Last month, Regeneration International and our partner organizations hosted a meeting at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to gauge interest in forming a 12-state Regeneration Midwest Alliance in the heart of America’s “breadbasket.” (The 12-state region includes: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri).
Our team showed up expecting some interest—only to be met by an enthusiastic crowd ready for a regeneration revolution!
The coalition of RI partners, which included Main Street Project, Organic Consumers Association (OCA), Regenerate Nebraska and Midwest Organic Services Association(MOSA) presented a vision for what the Midwest could look like if we were to take a systems-change approach to redesigning the future of how our food is produced.
We asked what the future of Midwest agriculture would look like if instead of food production being the underlying cause of economic, social and ecological destruction, we redesigned it to be the source of clean water, healthy soil, and a toxin-free environment.
What if family farms began to thrive again? What if agriculture became part of the climate solution, instead of a big contributor to the problem?
For several hours we shared ideas for realizing our vision of a food system that builds resilient and prosperous farms while regenerating our economies and communities.
“We’re learning more every day about how regenerative farmers and ranchers around the world are contributing to climate and food security by building soil health,” said Patrick Kerrigan, who represented OCA at the meeting. “The question is, how do we connect consumers who want to buy healthy local and regional foods with these farmers? And how do we build the systems infrastructure to ensure that these farmers are successful economically?”
So what’s next for the newly forming Regeneration Midwest (RMW)? Here’s the scoop moving forward:
- We’re recruiting state representatives from the 12 states that will form the Regeneration Midwest Alliance.
- Once we confirm the 12 state representatives, we’ll invite all interested parties in each of the 12 states to help build out their state alliances by reaching out to neighbors, organizations they work with, church leaders, businesses—anyone who will listen! As these state coalitions grow, so will our ability to find the farmers, the business partnerships and resources we’ll need to achieve lift-off in the coming year.
- RMW representatives from the 12 states will first participate in a joint planning session by phone, then follow up (probably in June) with an in-person meeting to plan the official RMW launch (probably in October). Each state representative will walk away from that meeting with a clear set of priorities for how to organize key industry sectors in each state so that we can coordinate at the regional level.
This state-by-state coordination will give us a clear picture of the resources we have and the challenges we face as we build the infrastructure needed to scale up regeneration at the regional level.
A huge priority in the coming months is for the 12-state alliance to agree on how regenerative products will be differentiated in the marketplace. We will want to hear from all of you on to accomplish this without compromising or “whitewashing” the foundation of regenerative farming.
In the coming months, we’ll collaborate to create rules and standards by which RMW can abide and by which we will differentiate the agriculture system we hope to deploy throughout the region. We must avoid what happened with “sustainability” as industrial agriculture co-opted that term—as it is already trying to do with “regeneration.”
A final note on our vision for the RMW: We want all farmers who have already gone beyond organic and those who are organic certified but are not willing to bend to the industrial corruption of our organic standard to have a new platform, one created to support and scale regenerative farming and reward those who want to reclaim the idea of grassroots-based movements.
RMW will focus on unclogging the rivers of regeneration, which have been clogged for far too long. We will stand not for purity, but for integrity, our platform will be non-negotiable because it will be nature-based and people-centered—around consumers, farmers and workers. (especially consumers, farmers and workers).
Stay tuned for more news as the Regeneration Midwest Alliance prepares for lift-off!
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Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin is chief strategy officer for the Main Street Project and a member of the Regeneration International steering committee. Sign up here for news and updates from Regeneration International.