Choosing a New Year's resolution can be challenging, and many of us tend to repeat the same ones each year, hoping for the best. In fact, research indicates roughly 60% of us commit to resolutions, but only about 8% stick to our goals after the ball drops.
Many of the tried and true resolutions we choose are to better our own lives, and without much repercussion, if we fall back to our old ways. This year, we ask that you consider a different kind of resolution, one that will not only improve your own life, but that can impact the future for entire generations.
As we close 2019, food production and environmental well-being have never been more threatened. Centuries of industrial agricultural practices have left us on the brink of environmental disaster, with eroded and unhealthy farmland, contaminated water sources, increasingly severe weather events from an unbalanced ecosystem, and significantly lower food quality. In our attempts to fight these problems, we ended up with more chemical use, more bare and tilled soil left exposed to the elements, and unhealthy modern animal breeds raised to grow extremely fast in confined and inhumane environments.
If industrial, and even sustainable farming practices continue, the United Nations estimates that we would only have about 60 years of farmable topsoil left. With 95% of our food coming from topsoil, it’s clear that change is needed, and that change is regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative Agriculture is a farming method that applies sound ecological principles and biomimicry to regenerate living and life-giving soil. Regenerative agriculture relies on nature, not harsh chemicals or disruptive practices like tilling.
If we restore the health of our soil ecosystem, we restore our own health, the health of our farms, our communities, and our planet. When a farmer is practicing true regenerative agriculture, we like to say, “You know it when you see it.”
What do we see? The return of beneficial insects and pollinators, like bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and butterflies. The return of birds such as ground-nesting birds, song birds, migratory birds, and waterfowl. The return of wildlife such as deer, raptors, turkey, and many other furry creatures. The return of soil that actually infiltrates water and restores and recharges our underground aquifers, natural springs, and waterways. The return of a diverse plant species population.
Regenerative agriculture offers a multitude of benefits for our farms, our environments, and our food, including (but not limited to):
So, in 2020, make a resolution to support the Regenerative Agriculture movement.
Here are four simple ways you can do that:
One thing you can do to pursue your resolution is to learn more about regenerative agriculture, the basic principles and terms, and how it differs from industrial and sustainable methods. By arming yourself with knowledge, you will be in a much better position to support regenerative farming in other ways.
Here are several resources to start with:
Maybe it’s unrealistic to say you will only eat or serve regeneratively raised products. Depending on your resources, it could be done, but why not start with something more achievable?
Challenge yourself to use regeneratively raised products a couple of times a week. Chances are, once you start, you won’t want to go back to industrially or even sustainably raised products that lack natural flavor and nutrients.
If you’re a chef, start by adding a couple of regenerative products to your menu, or as a special feature. Make sure you let your customers know what makes it so special!
Once you’ve made the choice to support regenerative, the question becomes, how do I find regenerative products?
Our advice is not to rely on claims, but to engage with farmers and producers directly. Regenerative farming is a complex system, and there’s no “set and repeat” formula that is right for all farms, so it’s important to get to know the farms that produce the food you purchase. Find out what they mean when they say regenerative. Are they just composting on overgrazed land, or have they embraced all of the principles, like livestock integration, and adaptive multi-paddock grazing? Ask about their regenerative practices, or to see them in action if possible. Most farms and organizations that are truly embracing regenerative agriculture will be eager to share with you and welcome you to their farm(s)!
You may be thinking… if regenerative agriculture is as good as we say it is, why isn’t everyone using it? One of the biggest reasons is because people don’t know about it. A second major reason for farmers not transitioning to regenerative agriculture is simply fear. Fear of peer pressure from neighbors, friends, family, and suppliers if they decide to farm differently. Fear of the mountain of debt most farmers carry. Fear of doing something very different than what they have traditionally done. This fear is real and prevents farmers from doing what they should.
Regenerative agriculture is just beginning to seep into the mainstream conversation. The more educated advocates are out there, the faster we can make progress.
Talk about regenerative agriculture with your friends, your family (it makes a great holiday table topic!), the restaurants you frequent, and your social media connections. If you’re a chef using regenerative products, brag about it on your menu! It’s our responsibility to keep the dialogue going about regenerative, what it can do for all of us, and offer support to those farmers moving to regenerative or seeking a transition.
As part of our efforts at Joyce Farms, we introduced educational farm tour events and presentations to help grow awareness, but it could be as simple as a conversation or reposting content on social media!
If you don’t have experience farming or working with soil, now is a great time to start! Take up gardening in your own yard or community garden, or, look into opportunities to volunteer at a local farm. Getting some first-hand experience with the land will give you more context and understanding as you learn about soil health and other regenerative concepts.
Happy New Year from all of us at Joyce Farms!