All of nature is interconnected. So, we are to the soil. The quantity and quality of our food depend on it. Keeping the soil alive and healthy is the way to ensure that we will have subsistence for centuries to come. Hence the importance of agricultural practices. Regenerative agriculture is the method that strengthens the health and vitality of the soil naturally and sustainably. It is how we can guarantee that future generations will have an abundance of high-quality food.
The term regenerative agriculture was coined in the early 80s during Robert Rodale’s quest to restore indigenous knowledge of how to relate to the land and the environment as a whole. Rodale studied the American Indians’ farming practices and correlated them with the scientific knowledge at the time. His major finding was that it is possible to copy nature by restoring organic matter and biodiversity in the soil. Resettling an ecosystem capable of finding its natural balance.
The focus of regenerative agriculture is conservation and regeneration. It prioritizes soil health while encompassing high animal welfare and worker fairness standards. The idea is to create farm systems that work in harmony with nature to improve the quality of life for every creature involved. The method encompasses a combination of sustainable techniques that, as a bonus, enhance production capacity. The foundational principle is to keep the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the soil. It can revitalize vulnerable lands by returning carbon to the soil and increasing biodiversity as well as crop resilience to climate change.
Root of Nutrition
Agricultural practices should be everyone’s concern as soil health is intrinsically linked to the health of our food system. Soil welfare affects everything from human well-being to the future of planet Earth. However, the majority of the country’s soil is currently vulnerable. A century of mono-crop farming and reliance on pesticides has depleted the nation’s land and the health of every American. The rapid increase in pesticide use over the past few decades has coincided with this explosion of chronic disease.
In addition to producing poor-quality food, those common farming practices are damaging the environment. The soil is dying and watersheds, fauna, flora, farming communities, and society’s health are taking a toll. It is of the foremost importance to restore the planet’s balance.
Besides being the most environmentally ethical farming method, regenerative agriculture is the most socially and economically fair. Natural soil management reduces production costs as synthetic fertilizers are not a necessity. Regenerative practices use manure and organic matter from composting to restore carbon and other nutrients to their origin. The soil is kept covered constantly, increasing water and nutrient retention, consequently reducing the need for irrigation. The practice also increases harvesting yields, enabling profitable small farms.
There are several current and successful examples of regenerative technique’s application. One of which is Hook Mountain Growers, a micro-farm in the Hudson River valley, 24 miles from Manhattan. Founded by a couple of NY doctors, Hook Mountain produces more than 1,500 pounds of produce per year in an area of only 3,000 square feet. Pamela Yee MD, the owner, gave a lecture about the concepts she uses in her micro-farm at my Health Coach Training Program. Her farm uses 50% solar energy and is certified Naturally Grown, Farmer-Pledged Organic by NOFA, Biodynamically Influenced Permaculture, and Edible Forest Garden.
Like Dr. Yee, several other physicians in the growing branch of functional medicine, such as Dr. Zach Bush, are advocates for the Regenerative Agriculture cause. They consider diseases as manifestations of the complex interaction between physiological processes with the individual’s lifestyle, behavior, and environmental circumstances. In this branch of medicine where the gut is the epicenter of health, diversity and balance are key to healthy living. The microbiome diversity is directly related to soil diversity which means our health begins in the soil.
Food is only one element of nutrition. More than two million genes are contained in the bacteria that inhabit our gut microbiome. The gut ecosystem is responsible for part of the nutrient absorption during the digestion process. A specific strain of bacteria synthesizes vitamin B12, while another vitamin K and yet another one synthesizes some digestive enzymes. To enjoy the benefits of a good diet we need a healthy diverse gut flora. But the microbiome’s role goes far beyond digestion, 70% of our immune system is in the gut and 90% of serotonin is produced in that same organ by another strain of bacteria. That’s how soil is related to human’s overall wellbeing.
Agriculture and Health
Our livelihood depends on our relationship with nature. We need to rescue the ancestral indigenous knowledge and respect for the Earth, as proposed by Robert Rodale. Yes, we can regenerate all vulnerable lands if we engage in the Regenerative Agriculture movement. There are several isolated initiatives in place but, it is a tough fight! Battling against fertilizer industry giants is far from easy. It takes social engagement and commitment to strengthen the movement. We all have to believe and use our consumer power because it is our civil role to leave a viable planet for future generations.
How Can We Help?
The simplest way to help is to buy organic products. It may be more expensive up front, but in the long run, this simple action can change the course of agriculture. Think big, think ahead. If the demand for organic increases the non-organic will lose market share and organic’s price will fall naturally. It is the law of supply and demand.
Another way to help is to start your own vegetable garden. This is the literal way to reconnect with nature. Any plot can produce a lot. Some options don’t even need land! Hydroponic towers, vertical gardens, green walls, and many others.
The More the Merrier
You can help more if you have the resources to invest in regenerative initiatives. The Rodale Institute created the Regenerative Organic Certified – ROC label in 2008. Managed by a non-profit organization called the Regenerative Organic Alliance, this label indicates the highest level of quality possible nowadays. Buying such certified products is an investment in your health and the planet’s future. The Rodale Institute is growing the organic movement through research, farmer training, and consumer education.
Another wonderful initiative is the Farmer’s Footprint Community, a coalition of farmers, educators, doctors, and scientists led by Dr. Zach Bush. Like the Rodale Institute, the Farmer Footprint community’s mission is to expose the human and environmental impacts of chemical farming and offer a path forward through regenerative agricultural practices. Dr. Bush has produced the Farmer’s Footprint documentary, showing that Regenerative Agriculture is the way to restore soil health and farming communities’ wealth.
Another excellent film about the subject is The Need to Grow, directed by Rob Hering. You can watch both documentaries for free through the links and help with word-of-mouth advertising. Raising people’s awareness of the cause is beneficial. Small actions can make a big impact. Let’s help save the planet!
Remember: Good is what makes you feel well!
Read more about the importance of gut Microbiome in Microbiome and Mental Health.