You might know that our hemp and vegetable farm is USDA certified organic, but have you heard of regenerative agriculture? It’s not just a buzzword...
Regenerative farming takes organic practices one step further, asking the farmer to do even more to protect the land, people and animals that their business impacts. It’s a stricter set of guidelines to adhere to while farming; meant to make the process safer, healthier and more sustainable.
This all sounds great, right? It’s important to note that when we talk about regenerative or organic farming, we’re talking about it in comparison to industrial agriculture and factory farming. Those types of farms (which supply most grocery stores in the US) focus on maximizing speed and profit, often with devastating effects on the environment, animals and people involved. The movement to safer practices is in direct response to the damage that these farms have done.
Regenerative farms focus on supporting three main pillars: the health of the land, the animals and the people involved. Focusing on these three things creates a more sustainable business model for farmers, hopefully allowing small farmers to make a living off their land for generations to come.
Keep reading to learn more about the three pillars - and how we do things on our farm - below.
1. Soil health
Healthy soil should be full of organic matter: microscopic organisms, nutrients, insects, water and decomposing plants. Healthy soil is that which allows plants to grow to their maximum productivity and nutritional density without disease or pests.
We’ve been an organic farm for 10 years, so we are well-versed in the concept of soil health. We plant cover crops, rotate crops and selectively till the soil to prevent weeds. We don’t add agrochemical inputs to our land such as pesticides and herbicides.
Healthy soil is the foundation of all farms - which means it’s vital to our food chain. The UN reports that our farmable soil is seriously at risk and will only last around sixty years at the current rate of use with conventional practices. Soil conservation is of utmost importance for the health of humans now and in the future.
2. Animal welfare
We don’t currently have farm animals, but our tending of the soil and not using chemical pest management supports the natural ecosystem which includes wild birds, bees, and other critters.
Animals raised organically have a better quality of life than those on conventional farms and the nutritional quality of pasture-based products is higher. In regenerative livestock farming, there is an emphasis on getting animals into pasture and restrictions on the use of antibiotics and hormones. When managed properly, animals can also improve the health of the soil - helping with pillar #1. That’s the thing about regenerative, it takes into account that in a healthy ecosystem, everything feeds everything else. It’s all about balance.
3. Social fairness
Working conditions of farmers and farm crew are often left out of the conversation about agriculture - but not in the regenerative world. To be truly sustainable, the welfare of the human beings doing the farming needs to be prioritized.
Regenerative guidelines ensure living wages, safe working conditions and freedom of association for farmers and farmworkers.
Farm jobs in the conventional industry usually include low wages, physically demanding and dangerous conditions, and no job security. Disrupting this system is a way to protect the humans who grow our food - and create a more holistic view of the industry.
Though the USDA Certified Organic seal continues to be a rigorous standard, it has some gaps. Our farm is in the process of becoming Regenerative Organic Certified™, the newest and highest standard in food labeling.