What are the 4 Principles of Regenerative Agriculture?
Aside from our commitment to animal welfare, our focus on regenerative agriculture is the most important tenet of our business. There have been so many advancements in agriculture in the last few decades, and many of these have contributed to more food being able to reach more people, which is a great thing. However, the agricultural industry has a negative side as well, namely, its impact on the environment.
In the past, farmers used sustainable methods as a matter of course. Farming was done on a much smaller scale, and it was imperative that the land be nurtured and sustained because frankly, when the land was depleted, so was the possibility of obtaining a crop or profit from the land. When society switched to industrial farming practices, a lot of the practices used by small scale farmers were forgotten in favor of large scale industrial methods. Monocropping (growing one crop on a large scale - think corn, wheat, and soy crops) became a way for many industrial farms to maximize their profits. The problem with monocropping is that it disregards methods such as crop rotation and companion planting that help to nourish the soil and reduce or eliminate the need for weed killers and pesticides.
The good news is that as society shifts once again to a more conscious form of consumerism, agriculture too has recently begun to shift back to practices used by these small farms back in the day, and by indigenous cultures for hundreds of years before that. It’s becoming clear that industrial farming methods aren’t sustainable, the industry is slowly but surely beginning to shift back to the sustainable farming practices of our ancestors.
What is Regenerative Farming?
Regenerative farming is a process that goes beyond conservation and sustainability, to actually leave land better than we found it. Not only is regenerative farming a beneficial practice overall, but it can also be used to rehabilitate overprocessed land that has previously been used for monocropping or intensive grazing. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve likely seen our before and after pictures of our Pasturebird land - showing how degraded and barren it was before we started using the principles of regenerative agriculture to turn it into the lush and flourishing pasture land it is today.
The 4 Basic Principles of Regenerative Farming:
Reduce use of synthetic fertilizers: The use of synthetic fertilizers can negatively affect the microbiome of the soil, and interferes with the soil’s ability to absorb nutrients. Conventional agriculture relies on synthetic fertilizers to produce more crops at a faster pace, to keep up with the high demand of industrial agriculture - but soil that has adapted to synthetic fertilizer becomes dependent on that fertilizer, rather than working with the surrounding ecosystem to maintain soil biodiversity. When synthetic fertilizers are used long-term, they build up in the atmosphere and water supply, and result in crops dependent on chemicals rather than a healthy ecosystem to grow.
Decrease/eliminate tillage: Regenerative farming promotes soil diversity and reduces erosion by reducing the amount of disturbance in the soil. As a result, rather than releasing carbon into the atmosphere, it is more efficiently retained in the soil, and can actually impact the environment in a positive way by helping to reduce global warming and climate change.
Promote biodiversity: Just as a healthy gut is vital to a human body’s overall health, a healthy soil microbiome is imperative to the growth of healthy crops for human or livestock consumption. Soil biodiversity is the life that exists within soil, and is made up of the soil’s microbiome, along with fungi, insects, worms, and insects. The soil microbiome is essentially the “gut” of the land. When soil is depleted, overgrazed, or has a disturbed microbiome, its biodiversity is affected, and when the soil isn’t healthy, the crops or livestock grown on that soil will suffer too. By using methods such as cover cropping and reducing or eliminating the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides which can deplete the soil’s microbiome, regenerative agriculture fosters biodiversity and reduces soil erosion, resulting in healthier soil.
Responsible livestock grazing: We’ve spoken before about how important responsible grazing practices are to our mission here at Pasturebird. When land is overgrazed, it becomes barren and eroded, which can contribute to water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and low nutrients in new forage. By moving animals to new pastureland more frequently, the land is allowed to regenerate before being grazed on again. Aside from being healthier for the grazing animals since the pastureland is full of fresh growth rather than depleted soil, allowing soil to regenerate before being grazed on again contributes to increased water retention, reduced erosion, healthier pastureland, and plant and insect biodiversity.
Regenerative Agriculture is a Crucial Part of Pasturebird
Pasturebird is a perfect example of the transformative “powers” of regenerative agriculture. Over the last few years, we’ve worked in tandem with the land to improve the organic matter of our soil, which includes capturing 25 million more gallons of water each year than 5 years ago (the previous soil erosion caused massive water runoff rather than absorption). Through these methods, we’re able to sequester more carbon in the soil, purify and replenish the water in our aquifers, support the health of our pasture raised chickens, and produce a wholesome, nutrient dense product for our consumers.
Regenerative agriculture might sound like a new catchphrase. But in reality, these methods have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. When you support farms like Pasturebird, you’re supporting the valuable core principles of regenerative agriculture, and helping to lower the negative impact of industrial agriculture. Agriculture isn’t going anywhere - it is vital to the health of living beings worldwide. And while “industrial agriculture” leaves much to be desired, agriculture as an industry is here to stay and the key to aligning environmental sustainability and agriculture is for farmers to find a better way to farm, and for consumers to support those farmers so they can continue that important mission.