What Principles Guide Regenerative Agriculture?

If you’ve been reading On Pasture for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed an emphasis on principles. Why? Principles give us a foundation to start from – a way of thinking about what’s going on around us so that we can make decisions that work for our individual goals and our different environments. And as Harrington Emerson notes, methods based on principles leads to success.

With that in mind, I’m interested in outlining the principles that guide regenerative agriculture as a basis for folks heading down this path. So, let’s look at some examples of what regenerative principles might be.

Jeff Goodwin of the Noble Research Institute lists soil health as the cornerstone of regenerative agriculture. He defines soil health as “the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital, living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals and humans.” I like that. And it’s something Hugh Hammond Bennett, the father of the 1930s soil conservation movement, would agree with too.

Others are on the same page. General Mills just announced its drive to advance regenerative agriculture on 1 million acres by 2030. And they’re focusing on soil health as well. In fact, they list the six principles of soil health as the basis for all their work.

Then to determine success, they’re measuring changes to five key goals: Economic resiliency in farming communities, healthy soil, clean water, biodiversity, and cow and herd well-being. These goals represent what is valuable to General Mills.

Those are some examples of regenerative principles. What are the principles you think of? What are your goals and values? Share your thoughts here! By developing and understanding some core principles, we can all be more successful.

Thanks for reading!

Kathy

5 thoughts on “What Principles Guide Regenerative Agriculture?

  1. Kathy there are three questions I ask myself when considering if a ranch is regenerative. It starts with the biology in the soil:
    1) do the bugs have a roof? How much thatch vs bare ground,
    2) do the bugs have food? If the livestock above ground have plenty of green, vegetative forage to eat, the bugs below ground also have plenty to eat,
    3) do the bugs have plenty of air to breath? If I can easily dig a hole with my knife and the ground feels like a carpet to walk on, that indicates there are plenty of spaces for air to permeate into the soil.
    These questions are asked within the framework of ‘Can a 12yr old do this?’ If a 12yr old or an 80yr old can run the day to day operations then the system is easy and simple. The people then have time to think, play, and relax.

  2. Regenerative ag will be one of the practices that will save the planet, mostly because of carbon sequestration. I quickly looked up land use in the US and found that in 2018 the total land in farms, at 899,500,000 acres, decreased 870,000 acres from 2017. So, if we are losing nearly 1 million acres of farmland to development each year, that puts into perspective that General Mills goal of 1 million acres in regenerative ag by 2030 is very low. In ten years, we should have half our farmland using regenerative principles. But, kudos to General Mills for making a statement and spreading the word.

  3. I think maintaining/ inreasing the population of soil organisms should be specifically mentioned. So another principle would be to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that decrease the population and function of soil organisms.

  4. Shared your principles in The Vetiver Network (TVNI).

    Of the 6 core principles are 4) Keep the Soil Covered 5) Maintain Living Root year-round 6) Integrate Livestock. Perennial deep-rooted grasses like vetiver, switch grass, buffalo grass can play role in these 3 principles. AgroSavanna !

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