What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Following along with the current saga of climate change and environmental degradation can sometimes feel like such a hopeless prospect. You may wonder how real change can be affected when so much of the world seems unwilling to commit to making the choices that would make a difference, and many still don’t even believe that climate change is a problem.
In fact, according to a recent Pew Research study, only 59% of Americans see climate change as a major threat, lagging behind many other developed nations. The good news is, this number has increased since 2013, when it was closer to 40%. That means that despite the fact that we have a long way to go, progress is being made.
But we’re not here to talk about that. If you support our company and read our blog, you’re aware of these issues and committed to doing your part to combat them. The purpose of this post is to offer you a bit of hope - there are companies and people out there that are willing to put the sweat equity into making sure that climate change and environmental sustainability remain at the forefront of what they do, and if enough people support that mission, real change can be affected. We believe that one of the most important changes that can have worldwide effect on these important issues is switching to a method known as regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative Agriculture is Needed Now More Than Ever
One of the best ways to help combat climate change and environmental destruction is by changing agricultural practices, which play no small part in environmental issues. According to research by the U.S. Geological Survey, agriculture negatively affects the environment in several ways:
- land use change and habitat fragmentation on wildlife.
- conflicting urban and agricultural water demands.
- air and ground-water and surface-water interactions on water quality.
- effects of agricultural drainage, irrigation, and return flow on water quality.
- negative effects of genetically modified organisms on native species and habitats.
- pesticides, nutrients, and sediments and the effect they have on fish and wildlife health and habitat quality.
- watershed characteristics—soils, riparian forests, and wetlands— and effects on nutrient uptake, retention, and cycling.
- the transport and fate of endocrine disrupting compounds, veterinary antibiotics, feed additives, hormones, and pathogens in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
While this study was completed in 2007, the same issues are still being faced today when it comes to conventional agricultural practices.
Regenerative agriculture is a movement that hopes to lessen or even eradicate these issues by placing focus on several factors that conventional farming does not. While definitions of regenerative agriculture vary and are ever-evolving, we think that this Wikipedia entry sums it up pretty nicely:
Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil.
Borrowing from the Past to Change the Future
Despite its growing popularity (yay!) regenerative agriculture is nothing new. In fact, it’s the way that farming began, dating back tens of thousands of years, and is a practice that indigenous cultures have followed all along; across many indigenous cultures, farming and land stewardship have always gone hand in hand.
As agriculture became more of an industry than a way of life and profits became more important than conservancy, the regenerative agriculture practices that small-scale farmers and agricultural communities had followed for hundreds of years were replaced with methods that focused more on efficiency than environmental sustainability. Regenerative agriculture, which takes sustainability and conservation a step further and focuses on actually replenishing the resources used during the farming process, has the power to help turn the focus back to working with the land instead of expecting the land to work for us. And the awesome thing about regenerative agriculture is that you don’t have to be a farmer to support it.
According to Ronnie Cummins, one of the founding members of Regeneration International, a nonprofit formed in 2015 to bring awareness to and acceleration of the global regenerative agriculture movement:
One of the best-kept secrets in the world today is that the solution to global warming and the climate crisis (as well as poverty and deteriorating public health) lies right under our feet, and at the end of our knives and forks.
By supporting farms that practice regenerative agriculture, consumers can put their dollars to work for the greater good, and for their own good as well. As we’ve discussed often on our blog, regenerative agriculture practices such as raising animals on pasture is not only better for the environment and the animals, but the end result is a much more nutritious product because of these agricultural practices. Whether you’re growing chickens or vegetables, better soil quality and biodiversity will affect the nutrient density of the product that “grows” on that soil. When it comes to chickens, they “grow” by foraging for a varied and nutrient dense diet of insects, bugs, worms, and foliage, all of which are available because of a soil that has been allowed to regenerate and thrive to host its own diverse ecosystem.
What Does Regenerative Agriculture Mean for Our Chickens?
We practice regenerative agriculture for several reasons, first and foremost being that it is simply a more humane way to raise our chickens. Chickens were not meant to live confined to cages, nor were they meant to eat a “vegetarian diet”. You can thank grocery store greenwashing for making that sound like a good thing, but guess what? Chickens are not vegetarians! Part of a chicken’s natural diet are the critters that thrive in healthy soil. Chickens that are allowed to graze on fresh pasture daily (pasture that is allowed to regenerate before becoming a pecking ground again) have much healthier immune systems due to their nutrient dense diet and constant access to nutrition, fresh air, and sunshine. The result is healthier chickens that don’t need the constant stream of antibiotics and hormones that are part of a factory farmed chicken’s daily life because of its nutrient scarce diet and cramped living conditions.
So while the current environmental crisis may seem hopeless at times, take comfort in the fact that your choices do make a difference - and supporting farms like Pasturebird that practice regenerative agriculture is an easy and effective way to affect real change.
"One of the best-kept secrets in the world today is that the solution to global warming and the climate crisis (as well as poverty and deteriorating public health) lies right under our feet, and at the end of our knives and forks." - Ronnie Cummins