What is Regenerative Agriculture?

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

The term regenerative agriculture or regenerative farming has developed over the past 30 years. There are a few slight variations of the definition and as time goes by the definition is refined or expanded further to encompass all the elements as they develop.  This development comes from research and innovation in systems and processes that contribute to regenerative agriculture.

For formal definitions of regenerative farming, the following give a good basis to start for those new to the concept.  The first from Rodale who coined the term in the 1980s has a basis in organic agriculture.

“Regenerative organic agriculture improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being.” – Rodale Institute

The following definition outlines some of the specifics a little more:

“Regenerative agriculture is any kind of farming that enables the restorative capacity of the earth. Regenerative agriculture preserves or improves the fertility of the soil, creates an abundance of food and other agricultural products, contributes to vibrant communities and equitable economies, and respects the ecology of the natural world. Fertile soil helps create nourishing food and, in turn, healthy people and robust communities.” Farmers without Borders

There a few key elements to regenerative agriculture that set it apart from some of our past systems:

  • It is Holistic – it utilises holistic management and planning principles – ecology, people/social and economy. We consider our whole and the wholes around us that we connect, interact with and influence.
  • It focuses on the soil and developing the biology and fertility of soils as the basis of the system.  Many farmers change how they describe themselves and call themselves soil farmers. Following the 6 Principles of Soil Health focuses our activity.
  • It is focused on abundance and resilience utilising Polycultures.  By developing systems that mimic natural bio diverse ecosystems and natural processes, then as forces impact on the system, such as climate, it is able to survive and thrive in the face of those forces. This means many enterprises, animal types and plant species.  In plants the focus is on mainly perennials that provide longevity and resilience to the system.
  • Focus on the whole food system from production to consumption and back again.  The perfect outcome is those that loop from food, to consumption and “waste”, returned to the system for the next round.
  • Connections with producers and consumers. By focusing on the whole food system there is a development of connecting people with their food again and as a result, many regenerative farmers have a local supply model only, but it is more about connections with producers and consumers and the backward links or return loop.
  • And finally, it is not based on growth for growth’s sake – this means many operations set a limit to their size based on the productive capacity of their land, the people and the community.  This also allows for others to share in the prosperity of the system.

At Southern Blue Regenerative we also focus on multiplicity through the production and distribution system – that there are a variety of different farm types, operations, marketing methods and customers.  Our aim is to investigate the variety of ways that regenerative agriculture practitioners are doing things. We look at the variety in the marketing and distribution of products from and as part of the farming system.  We do this because we know that one size will not fit all. And that, based on a person’s, a couple’s or management team’s Holistic Goal the particular setup or operation and production system that fulfills their goal will be different.

An important part of Regenerative Agriculture is that it is about the whole food system, not just the production end. This means it concentrates on delivering food to consumers in a way that allows for choice and knowledge about the food they are eating.

If you are interested in finding out more about regenerative farming we run training programs including visits to case-study farms on a regular basis.  See our Education section for more information on current farming tours and workshops and field days.