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Andrea Asch: Healthy Soils, Healthy Farms

The snow in Vermont is slowly melting and the woods and fields are springing to life with shoots of new growth. The soil is also re-awakening and is rich with an abundance of organisms and nutrients. Vermont relies on its soil for its most important economic driver – agriculture, and dairy farms. To keep that engine strong, many dairy farmers have turned to regenerative agriculture. More than just a set of practices, regenerative agriculture broadly supports many important environmental benefits.

Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming that develops the soil as a habitat for organisms, making the soil robust and resilient for the production of healthy crops that ultimately support good animal nutrition and contribute to quality milk.

The foundation of regenerative agriculture is a set of practices based on concepts that improve soil health:

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Will Soil Save Us? Carbon Sequestration Through Agriculture

When I taught kindergarten many years ago, I remember when 6-year old Flo fixed her china-blue eyes on me one morning and said she had just figured something out: “Everything in the world is alive,” she declared, “but in its own way.”

Flo’s words come to mind this spring as I get my hands into the earth. I am always awestruck in nature, but these days there’s also an undercurrent of dull grief and panic about climate change. All life, present in all of its variation and complexity, is cherished more than ever before. Every bee and butterfly that enters my garden will get the best seat at the table.

I’m also mindful of my grandfather, a Dutch immigrant who acquired land in southwestern Minnesota in the late 1800s and “broke the prairie” with a sharpened plow and a team of good horses.

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El Green New Deal de Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: cómo es el ambicioso plan contra el cambio climático de la congresista más joven de EE.UU.

“¡La gente se está muriendo! ¡Están muriendo!”.

La congresista más joven de Estados Unidos, la demócrata Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, realizó esta semana una apasionada defensa del Green New Deal (Nuevo Acuerdo Verde), una propuesta elaborada por ella y el senador demócrata Ed Markey para combatir el cambio climático al tiempo que promueve medidas para reducir la desigualdad económica en Estados Unidos.

La intervención de Ocasio-Cortez se produjo como reacción a las críticas del senador republicano Sean Duffy, que calificó la propuesta de “hipocresía elitista”durante una sesión en el Senado el pasado martes en la que el documento fue ampliamente rechazado en una votación que los demócratas calificaron de “montaje político”.

“¿Le quieren decir a la gente que su preocupación, su deseo de tener agua y aire limpios es elitista? Díganselo a los niños del Bronx que sufren de las tasas más altas de asma infantil en el país“, expuso Ocasio-Cortez indignada.

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Farmers Are Excited about Soil Health. That’s Good News for All of Us

“When we think about the challenges in agriculture, carbon—and how to sequester it—is near the top.” So said Roger Johnson, the president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), in opening the grassroots organization’s 2019 annual convention in March. Storing carbon in farm soils is an important climate change solution, but building the health of those soils is also critical for ensuring clean water for communities and helping farmers be productive while coping with the consequences of a climate that is already changing. And throughout the NFU’s three-day gathering, the phrase “soil health” and talk about strategies to achieve it seemed to be on everyone’s tongue.

Though it is hard to quantify, surveys suggest that many US farmers are already taking steps to build soil health and store carbon in their soils.

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Making the Most of the ‘UN Decade on Ecosystems Restoration’: Bioregional Regenerative Development as a Deep Adaptation Pathway

Ecosystem Restoration Camps is a non-profit organisation founded by a movement of people who wanted an action-based solution to address accelerating climate change. The camps are a practical, hands on way to restore land degraded by humans. Our mission is to work with local communities and build camps that transform degraded landscapes into lush, abundant, life-giving ecosystems. We are committed to preserving our planet for future generations. (Source)

On a crisp and frosty April morning in the North of Scotland in 2002, at the Findhorn Foundation ecovillage, some 250 activists and landscape restoration practitioners from all over the world declared the 21st Century as the ‘Century for Earth Restoration’. The conference was called by Alan Watson Featherstone who set up Trees for Life, a project that has since planted close to two million native trees to restore Scotland’s great ‘Caledonian Forest’.

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Ecological Agriculture Needs to Be Made a Priority

The number of farmers moving to ecological agriculture in its various forms — agroecology, organic, biological, biodynamic, regenerative — continues to grow as farmers and consumers become more aware of the harm pesticides and synthetic fertilisers cause to health and the environment.

Alan Broughton takes a look at this phenomenon and asks why the majority of farmers are still holding on to chemical methods and what can be done to increase the ecological uptake.

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At an organic soil management class that I taught in Shepparton, Victoria, I asked each of the dozen participants why they were interested in organics. Everyone of them told me their prime motivating factor was personal and family health.

Secondary reasons included concern for the environment, animal health, the high cost of inputs and a desire to be proud of their produce.

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Regenerative Grazing: A Way Forward for Land and Reef

Dozens of fence line images were presented at the Reef Catchments Sustainable Grazing forum in Mackay on March 28, showing, on one side, strong dense pastures consistently out-performing neighbouring properties using traditional approaches. Some of the most compelling images came from properties in drought regions, where the vastly improved water-holding capacity created by lively soils and strong, deep root structures of regenerative grazing pastures meant there was still coverage on those paddocks.

The forum featured speakers covering a range of topics around grazing, including a compelling big-picture presentation on philosophy and the broader implications of regenerative grazing around climate and land management from special guest, grazier and author Dr Charles Massy.

David McKean from Resource Consulting Services (RCS) gave a highly practical outline of key considerations and techniques in regenerative grazing, including a range of case studies from various climate and landscape types.

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Are We Entering a New Era of Regeneration?

Regeneration is a relatively recent idea that has been gaining traction amongst climate action circles worldwide.

In contrast to sustainability, which aims to maintain a state that avoids continued depletion of natural resources in order to keep ecological balance; regeneration refers to restoration, renewal, and growth.

Photo caption: Pexels

The idea originally took hold with regenerative farming practices, which are a set of holistic farming practices that seek to enhance the health of the soil through things like adding cover crops, not tilling, composting and livestock grazing, all of which contribute to soil health and more carbon sequestration.

At last week’s ReGenFriends summit, experts gathered to explore the theme of Regeneration in all aspects including economics, business impact and farming. Here’s a snapshot of what was presented.

HOW CAN AN ECONOMIC SYSTEM THAT IS EXTRACTIVE BY DESIGN LEAD TO A PROSPEROUS PLANET?
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The Next Wave of Sustainable Fashion Is All about Regenerative Farming

“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

These words from Nobel Prize-nominated teen activist Greta Thunberg helped galvanize 1.4 million people to take to the streets earlier this month to participate in the global school strikes for climate action. And while Thunberg’s message about the environment was alarming, the underlying assumption was that there’s real hope for addressing climate change.

Photo credit: Pexels

When human beings have made such a mess of the planet, where does that hope arise from? For many experts, a groundbreaking way of thinking about agriculture — regenerative farming — offers one of the most concrete reasons for optimism.

“Agriculture really represents the best chance that we have of mitigating and ending the climate crisis,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario at the National Retail Federation in January.

 

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There’s a Better Way to Help the Climate than Abstaining from Beef

Jan. 4 Community Voices commentary posed this question: “Why aren’t we all addressing climate change at each meal by skipping the meat?”

The campaign to fight climate change by avoiding eating meat is well-intentioned but not well-informed. In 2017, agriculture contributed 8.4 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and meat production was responsible for some part of that. But peer-reviewed studies show that even eliminating all of our cattle would have a relatively minor effect on climate change. In contrast, incorporating cattle into a regenerative agriculture system could sequester enough carbon to turn agriculture into a carbon sink, while also eliminating much other environmental damage caused by industrial agriculture.

Photo credit: Pexels

The problem

About 97 percent of the beef produced in the United States comes from cattle that spend half their lives in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as feedlots, each of which might hold tens of thousands of animals.

 

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