You may (or may not) have heard the term regenerative agriculture and have been wondering “what the heck does that mean?” Regenerative systems (agriculture just being a part of the equation) are critical for the future of humanity and are a huge solution to some of our most pressing health and environmental issues. Let’s start by identifying the three major agricultural systems.
Progressive, often irreversible deterioration of cells, organisms, and ecosystems. Some human health examples of a degenerative disease are cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis. Examples of degenerative systems within our food supply are monoculture crop production, confined animal feedlot operations (CAFOs), pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, synthetic fertilizer, improper land management (animal and plant production). In a degenerative system, humans are always fighting nature and/or trying to conquer nature. There is an imbalance of give and take – within this model, humans are taking in excess and not putting anything back in return.
You may be more familiar with the term sustainable, as it feels like everyone nowadays wants to live a more “sustainable” lifestyle and contribute to a better system where people take better care of the earth. But, what does sustainable really mean and how does it apply when talking about an already degraded existence? Let’s dive in! One definition of the word sustainable is “able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed.” In other words, sustainable means to keep things the way they are in their current state. Status quo. Sustainable is our reaction to an already degenerative relationship with nature; it is a “take out, put back” model (think the recycling icon). If we have been living in a degenerative system for over 10,000 years, does striving for sustainability make sense? What good does it do to sustain a disease like Alzheimer’s? Sustain the desert? Sustainability is not the answer.
There are several definitions of regenerative, but I liked these two the best: renewal or restoration of a body or biological system after injury or as a normal process. Bringing into renewed existence; generating again. Creating a net positive impact on the environment or your own body. Applying regenerative to human health, this would look like reversing or healing a chronic disease. In agriculture, regeneration is the process of bringing existing degraded land (70% of existing grasslands are degraded globally) back to life – increasing biodiversity, enriching soil organic matter and structure, improving water infiltration. Working with nature to support a thriving ecosystem. Regenerative agriculture aims to capture carbon in the soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. Everything in nature is regenerative (yes, even death!), and we as humans have simply been working against it.
Here’s how I see it. We have three systems we can participate in as consumers (with our voting dollars) andas land stewards (whether we work on the land or not, we are making choices that directly impact the land itself):
1) Degenerative = destroy
2) Sustainable = survive
3) Regenerative = thrive
You can learn more about the regenerative agriculture movement through my company, Force of Nature. We have learned so much through this journey and are excited to share it with you all. Learn more at forceofnaturemeats.com and on our instagram.