Regenerative Agriculture: What Is It?
It seems everyone is talking about ‘regenerative agriculture’ these days. The farm magazines feature farmers who are converting their farms to regenerative practices and on and on.
What exactly are we talking about here?
Probably the one who said it best is Gabe Brown when he said: “I used to wake up every morning and think, ‘What can I kill today?’ Now I wake up thinking what life can I preserve today.”
Modern agriculture is focused on killing weeds, killing pests and producing monocultures. In so doing many chemicals are needed to kill the pests and weeds that are the result of the farming practices being employed. Soil life is non-existent due to excessive tillage and chemical usage.
Regenerative agriculture on the other hand is trying to greatly reduce or completely eliminate the use of chemicals such as the widely known Glyphosate and many other herbicides and pesticides.
Many farmers are employing the use of No-Till and cover crops to protect the soil in the non-growing season. By keeping living roots in the soil as much of the year as possible they are protecting the soil from erosion while feeding the soil life with the diversity of root exudates.
At New Grass Farms we use no pesticides of any kind. It has been interesting to see some of the changes that are taking place on our small farm.
While sometimes it seems the changes are so slow in coming that one hardly notices them, changes are happening!
I am starting to see native grasses that I have not seen before like Eastern Gamma grass. Gamma grass is said to be the ‘ice-cream’ of grasses. Livestock love it and in conventionally managed grazing operations it goes extinct because the cattle overgraze it, and it dies out.
In a regenerative grazing operation like ours, we rotate our cattle and sheep and give the pastures long rest periods with no livestock on them allowing the grasses and forbs to recover.
It is true that if you drive past our pastureland, you will see some ‘weeds.’ But then, what exactly are weeds?
In a corn field a soybean plant is a weed and vice versa. These so-called weeds are often high in protein and are able to mineralize the soil with their deep roots.
In essence, regenerative agriculture is learning to work with Nature instead of relying on all the many man-made chemicals and products invented to put money in someone else’s pocket while destroying nature itself.
Ok, enough on all that. I am sorry if I have bored you half to death with my long epistle today. It is what I have been inspired with so that is what spilled out.