Why The Keyword In Farming Startups Is ‘Regenerative’

Author: Charlotte Parker

Home to leopards, zebras, hippos and elephants, Zambia’s Luangwa Valley is known for its sprawling wildlife sanctuaries. But it’s also where Dale Lewis, founder of Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO), helps transform hungry farmers — who poach on the side to supplement their income — into wildlife protectors. In exchange for honoring a “conservation pledge” to stop killing certain animals for money and use sustainable farming practices, the company’s 61,000 farmers, all of whom work on a small scale, receive up to 20 percent more than the standard market price for their corn, soy and honey, which are then used to create a line of food products that are flying off Zambian supermarket shelves.

As it turns out, COMACO is just one of a growing number of both nonprofit and for-profit enterprises that are taking a new look at the agricultural sector and finding that farmers can renew the land they use — and their livelihood that they draw from it. There’s Honey Care Africa, a for-profit franchise that works with farmers across East Africa to supplement their income through honey production while increasing crop yield with pollination help from their honey bees, as well as the Timbaktu Collective, which helps farmers in a drought-prone region of India sell products grown with traditional water conservation practices. Oh, and don’t forget Peepoo — yep, you read that right — a system that converts sanitation waste from poor urban neighborhoods, refugee camps and disaster relief sites around the globe into nutrient-rich fertilizer for farmers with poor soil quality.

These regenerative agricultural practices, as they’re known, have been developed in response to a growing list of problems plaguing farmers and rural workers around the world: land degradation, drought, crop disease and unpredictable market prices, to name a few. Of course, climate change isn’t helping on any of these fronts. But the trend is also being driven by the growth of B Corps — think of them as certified do-gooder businesses — and other companies that are under pressure to show responsibility for the planet, says Daniela Ibarra-Howell, co-founder and CEO of the Savory Institute, a nonprofit that promotes large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands through a regenerative practice known as holistic management.

Read Full Article on OZY


Where’s the Better Beef?

Grazing Operations: The Journey to Better Beef and Its Triple Bottom-Line Benefits

NRDC believes that better beef must meet credible, independent standards of responsible production at each step to your plate. The overwhelming scientific consensus shows that the most important impacts to reduce and minimize occur on grazing and feedlot operations.

Why it matters that all beef –- from conventional to grass-fed –- is produced on well-managed grazing operations

A growing number of ranchers and farmers are improving their land management using science and the experiences of other ranchers. As a result, their ranches are more productive and local ecosystems are thriving as they support healthy soils, water quality, and plant and animal life. These leaders are demonstrating how beef producers can help conserve and restore America’s grasslands and other grazed ecosystems.

Well-managed grazing operations generate environmental AND business benefits

Well-managed grazinglands, which include both rangelands (grazed natural grasslands and other ecosystems, mostly in the western United States) and pastures (farmland planted with grass to graze livestock, mostly in the eastern United States), provide valuable ecosystem services, including:

Keep Reading on National Resources Defense Council

Emerging Land Use Practices Rapidly Increase Soil Organic Matter

Authors: Megan B. Machmuller, Marc Gerald Kramer, Kevin Taylor Cyle, Nick Hill, Dennis Hancock, Aaron Thompson


The loss of organic matter from agricultural lands constrains our ability to sustainably feed a growing population and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Addressing these challenges requires land use activities that accumulate soil carbon (C) while contributing to food production. In a region of extensive soil degradation in the southeastern United States, we evaluated soil C accumulation for 3 years across a 7-year chronosequence of three farms converted to management-intensive grazing. Here we show that these farms accumulated C at 8.0 Mg ha(-1) yr(-1), increasing cation exchange and water holding capacity by 95% and 34%, respectively. Thus, within a decade of management-intensive grazing practices soil C levels returned to those of native forest soils, and likely decreased fertilizer and irrigation demands. Emerging land uses, such as management-intensive grazing, may offer a rare win-win strategy combining profitable food production with rapid improvement of soil quality and short-term climate mitigation through soil C-accumulation.

Download the Report from Research Gate

GHG Mitigation Potential of Different Grazing Strategies in the United States Southern Great Plains

Authors: Tong Wang, W. Richard Teague, Seong C. Park, and Stan Bevers


The possibility of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by ruminants using improved grazing is investigated by estimating GHG emissions for cow-calf farms under light continuous (LC), heavy continuous (HC) and rotational grazing, also known as multi-paddock (MP), management strategies in Southern Great Plain (SGP) using life cycle assessment (LCA). Our results indicated a GHG emission with these grazing treatments of 8034.90 kg·CO2e·calf−1·year−1 for cow-calf farms in SGP region, which is higher, compared to that for other regions, due to the high percentage (79.6%) of enteric CH4 emissions caused by relatively lower feed quality on the unfertilized rangeland.

Photo credit: Flickr / USDA NRCS South Dakota

Sensitivity analyses on MP grazing strategy showed that an increase in grass quality and digestibility could potentially reduce GHG emission by 30%. Despite higher GHG emissions on a per calf basis, net GHG emissions in SGP region are potentially negative when carbon (C) sequestration is taken into account. With net C emission rates of −2002.8, −1731.6 and −89.5 Kg C ha−1·year−1 after converting from HC to MP, HC to LC and from LC to MP, our analysis indicated cow-calf farms converting from continuous to MP grazing in SGP region are likely net carbon sinks for decades.

Download the Report (PDF)

Holistic Management: Portfolio of Scientific Findings

Holistic Management Grounded in Evidence

For many years, large areas of grasslands around the world have been turning into barren deserts. This process, called desertification, is happening at an alarming rate and plays a critical role in many of the world’s most pressing problems, including climate change, drought, famine, poverty and social violence. One major cause of desertification is agriculture—or the production of food and fiber from the world’s land by human beings for human beings. In the past, large wild herds of grass-eating herbivores migrated and were pushed along by predators over the grasslands. These herds grazed, defecated, stomped and salivated as they moved around, building soil and deepening plant roots. Over time, the wild herds were largely replaced by small numbers of domestic, sedentary livestock and populations of predators were mostly destroyed. Without the constant activity of large numbers of cattle, the cycle of biological decay on the grasslands was interrupted and the once-rich soils turned into dry, exposed desert land.

Forty years ago, Allan Savory developed Holistic Management, an approach that helps land managers, farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, policymakers and others understand the relationship between large herds of wild herbivores and the grasslands and develop strategies for managing herds of domestic livestock to mimic those wild herds to heal the grasslands. Holistic Management is successful because it is a cost-effective, highly scalable, and nature-based solution. It is sustainable because it increases land productivity, livestock stocking rates, and profits.

Today, there are successful Holistic Management practitioners spread across the globe, from Canada to Patagonia and from Zimbabwe to Australia to Montana. More than 10,000 people have been trained in Holistic Management and its associated land and grazing planning procedures and over 40 million acres are managed holistically worldwide.

Evidence Supporting Holistic Management

The Savory Institute empowers people to properly manage livestock by teaching them how to use Holistic Management, connecting them in ways that have benefits for everyone, and removing barriers along the path to success. Many of our key audiences such as policymakers, landowners and investors want evidence that shows Holistic Management works to achieve large-scale environmental, economic, and social benefits.

To meet this need, the Savory Institute is working to measure impact by monitoring the health of ecosystem processes, sequestration of atmospheric carbon into soil carbon, well-being of our communities, as well as our financial vitality. The following portfolio that proves the principles behind Holistic Management includes peer-reviewed journal articles, theses and dissertations, and reports.

View the Savory Institute Evidence Portfolio Online

Download the Savory Institute Portfolio of Scientific Findings (PDF)

Special Report: Cows Save the World

Author: Allan Savory

I write to offer a constructive way forward in the tragic cultural genocide unfolding in America’s
wonderful western ranching culture that is embedded in the nation’s culture.
I do so knowing the risks of trying to help a lion by operating on a back molar in its jaw.

The recent RANGE article featuring Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy (whose cattle were taken from his southern Nevada range by the BLM backed up by SWAT teams) typifies the western ranching cultural genocide taking place. It is a tragedy based on deeply held myths and assumptions rather than on any known science.

No publication has done more than RANGE, valiantly fighting for fairness and the rights of ranchers in the protracted rancher-federal agency war over western public lands. When decent human beings—including ranchers, environmentalists and government land managers who are doing the best they can—all want healthy land with abundant wildlife, flowing rivers, stable rural families and communities in a healthy thriving nation, solutions and collaboration are needed instead of conflict.

How easy it is to draw our swords and yet how difficult it is to re-sheath them. So let me start with a point that I believe all parties can agree upon: management including policy should be based on science rather than on emotion, belief and assumption. With that in mind, let’s look at the current situation. Because the ultimate form of land degradation is man-made desert, I will use the official jargon and call the process rangeland desertification.

Desertification typically does not occur where precipitation and humidity are fairly well spread throughout the year, as in many coastal areas like Florida and Washington. However, most western rangelands experience long dry periods whether rainfall is high or low and here desertification occurs on both private and public lands. The symptoms of desertification are: increasingly frequent and severe droughts and floods, poverty, social breakdown, mass emigration to cities or across borders, decreasing wildlife, pastoral culture genocide, and violence and conflict. Most of these are being experienced in America today despite the good intentions of both ranchers and policy-makers.

Download the Report from Range Magazine

Las Pilas Ranch: A Tale of Restoration

Author: Seth Itzkan

Las Pilas Ranch: Restored

The Las Pilas Ranch in Coahuila, Mexico, is a model of ecological restoration using Holistic Planned Grazing. Over a twenty five year period from 1978 to 2003, the barren landscape was completely revived. The images below show the transformation. Although the first picture is from 1963, the restoration with Holistic Management didn’t actually start until 1978. During the restoration period, the livestock population was doubled and grazing was done according to a plan that paid close attention to grass health.

1963. Photo by Guillermo Osuna Las Pilas Restored, 20032003. Photo by Guillermo Osuna

Which picture has more water?

Both images above are taken from the same location. Guillermo Osuna, the proprietor of the land, explains that when he began to manage the land, it was common to have dirt dams to capture the runoff – as there was no grass cover. A one-inch rain could fill the trough (pictured above, from 1963). After the land was restored, they could have a six-inch rain, and still no standing water (it’s all absorbed). There is no need for the dirt dams and artificial troughs now. Those have grown over with vegetation and the springs are running year-round. Livestock is now watered via gravity fed pools from streams that run throughout the dry season.  Mr. Osuna says there is twice as much surface water now as there once was, and he has also doubled the herd density.

Keep Reading on Planet Tech Associates

Climate Change, Healthy Soils, and Holistic Grazing… A Restoration Story

Author: Savory Institute


Regenerating the health and productivity of our soils is critical for ensuring the Earth’s climate remains conducive to not only human life but other species as well. Moreover, we need to take direct action so that we have enough water and food to sustain a growing population of people. Livestock, properly managed, have a critical role to play in achieving these goals.

Reducing fossil fuel emissions is essential for curtailing the acidification of our oceans and for reversing the rapidly increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But it is just as critical that we greatly reduce the CO2 emissions tied to modern agricultural practices. In addition, there are still many billions of tons of CO2 in the atmosphere that need to be drawn down to Earth and safely stored if we are to maintain a livable climate for life on Earth.

The most obvious place to store this “legacy load” of CO2 is in our soils, where soil organisms convert it into organic matter, or soil organic carbon. The world’s soils, however, are unable to store the vast amounts of carbon they once did; scientists estimate our soils have lost up to 80 to 537 billion tons of carbon and that land misuse accounts for 30% of the carbon emissions entering the atmosphere.

Efforts to limit emissions from fossil fuel Combustion alone are incapable of stabilizing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Here we will shed light on the process of atmospheric carbon capture and storage that has developed in the natural world over millions of years, has minimal possibility for unintended consequences, and has myriad benefits for the health of lands worldwide as well as all dependent on them.

The quantity of carbon stored in soils is directly related to the diversity and health of soil life. Bacteria, fungi and other soil life convert carbon that plants have extracted from the atmosphere through photosynthesis into organic matter. When soils are healthy, soil life is healthy and more carbon is converted and stored.

Keep Reading on Revitalization News

Carbon Sequestration —The Climate Change Solution That Virtually All Climate Activists Ignore

2015 has been declared the International Year of Soils, and few topics could be more important at this time. One of the objectives of the International Year of Soils is to “create full awareness of civil society and decision makers about the fundamental roles of soils for human’s life.”

Another is to “achieve full recognition of the prominent contributions of soils to food security [and] climate change adaptation.” Rarely do you hear climate activists address the issue of soil and land regeneration, yet it is perhaps the most comprehensive solution to everyone’s concerns.

Fighting over whether or not climate change is real; or whether climate change is man made or not is completely irrelevant. Arguing over whether the temperature is actually rising or falling, or whether arctic ice sheets are shrinking or growing is a waste of time.

Why Agricultural ‘U-Turn’ Is Necessary

The fact of the matter is, the global landscape is changing, and food security is no longer a given, even if you have plenty of available land, and here’s why:

  • Water scarcity is getting worse as aquifers are drained faster than they can be refilled. In August 2014, the National Geographic reported that a four-year long drought in California had led to the depletion of snowpacks, rivers, and lakes.As a result, the state has been tapping into its underground aquifers to make up for the lack of water. At present, nearly 60 percent of California’s water needs are met by groundwater that does not have time to recharge at the same rate it’s being used.
  • Soil erosion and degradation is rapidly getting worse.
  • Air and water pollution are worsening.
  • Land is turning into desert at a rapid clip, and with it, we’re losing biodiversity of both plant and animal life.
  • Everything is getting more toxic, and according to a wide variety of scientists, we are looking at no more than 50-60 years’ worth of “business as usual” before we reach a point at which nature will no longer sustain us on any front, be it water, air, or soil quality.

Keep Reading on

Regenerative Agriculture: Sowing Health, Sustainability and Climate Stability

[ English | Español ]

Authors: Sarah Streat and Katherine Paul

“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

In his opening address to the Savory Institute global conference in London on August 1, Alan Savory said that while agriculture is the foundation of civilization and of any stable economy, it is also, when poorly practiced, the most destructive industry—even more so than coal mining.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that since 1960, a third of the world’s arable land has been lost through erosion and other degradation. Much of the destruction is caused by increased demand for GMO corn, soy, cotton, canola, sugar beet and alfalfa crops, used to feed factory farm animals, to produce highly-subsidized yet inefficient biofuels and to make processed foods.

The perpetual cycle of planting mono-crops, saturating the crops and fields with toxic chemicals, tilling them under and replanting them destroys the soil and degrades the land by depleting soil nutrients and causing erosion. Overgrazing pastures instead of managing livestock herds holistically, using a system of planned rotational grazing, is equally destructive.

Destruction of land and soil by poor farming isn’t inevitable, said John Liu, who also spoke at the Savory conference. Liu told the audience we have to connect economic growth to ecological restoration—and “restoring ecological function is the only way we will survive.”

How do we do it? In large part through “regenerative agriculture,” in combination with reducing fossil fuel emissions and reversing global deforestation.

Can we do it? By all accounts, yes. But as Savory cautioned, regenerative agriculture represents a small minority, probably 3 – 5 percent, of today’s global agriculture. Sadly, 90 percent of farmers, policy-makers and the public still believe in an agricultural model based on chemistry, technology and faulty policy. “We’re not even at the table,” Savory said.

But we could be. One of the key ways to do that, Savory said, is to convince consumers, who far outnumber producers, that agriculture has to change. Organic Consumers Association recommends consumers do that by boycotting GMOs and factory-farmed foods, in keeping with the advice on our popular bumper sticker: “Cook Organic not the Planet.”

Our failure to do so will not only lead to hunger and poverty, but it will represent a huge missed opportunity to reverse global warming.

Beyond ‘sustainable’

Let’s face it. “Sustainable” is not a sexy word. It suggests a relationship that is merely maintained—plodding along on an existing plane.

It’s time to move beyond the notion of “sustainable” agriculture to a model of agriculture that restores and rejuvenates soils, farms, economies and communities.

So what is “Regenerative agriculture”? Dr. Christine Jones, who founded Amazing Carbon, describes regenerative agriculture as a diverse set of farming practices that replenish and reactivate the soil. “When agriculture is regenerative, soils, water, vegetation and productivity continually improve rather than staying the same or slowly getting worse.”

The key to regenerative agriculture is that it not only “does no harm” to the land but actually improves it, using technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment. Regenerative agriculture is dynamic and holistic, incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping, to increase food production, farmers’ income and especially, topsoil.

Regenerative agriculture leads to healthy soil, capable of producing high quality, nutrient dense food while simultaneously improving, rather than degrading land, and ultimately leading to productive farms and healthy communities and economies.

What makes up healthy soil? According to Jones, healthy topsoil is composed of weathered rock minerals, air, water and living things such as plant roots, microorganisms, insects and worms and the organic materials they produce.

There are six essential ingredients for soil formation, Jones says:
1.    Minerals
2.    Air
3.    Water
4.    Living things in the soil (plants and animals) and their by-products
5.    Living things on the soil (plants and animals) and their by-products
6.    Intermittent and patchy disturbance regimes (such as planned grazing or slashing)

Unlike mono-crop agriculture which relies heavily on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, erodes the soil through excessive tilling, and doesn’t protect the with cover crops, regenerative agriculture produces healthy soil, while at the same time producing food (both plant and animal-based). Because regenerative agriculture doesn’t strip the soil of nutrients and leave it depleted, food grown in that soil tastes better, and has a higher nutrient content.

Can regenerative agriculture save the climate?

Healthy soils not only produce healthy food, healthy economies and healthy communities, but as it turns out, healthy soil just may be the best tool we have to reverse global warming.

According to a recent study by the Rodale Institute, if regenerative agriculture were practiced globally, 100 percent of current, annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would be sequestered.

The Rodale Institute has been conducting its Farming Systems Trial (FST) since1981. It’s the longest-running test comparing organic and conventional cropping systems. Data from the test shows that organic, regenerative agriculture reduces CO2 by taking advantage of natural ecological systems to extract carbon from the atmosphere and sink it into the soil. According to the data, soil managed organically can accumulate about 1,000 pounds of carbon-per-acre foot of soil each year—equal to about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide-per-acre taken from the air and sequestered into soil organic matter.

While commercial agricultural practices are some of the largest contributors to global warming, regenerative agriculture practices are carbon neutral and actually reverse climate change. Carbon-rich soil doesn’t need synthetic fertilizers. This leads to further reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as both the production and use of fertilizers generate CO2.

Transitioning on a global scale

Regenerative agriculture practices rely on knowledge and care, rather than expensive farming equipment, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. While in the short term, they may produce slightly lower yields than conventional, chemical-intensive crops, over time they produce higher yields which lead to greater financial security for farmers, especially in communities that are economically dependent on agriculture.

More and more small-scale farmers are using regenerative practices to cultivate land and grow food. The movement has a strong collaborative voice in places like Australia and the UK, where innovative farmers are sharing their knowledge both informally, and in structured courses and workshops.

Regenerative farming is also practiced widely across the U.S. by many local, small-scale farms, though they may not be using the term “regenerative agriculture.” Farms like Polyface Farms in Virginia, Jubilee Farm in Washington State, and the Marin Carbon Project in California provide good models for how organic, regenerative farming can lead to prosperous and healthy communities.

But if we’re going to restore the world’s vast tracts of degraded lands, and avert a climate disaster, we’re going to need to transition on a global scale from today’s dominant chemical-intensive, mono-crop system to a regenerative model of agriculture. And that will require the support of political systems that currently favor and promote the destructive models of farming over the regenerative model.

Consumers can, and must, play a role in pushing governments to make this transition. We have the power to reverse the trend toward chemically grown, biotech crops by creating demand for healthy foods produced using regenerative practices. We do that by choosing locally, organically grown foods until the market for highly processed packaged foods, and foods that are produced on factory farms—foods that support unhealthy farming practices—shrinks and farms practicing regenerative agriculture fill the void.


Rodale Institute

Regenerative Agriculture United Kingdom

Department of Land & Water Conservation, New South Wales Government

Soils for Life

Polyface Farms

Sarah Streat is a contributing freelance writer and researcher for the Organic Consumers Association.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.