What the Heck Is Regenerative Farming?
You've heard the word “regenerative” thrown around more often these days, haven't you? Like the word “sustainable”, this term has come to reflect an ambiguous concept touted by farmers and eco-enthusiasts alike. Turns out, regenerative is not only a natural function of life, but also is a farm tag confirming your food comes from a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.
So what is regenerative anyway? In biology, regeneration is defined as the process of renewal, restoration, and growth that makes genomes, cells, organisms, and ecosystems resilient to natural fluctuations or events that cause disturbance or damage (1). In other words, the capacity to weather a storm and come back anew is regenerative.
But wait a minute. Doesn’t that make everything alive regenerative? Well, sort of
What is life?
Firstly, what does being alive actually mean? So far we know it includes:
But beyond a checklist of features, what is the actual dynamic process behind being alive (2)? Well, to put it simply, it is to be in relationship. To exist in a perpetual state of interplay between one’s own multilayered complexity and the multilayered complexity of one’s environment.
We are ‘alive’ until we are no longer engaged in this relationship. Until we can no longer act or respond to what is around us of our own volition. But even when we die—from some disturbance or damage—our bodies don’t just vanish into thin air. Nothing made of matter does. Rather, our remains become of service to the multilayered complexity so that other forms of life can continue, or new forms of life can be created. (Note: we are not making a claim as to who or what orchestrates this process.)
We can break it down further to say, anyone or anything that is alive is designed and organized to regenerate. And when they can no longer regenerate themselves, their remaining form is used to regenerate other forms of life. We are alive to give new life within and beyond ourselves. That is what makes us regenerative. Make sense?
So what is regenerative farming?
Well for starters, farming is the process by which our aliveness interacts with other forms of aliveness in the cultivation of food. This food is made up of a myriad of life forms—plant, animal, fungi, bacteria, even viruses!—which when eaten and digested (aka damage and disturbance) allow our own life forms to continue their active process of regeneration. So in effect, eating food is a way we consciously experience regeneration on a daily basis.
If farming is the cultivation of food that regenerates us, can cultivation itself be regenerative? Absolutely. What this means is that the process of seeding, nurturing, inoculating, and ultimately growing that which then grows us, must embed itself in the naturally occurring cycles of disturbance and renewal.
Here on the farm, our animals create the necessary disturbance on our pastures to stimulate improved plant growth, increase carbon deposits in the soil instead of the atmosphere, and encourage soil fertility (think microbe-city). This in turn raises water retention and percolation for clean run-off into our streams. This happens just from our animals doing what they (doo)—eating and excreting—while being frequently moved around the pasture.
Each disturbance and subsequent rest enriches the soil to hold more diverse species of insects and plants, and invites more wildlife which increases the abundance of life forms in the multilayered complexity. This boosts not only the health of the farm, but also your health as the consumer of this process.
Your food is rich with absorbable nutrients from the diverse life forms who continue to give of themselves beyond being alive. So that your life can eventually do the same thing.
When we focus on regeneration, we can see how everything is connected in one way or another, to just about everything else. We can witness creation and birth as being dependent on death and decay. Rather than avoid or suppress what seems out of place, we can embrace it, curious about what essential role it plays.
Interested in seeing regeneration in action? Send us an email about paying a visit to the farm!