)

Regenerative agriculture on the other hand seeks to grow food in ways that are ethical, that build connections rather than destroying them, and that will still enable our great grandchildren to meet their needs. 

Food growers who use regenerative approaches do so with an intention not just to grow food for people, but to leave the entire web of life stronger, richer, more complex and more resilient as a result of humans growing food, than it would be without them.


Ecosystems need humans who love them

Who better to care for an ecosystem?

I very often hear that nature would be better off without humans.

That the only species that could be removed from an ecosystem without damage to the ecosystem would be humans. 

I disagree. I think that what our ecosytems desperately need is humans who love them.

Humans, of course, are clever, intelligent, inventive, tool users who can plan for the future and learn from the past. Who better to care for an ecosystem?

Food-growing humans who love an ecosystem will seek to grow food in ways that give back to the soil, the place, and the diversity of living things that share that place. And food-eating humans who love an ecosystem will seek to support food-growers who care for it in these ways.


Ecosystems, not mono-cultures

With an ecosystem focus framing food production, rather than just a profit focus, everything changes.

A significant feature of regenerative agriculture is that it means growing food not in mono-cultures, but in ecosystems.  

(A mono-culture is basically a large area dedicated to producing just one crop, having wiped out the majority of other living things in the vicinity.

When you eat food grown like this, you are eating something that's been severed from the web of life it should have been part of. You are eating something that is has been artificially produced.)

Food does not need to be grown in monocultures. It can, and should, be grown in ecosystems. Biologically diverse, stable ecosystems that can grow more vigorous, more bountiful, and more interconnected with neighboring ecosystems, with each passing season.

Where does an ecosystem begin or end? It doesn't. Small ecosystems are embedded in larger ones, all of them inextricably interwoven across the living planet.


Everything is connected

It's not either/or. It's also. 
The act of growing food, and also the act of looking after all of life.  

A pot of herbs on the balcony is directly connected to the source of your potting mix and the bees who visit it's flowers.

A regenerative farmer is directly reliant on the customers who choose food grown ethically, over food grown just for profit.

(That's as opposed to being reliant on the supermarket food chain, with which the farmer cannot have a relationship and which does not care about the land being farmed.)

You as a buyer of regeneratively grown food can enjoy increased health and well being not just from better food but also from knowing that more bees and butterflies are going about their tiny, critical tasks on farms that integrate insect predators rather than using pesticides.

With an ecosystem focus framing our food production, rather than a narrow profit focus, the act of growing food for the short term becomes also the act of looking after all of life, for the long term.

It's not either / or. It's also.


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Please tell me what you think - was this a useful short summary of regenerative agriculture?

What would you like for me add or explore further if I were to write something longer?

  • […] returned to the soil, but soils can only brenefit from these natural processes if they’re managed regeneratively.  Ploughing, absence of soil cover, and use of chemical fertilizers The complex interactions […]

  • Thank you for a very informative blog. I recently had my book released, Radical Regenerative Gardening and Farming, published by Rowman & Littlefield. It is based on my 40 + years in organic gardening and small scale farming (refer to website). It is about how to create balanced ecosystems and develop an intimate relationship with the land. It discusses how to integrate into your surroundings and take on the role of a facilitator rather than transform it. It is a compassionate relationship that involves a passion for nature. Thank you for sharing. My blog is; frankholzman.blogspot.com

    • Kate says:

      Hi Frank, thanks for reading!

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