As the year is winding down, heading towards a new decade, we are tasked with the responsibility of the future. And, like everything in life, the past has a way of catching up with us, for good or bad. Ours is undoubtedly catching up to us. With storms and droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, fires, and tsunamis, the weather is screaming at us. The sea is rising, the temperatures are rising. The seasons are changing. This is due to the choices we have made for centuries, and these choices are affecting the future health and life of the planet we all call home.
Humans have been cultivating food for over 12,000 years and experimenting with growing for nearly twice as long. Even with so many thousands of years of working the land, and working with plants, we are still learning and relearning ways to grow food.
Our populations are expanding exponentially; the fertile lands we need to thrive as a species are shrinking almost as quickly. Now is the time to think about how we grow our food; how we have been treating our soil.
Agricultural practices the world over have caused a severely degraded landscape. The effects of such degradation include soil compaction, loss of structure, nutrient degradation, soil fertility loss, and soil salinity. These impacts increase the amount of pollution and sediment run-off in our waterways, destroy soil microorganisms required for plant growth, and can even worsen flooding or drought, as the lands do not have the structure needed to hold water.
What does this mean for a farmer?
Well, let's say that you have been mono-cropping, plowing, tilling, and applying pesticides and fertilizers. Or overgrazing with more livestock than the land can handle. Or repeatedly not allowing for full regeneration of vegetative growth in your pastures.
These things can produce high yields and growth in the short term, but eventually, this will diminish along with the profits you see from it.The need for fertilizers and pesticides means that the soil is lacking the essential microorganisms and nutrients the crop needs. The same crops have been planted so often that they have drained the nutrients needed to support them and that help combat pest.
Tilling is another way the microorganisms in the soil are killed; carbon is released into the atmosphere, and topsoil is depleted. Plowing causes soil compaction, which makes it difficult for the land to absorb and retain water. So even with that long-awaited rain, the soil can't absorb it, and it causes higher run-off (most of the time with those expensive fertilizers and pesticides with it) into the waterways. This means that the farmer will need more fertilizers, new ground, and more pesticides to maintain their farms but at a much higher cost and lower yield.
The good news is that with regenerative practices, these issues can be addressed and corrected. We can start to rejuvenate the life in the soil, reversing the adverse impacts traditional agriculture practices have had on the environment, boosting farm revenue, and feeding more people health foods.
Why does soil health have an impact on our climate?
On top of reducing pollution with less chemical run-off, regenerative practices like No-Till, Conservation Farming, and Pasture Cropping, Holistically Managed Grazing, Agroforestry, Cover-Cropping, and Polyculture, can help with carbon sequestering. Healthy, bio-diverse, mineral-rich soil can pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it for use for centuries, as long as that soil is undisturbed by conventional agriculture practices like digging, tillage, and plowing, land development or deforestation.
Agriculture contributes just under 10% of man-made CO2 (GHG) emissions in the U.S
Add to that forestry and other land use, and we are sitting at nearly 25% carbon emissions. Yeah, that's right! The way we utilize our land is literally causing as many, if not more, CO2 emissions as the industrial and energy sectors. Rebuilding the soil, and all that lives in it, will not only help to feed our population foods with high mineral and nutrient content but mitigate and one day help to end the climate crisis.
Remember, it isn't all up to the farmers. Even a backyard gardener can help make a difference. Utilizing the regenerative practices in a flower bed or veggie garden, becoming land stewards or caretakers, and reducing the chemical inputs into the land all have an impact.
So whether you are growing to feed a nation, growing to feed your families, or growing to beautify your life do it ethically. Do it sustainably. Do it regeneratively.
Do you practice regenerative practices on your land? Do you wanna learn how to implement regenerative farming techniques on your farm, homestead, or garden?
Let us know by commenting below.