What’s Old Is New

“Regenerative gardening means practicing gardening in a holistic way that regenerates the soil, our bodies, our living environment, and our planet,” says Shangwen Chiu Kennedy, a landscape and urban designer. “It focuses on putting nutrients back into the soil, resulting in plants capturing and storing carbon from atmospheric CO2 in the soil while also improving soil health, crop yields, water resilience, and nutrient density. This results in more nutritious food for us.”

                                ~  Erin Bunch                                     

It’s an age-old practice finding a new footing in modern agriculture. Regenerative agriculture tries to do away with the most dangerous and damaging aspects of modern agriculture — chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, over-production and soil loss — and compensate for global warming impacts by sequestering carbon. Agricultural industries producing added-value products such as breweries and wineries have found that retooling their farming practices provides long-term stability and profitability in the face of climate change. 

According to writer Erin Bunch, “Traditional modern agriculture is not healthy for the planet, which is why more and more farmers are turning to regenerative agriculture. The latter relies on practices meant to emulate nature, so that farms aren’t just sustainable but actually beneficial for the land and the creatures that inhabit it.”

Journalist Shelby Vittek writes, “There are no clear-cut definitions of the term, but at its core, regenerative agriculture focuses on rebuilding, restoring and supporting the organic matter that composes healthy soils. It involves three pillars — soil health, animal welfare and social fairness — and takes a holistic approach to increasing biodiversity and resiliency, enriching soils and improving ecosystems and the health of a farm and its surrounding community.”

“Regenerative agriculture farming techniques include minimal or no tilling of soil, rotating crops and planting cover crops to enrich soil health, as well as using compost and animal waste in place of chemical fertilizers. The goal is to simultaneously decrease carbon emissions and increase carbon uptake and storage.”

She notes that farmers have been inventive about their approaches, including “silvopasture, an intentional combination of trees, forage plants and livestock together as an integrated system. The farm is planted with native pollinators, as well as native grasses for migrating birds to lay their eggs as they pass through the area. Nearly everything the farm needs is made or grown on site.”

She quotes long-time regenerative farmer Charles Rosen “Between the pigs and the chickens and the pollinators and the apples and other vegetables, we have this integrative functionality … It’s not just diversity for diversity’s sake. It’s diversity that creates a functioning ecosystem.”

Vittek quotes grower Jason Haas, “The whole point behind regenerative agriculture is to address the big-picture questions of climate change and water. Those are impossible to solve if you don’t get agriculture on the side of the solution.”

Those of us with home garden compost piles can relate to aspects of regenerative farming — returning the nutrients and organics from our own “farming” to the soil to keep it healthy. Bunch notes, “And while home gardens have much smaller eco footprints than acres of farmland, every little bit helps when it comes to the climate crisis — and your backyard garden can actually be made regenerative, too.”

Bunch has ten tips for small gardeners practicing regenerative gardening:

“1. Refrain from tilling

2. Feed your plants from your compost pile

3. Plant a diverse crop

4. Practice companion planting

5. Utilize cover crops if possible

6. Add flowers

7. Pack ’em in

8. Give the lawn around your garden a strategic trim

9. Garden according to the moon

10. Don’t give up!”

One other good thing about home gardens is that we don’t actually have to keep a herd of sheep, pigs or chickens to perform regenerative gardening. Your neighbors will be happy about that.

Additional Information:

Erin Bunch, How to Practice Regenerative Agriculture in Your Own Home Garden, June 14, 2021, Well + Good, https://www.wellandgood.com

Shelby Vittek, Is Booze the Next Frontier for Regenerative Agriculture?, April 12, 2021, Modern Farmer

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