A 12 Step Program to Stopping Drought and Desertification

Author: Green Prophet

Soaring temperatures and low precipitation could not occur at a worse time for many farmers in the United States, and around the world. Intensifying drought conditions are affecting corn and soybean crops throughout the Midwest, raising grain prices as well as concerns about future food prices.

The US Drought Monitor reports that 88 percent of this year’s corn crop and 77 percent of the soybean crop are now affected by the most severe drought since 1988. In response the Worldwatch Institute launched a 12 step guide to combatting drought and desertification. These tips can be used by policy makers around the world and in dry climates in the Middle East. Read on for the list.

1. Agroforestry: Planting trees in and around farms reduces soil erosion by providing a natural barrier against strong winds and rainfall. Tree roots also stabilize and nourish soils. The 1990 Farm Bill established the USDA National Agroforestry Center with the expressed aim of encouraging farmers to grow trees as windbreaks or as part of combined forage and livestock production, among other uses. See Green Prophet’s feature on the Nabateans to see how this idea can be applied in the Middle East.

2. Soil management: Alternating crop species allows soil periods of rest, restores nutrients, and also controls pests. Soil amendments, such as biochar, help soils retain moisture near the surface by providing a direct source of water and nutrients to plant roots, even in times of drought.

Keep Reading on Green Prophet

From Dust Bowl to Bread Basket: Digging the Dirt on Soil Erosion

Author: Caspar van Vark

Can we achieve a 70% increase in food production by 2050? It’s often quoted as an objective, but some areas of Africa have seen agricultural productivity decline by half due to erosion and desertification. If productivity is ever to go up, we may need to start by looking down: at the soil.

This is the International Year of Soils, so policy attention is likely to shift to this resource. It’s not a moment too soon, according to Bashir Jama, director of African agriculture body Agra’s Soil Health Program (SHP).

“Around 65-70% of arable land in Africa is degraded in one form or another,” he says. “Farmers are on average getting a tonne of maize from a hectare of land, where a similar size plot in Asia gets three tonnes per hectare. Soils have been cultivated for many years with little or no inputs, and this is compounded by problems of erosion. So the challenge is how to replenish soil and mitigate degradation.”

A recent report on conserving, restoring and enhancing Africa’s soils recommends a holistic approach to soil management called Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM). This includes adding organic matter such as crop residues and manure into the soil, applying small (and therefore affordable) amounts of mineral fertilisers and planting legume crops such as cowpea that naturally deposit nitrogen into the soil.

SHP has taught farmers about these methods via 130,000 demonstrations in 13 countries over the past five years. “The demos are on farmers’ land, school fields, churchyards or roadsides,” says Jama. “One plot might have little or no inputs, with a second plot showing the microdosing of fertiliser – very small amounts placed in the planting hole, along with manure – and another plot might have legumes where, in the next season, they can put sorghum where previously they had legumes.”

Keep Reading on The Guardian

From ‘Sustainable’ to ‘Regenerative’—The Future of Food

This week (October 26, 2015), the paywalled site PoliticoPro reported that the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture wants “farmers and agricultural interests to come up with a single definition of sustainability in order to avoid confusing the public with various meanings of the term in food and production methods.”

We agree with Secretary Tom Vilsack that the word “sustainability” is meaningless to consumers and the public. It’s overused, misused and it has been shamelessly co-opted by corporations for the purpose of greenwashing.

But rather than come up with one definition for the word “sustainable” as it refers to food and food production methods, we suggest doing away with the word entirely. In its place, as a way of helping food consumers make conscious, informed decisions, we suggest dividing global food and farming into two categories: regenerative and degenerative.

In this new paradigm, consumers could choose food produced by degenerative, toxic chemical-intensive, monoculture-based industrial agriculture systems that destabilize the climate, and degrade soil, water, biodiversity, health and local economies. Or they could choose food produced using organic regenerative practices based on sound ecological principles that rejuvenate the soil, grasslands and forests; replenish water; promote food sovereignty; and restore public health and prosperity—all while cooling the planet by drawing down billions of tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil where it belongs.

‘Sustainable’—Is that All We Want?

The dictionary defines “sustainable” as: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed; involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources; able to last or continue for a long time.

In other words, sustainability is about maintaining systems without degrading them. And it is about keeping things much the same without progressing.

Industrial agriculture today, with its factory farms, waste lagoons, antibiotics and growth hormones, GMOs, toxic pesticides and prolific use of synthetic fertilizers, doesn’t come close to “not using up or destroying natural resources.”  And even if it did, is that all we want, or need, to achieve?

Or do we want to grow our food in ways that restore climate stability and regenerate—soil, health, economies—rather than merely maintain the status quo?

Greenwashing and the Labeling Game

Corporations love to brand themselves, and label their products, as “sustainable.” The hope is that consumers will view “sustainable” products as superior to mere “conventional” products, or better yet, equate the word “sustainable” with “organic.”

But when a widely discredited and despised company like Monsanto co-opts the word “sustainable,” the word loses all meaning for consumers. On its website, Monsanto says:

Our vision for sustainable agriculture strives to meet the needs of a growing population, to protect and preserve this planet we all call home, and to help improve lives everywhere. In 2008 Monsanto made a commitment to sustainable agriculture – pledging to produce more, conserve more, and improve farmers’ lives by 2030.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready, chemical-intensive GMO crops now dominate agriculture, on a global scale, poisoning soil, water, air, farm workers and consumers. The words on their website fool no one—the agriculture they promote is anything but “sustainable.”

It is the same with the certified “sustainability” labels promoted by corporations such as Cargill, Heinz Benelux, Mars, Nestlé, Unilever and Cadbury. These labeling schemes, such as Rainforest Alliance, Sustainable Agriculture Network, and UTZ can be congratulated for promoting the planting of trees on farms, for improving the farm environment and for requiring compliance with minimum labor standards. But they do nothing to curtail the use of soil-destroying, climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers and the thousands of toxic pesticides that are known to cause both environmental and health damage.

A “sustainability” label may mean the production methods behind a product inflicted somewhat less damage on the environment. But it doesn’t mean the product will cause less damage to human health. Numerous published scientific studies link exposure to the smallest amounts of these “approved” pesticides to cancers, birth defects, endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, developmental neurotoxicity, ADHD, autism, obesity, type 2 diabetes, reproductive problems, immune system damage, epigenetic mutations, kidney, liver and heart disease and numerous other non-communicable diseases that are currently in epidemic proportions.

Most of the farmers enrolled in these “sustainability programs” used to grow crops or graze animals traditionally, with little or no chemicals. The same is true for the many thousands of certified organic coffee and cacao farmers who have been hijacked by these schemes—schemes which allow them to charge a premium without meeting the more rigorous organic standards. How can the promoters of these “sustainability” labels claim that they are reducing chemical use when they have converted thousands of low-input traditional farmers to the use of chemicals that they never used before?

A global ‘Regeneration Revolution’ is under way.

In the 1970s, Robert Rodale, son of American organic pioneer J.I. Rodale coined the term ‘regenerative organic agriculture’ to distinguish a kind of farming that goes beyond simply “sustainable.”

According to the Rodale Institute:

Regenerative organic agriculture improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being.

Regenerative organic agriculture “takes advantage of the natural tendencies of ecosystems to regenerate when disturbed. In that primary sense it is distinguished from other types of agriculture that either oppose or ignore the value of those natural tendencies.” Regenerative organic agriculture is marked by tendencies towards closed nutrient loops, greater diversity in the biological community, fewer annuals and more perennials, and greater reliance on internal rather than external resources. Regenerative organic agriculture is aligned with forms of agroecology practiced by farmers concerned with food sovereignty the world over.”

We opened this piece by stating that we agree with Vilsack—the word “sustainability,” in the context of food and food production, has led to consumer confusion.

But we don’t like where Vilsack is headed. He told PoliticoPro:

“In recent years, Consumers have raised concerns about conventional agricultural practices, which has led to the growth of organic, GMO-free foods and ‘natural’ products, often at the expense of the reputation of conventional products. I think it’s going to be incumbent on us to have a common understanding of what [sustainability] means to better serve the interests of agriculture as a whole and consumers.”

At the “expense of the reputation of conventional products”? Is Vilsack referring to the well-earned bad reputation of products (those containing GMOs and toxic pesticides, perhaps?) produced using degenerative, rather than regenerative, practices?

A “common understanding” of what sustainability is might better serve the interests of Monsanto and the agribusiness corporations—but it will do little to serve the interests of small farmers and consumers.

The number one driver behind rising sales of organic foods is consumer concern about health, especially pesticides, growth hormones and GMOs. But as scientists issue increasingly dire warnings about the climate, and people throughout the world connect the dots between industrial agriculture and global warming, there is a growing contingent of farmers and consumers who want to do more.

An increasing number of farmers want to grow food and raise animals using organic and regenerative farming and grazing practices that are not only better for human health, but that also cool the planet, feed the world, heal the soil, foster food sovereignty and strengthen communities.

And consumers want to purchase those products, knowing that their production generated healing, not harm.

It’s a Regeneration Revolution. And it goes well beyond “sustainability.”

André Leu is president of IFOAM Organics International, and on the steering committee of Regeneration International.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association, and on the steering committee of Regeneration International.

Regeneration: Global Transformation in Catastrophic Times

Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention…. It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress. Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster.  – Pope Francis, Papal Encyclical “Laudato Si,” June 18, 2015

Regenerate—to give fresh life or vigor to; to reorganize; to recreate the moral nature; to cause to be born again.” (New Webster’s Dictionary, 1997)

A growing number of climate, food, environment, health and justice advocates are embracing and promoting a world-changing concept: regeneration.

What is regeneration? And why are a so many public figures, including Pope Francis, calling for regeneration or revolution, rather than “halfway measures” such as sustainability or mitigation?

The inconvenient truth of course is that our degenerate “profit-at-any-cost” global economy is killing us. The living Earth—our soils, forests and oceans—and the “rhythms of nature” are unraveling. Greed and selfishness have displaced sharing and cooperation. Land grabs, Empire-building, resource wars, and out-of-control consumerism have become the norm.

Catastrophic times demand radical solutions. It’s time for change, big change.

Our heat-trapping, climate-disrupting, fossil fuel-intensive, industrial agriculture-and deforestation-induced CO2 monster in the sky, now approaching 400 parts per million (ppm), is the most serious threat humans have ever faced. Either we take down King Coal and Big Oil and switch to renewable energy, and simultaneously move, literally suck down, several hundred billion tons of excess carbon from the atmosphere and naturally sequester this CO2 in the soil and forests—through regenerative farming, grazing and land use practices—or we are doomed.

According to activist and author Vandana Shiva, “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.”

But just what do we mean by Regenerative Agriculture?

Solving the Soil, Food and Health Crisis

The international community has set itself three important goals: to stop the loss of biodiversity, keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and ensure everyone has the right to adequate food. Without fertile soil, none of these objectives will be achieved. – Soil Atlas: Facts and figures about earth, land and fields, Heinrich Boll Foundation, 2015

The loss of the world’s fertile soil and biodiversity, along with the loss of indigenous seeds and knowledge, pose a mortal threat to our future survival. According to soil scientists, at current rates of soil destruction, (i.e. decarbonization, erosion, desertification, chemical pollution), within 50 years we will not only suffer serious damage to public health due to a qualitatively degraded food supply characterized by diminished nutrition and loss of important trace minerals, but we will literally no longer have enough arable topsoil to feed ourselves. Without protecting and regenerating the soil on our four billion acres of cultivated farmland, 14 billion acres of pasture and rangeland, and 10 billion acres of forest land, it will be impossible to feed the world, keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, or halt the loss of biodiversity.

Healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy animals, healthy forests, healthy oceans, rivers and lakes, healthy people, a healthy climate . . . our physical and economic health, our very survival as a species, depends upon whether or not, and how quickly, we can carry out a global campaign of Regeneration.

According to a recent policy proposal by the French government, we need to increase plant photosynthesis and carbon sequestration in global soils by at least 0.4 percent each year if we are to head off runaway global warming.

Tom Newmark of the Carbon Underground explains the basic concept of Regeneration:

There is a technology that exists today that will suck excess CO2 out of the atmosphere. That technology is called photosynthesis. When I look outside my office window I see plants. Through photosynthesis, plants convert sunlight, CO2 and water to carbohydrates and oxygen. Plants are sucking tens of billions of tons of CO2 and creating plant sugars/carbohydrates. Some plant sugars we eat and some pass through the plant and get converted into humus, soil organic matter. This isn’t rocket science. This is a biological fact.

The soil itself is the largest available sink for CO2. There is more carbon currently sequestered in the living soils of the planet (2,700 billion tons), than there is in the entire atmosphere and biotic community combined (plants, and trees).The bad news is that by ripping up the soil through industrial agriculture abuse, we’ve put excess CO2 into the atmosphere.

The good news is that if we farm and ranch in harmony with carbon cycles, we can put carbon back in the soil—quickly. Scientists say that we can get back to 350 ppm in 10 years. All we have to do is increase soil organic matter in all grasslands on the planet by one percent. That is all we need to do to bring it back to 350 ppm. Nature can fix this problem that humans have created.

Along with educating ourselves and our community, we must utilize marketplace pressure to change our degenerate food and farming systems. We must boycott the fossil fuel-emitting, soil-destroying, climate-destructive products of industrial agriculture and the junk food industry. We must support those farmers and businesses whose products regenerate our health, our soils and our forests. Marketplace pressure, public education, and public policy change must go hand-in-hand.

A recent article in the Guardian summarizes Regenerative Agriculture this way:

Regenerative agriculture comprises an array of techniques that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Typically, it uses cover crops and perennials so that bare soil is never exposed, and grazes animals in ways that mimic animals in nature. It also offers ecological benefits far beyond carbon storage: it stops soil erosion, remineralises soil, protects the purity of groundwater and reduces damaging pesticide and fertiliser runoff.

The benefits of raising and grazing beef cattle, sheep, goats, dairy cows, poultry and pigs “in ways that mimic nature” are many. These practices are more humane, they rebuild soil fertility and they sequester carbon in the soil.

But there’s another important benefit to these techniques, one that is driving consumers away from factory farm foods. These practices produce animal products that are qualitatively healthier than CAFO products, because they are higher in Omega 3 and “good” fats, and lower in animal drug residues and harmful fats that clog arteries, destroy gut health and cause cancer.

Our agricultural soils have lost 25-75 percent of the soil carbon they once held in storage before the onslaught of industrial agricultural and destructive land use practices. The most important task of our generation is Regeneration: to put this dislodged, heat-trapping atmospheric carbon back into the soil and forests, where it belongs.

The Climate Crisis: Halfway Solutions Are Not Enough

Unfortunately, the current climate change movement up until now has focused almost exclusively on reducing fossil fuel emissions. There has been little or no mention of the critical role soil and forests play as carbon sinks or repositories for excess CO2 in the atmosphere.

Reducing fossil fuel emissions to zero over the next few decades, as called for by climate activist leaders such as Naomi Klein and 350.org, will solve half the problem, but only half. By the time we reach zero emissions under this “50-percent solution” scenario, sometime around 2050, even the most optimistic projections are that already have passed the “danger zone” of 450 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, a level that will likely detonate runaway global warming, and catastrophic climate change.

So widespread is this fixation on fossil fuel emissions that even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the upcoming Paris Climate Summit have yet to recognize soil and soil regeneration practices as important carbon sinks. Yet there is a growing body of scientific evidence to support the idea that Regenerative Organic Agriculture, grazing, reforestation and land use practices, scaled up globally, could not only mitigate, but actually, over several decades, reverse global warming.

We need to embrace the regenerative “100-percent solution” if we want to get back down to the safe level of 350 ppm or lower, as soon as possible. And we need to pressure the IPCC and national governments to acknowledge the importance of carbon sequestration through regenerative land use practices.

A number of critics have told me and others that we should not talk about natural sequestration of CO2 in the soil, nor the enormous regenerative potential of organic food, farming and forestry, because this “positive talk” will distract people from the main task at hand, drastically reducing fossil fuel emissions and taking down King Coal and Big Oil. Of course we need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels, extractivism and over-consumption into conservation, sustainable living and renewable energy. We must all become climate activists and radical conservationists.

But we must also become advocates of Regenerative Organic Agriculture and forest/land use.

Unite the Food, Forest and Climate Movements

The large and growing anti-GMO, organic food and natural health movement must begin to think of itself as a movement that can fix not only the world’s health and hunger crisis, but the climate as well.  Given that the degenerate GMO, factory farm and industrial food and farming system as a whole (production, chemical crop inputs, processing, transportation, waste, emissions, deforestation, biofuel/ethanol production) is the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing even the transportation, utilities, housing and industry sectors, climate activists need to start thinking of themselves as food, farming and natural health activists as well.

There will be no organic food, nor food whatsoever, on a burnt planet. Nor will there ever be a 90-percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution without a transformation of our food and farming and land use practices, both in North America and globally.

We must begin to connect the dots between fossil fuels, global warming and related issues, including world hunger, poverty, unemployment, toxic food and farming, extractivism, land grabbing, biodiversity, ocean destruction, deforestation, resource wars, and deteriorating public health. As we regenerate the soil and forests, and make organic and grass-fed food and fiber the norm, rather than just the alternative, we will simultaneously develop our collective capacity to address all of the globe’s interrelated problems.

The extraordinary thing about de-industrializing food and farming, restoring grasslands and reversing deforestation—moving several hundred billion tons of carbon back from the atmosphere into our soils, plants and forests—is that this regeneration process will not only reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate, but will also stimulate hundreds of millions of rural (and urban) jobs, while qualitatively increasing soil fertility, water retention, farm yields and food quality.

Regeneration holds the potential not only to restore forests and grasslands, recharge aquifers, restore and normalize rainfall, but also to address and eliminate rural malnutrition, poverty, unemployment and hunger.

So who will carry out this global Regeneration Revolution?

Of course we must continue, and in fact vastly increase, our pressure on governments and corporations to change public policies and marketplace practices. But in order to overturn “business-as-usual” we must inspire and mobilize a vastly larger climate change coalition than the one we have now. Food, climate, and economic justice advocates must unite our forces so we can educate and mobilize a massive grassroots army of Earth Regenerators: three billion small farmers and rural villagers, ranchers, pastoralists, forest dwellers, urban agriculturalists, and indigenous communities—aided and abetted by several billion conscious consumers and urban activists.

The time is late. Circumstances are dire. But we still have time to regenerate the Earth and the body politic.

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica. He is also a member of the steering committee for the newly formed Regeneration International.

Bren Smith’s Vertical Ocean Pasture, The Wave Of Future Farming

Author: Linnea Covington

In Food Republic’s new series Game Changers, we take a close look at a few of the individuals working to change the way we view the food industry. First up is fisherman and vertical farmer Bren Smith.

Why would you plant acres of land when you can build a farm of the same size vertically in the sea? At least, that’s one of the questions that got fisherman Bren Smith of Thimble Island Oyster Co. thinking. After all, you don’t need fresh water, land or fertilizer to make his oysters, mussels, scallops and various types of kelp grow. So, with these things in mind, he created the first vertical farm in the country.

“The idea was to just grow things that are restorative and grow naturally in the water, which means they have zero impact,” says Smith, who runs his 40-acre farm off the Long Island Sound. “The beautiful thing about farming in the ocean is you can do multiple species, you aren’t fighting gravity, you can use the whole column and it’s very affordable.”

Though Smith has been involved in green farming since he started his company 13 years ago, the vertical approach came into practice in the last few years after hurricanes Irene and Sandy wiped out his original farm. After that, Smith got together with seaweed expert Charles Yarish of the University of Connecticut and redid his operation. It turned out to be so successful that he plans on replicating it soon in five different areas.

A vertical farm is an organized stretch of water that grows mollusks and seaweed in column form.

But what is vertical farming exactly? Simple. A vertical farm — also called a 3D ocean farm — is an organized stretch of water that grows certain mollusks and seaweed in a column, from the top to the sea floor. To make this method even more desirable, the species that inhabit these “rows” help restore the ocean by keeping it clean, healthy and more habitable to other sea creatures.

 

Keep Reading in Food Republic

Biochar: The Oldest New Thing You’ve Never Heard Of: Wae Nelson at TEDxOrlando

Wae Nelson was employed as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace and defense industries for many years, working both as a designer and as a manager in manufacturing. Now he publishes the magazine beloved by local gardeners, Florida Gardening, and pursues his passion for biochar — a diy, scalable technique to both improve horticultural yields and sequester carbon simultaneously.

Watch More Videos on TEDx Talks’ Youtube Channel

Meet the ‘Regenerators’

Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association and Dr. Vandana Shiva of Navdanya, discuss how the newly formed Regeneration International Communication Network will help to promote the benefits of regenerative organic agriculture and counter the growing global push for industrial agriculture based on GMOs and the increased use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

Ronnie Cummins:

The governments and large businesses of world are failing to solve the climate crisis, failing to solve the crisis of poverty, the crisis of environmental degradation, the crisis of values and ethics. If governments and corporations can’t solve the problem, we the people are going to have to solve the problem.

Vandana Shiva:

What we are talking about, is regenerating a new democracy, regenerating new economies, regenerating agriculture which is at the heart of the problem, but can be heart of solution. Everyone eats, most people in world are farmers, so this is an invitation to everyone to join. Everyone loves freedom, rather than being controlled by fraudulent and criminal corporations.

Regenerative Agriculture and the Dawn of Planetary Engineering

Author: J.S. McDougall

Regenerative agriculture is the dawn of planetary engineering. And that’s great news for the future of the planet. Here’s how I know.

We have five hay fields on our farm. They are the kind of rolling, green, and gorgeous fields that are typical across Vermont’s pastoral green mountains. All five of the fields have been incredibly productive over the past forty years using our area’s conventional methods for hay farming–frequent tilling, a corn rotation, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Our hay was regarded as some of the best in the area. And we produced a lot of it.

Then, in 2012, we stopped tilling. We stopped spraying chemicals. We stopped rotating in corn. And, as a result, fields that once produced three cuttings of broad-leafed, green, tall grasses struggled to produce two cuttings of thin, dry, yellowed grass. Our hay production collapsed.

Despite that, we stuck to our idealistic guns: no tilling, no chemicals, no corn. And, now, three years later, the grass growth is still dismal in all of our fields…except one.

This one field–our eastern-most field–is not struggling to produce grasses. In fact, this particular field is now producing far more than it ever did under conventional management. This field, this year–when all grass production across the northeast is at alarming lows–is producing a fourth-growth of broad-leafed, green-as-can-be, lush, tall grasses. The improvement in this one field has one farmer (me) doing backflips of joy.

I attribute this field’s booming growth to changes in our management and changes in our thinking.

Keep Reading in Huffington Post

Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems: Changing the Landscape of Organic Farming in the Palouse Region

Grazing livestock may soon be a common sight in the Palouse region of southeastern Washington, usually known for its rolling hills and grain production.

Jonathan Wachter, a soil science doctoral student at Washington State University, has been working with a local farm to improve the competitiveness of organic mixed crop-livestock systems and their potential adoption by growers in a conventional grain-producing region.

The study is supported by a $695,078 National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant awarded to Washington State University through the Organic Transitions (ORG) program.

“Since 2001, ORG has provided support to researchers across the nation to help improve the competitiveness of organic crop and livestock producers as well as those who are adopting organic practices,” said Mat Ngouajio, NIFA national program leader for plant production. “This support has also helped better understand ecosystem services of organic agriculture.”

Wachter has been working on this five-year project with wheat farmers Eric and Sheryl Zakarison since 2012, growing wheat, peas, perennial species like alfalfa, and sheep in a tightly integrated system to demonstrate how integrated livestock farming can contribute to sustainability goals.

“They are the ones doing the research on their farm because they want to improve their soil,” Wachter said. “All I’m doing is putting their ideas into practice in a research context to generate the data that backs up some of (their ideas). They’re the real innovators.”

Solutions Under Our Feet: Regenerative Agriculture

The Food Guys describe an article profiling one type of “regenerative agriculture,” a form of organic, sustainable farming. “It’s really about how small farmers are feeding the world, from the ground up, rather than agribusiness, with its monocultures, GMO crops, and poorly-paid farm workers,” says Greg Patent.

Integrating a poultry operation into grain-growing, and combining both with solar power generation and an aquaponics garden bed – all on one acre of land – is an example of small-scale regenerative agriculture that can be practiced by families or small cooperatives.

Listen to this Episode of the Food Guys on Montana Public Radio