The 9 Most Important Techniques In Regenerative Agriculture

Author: Sheldon Frith

These are some of the most effective and important Regenerative Agriculture techniques. They can dramatically improve most farming and ranching operations. Most of them can increase profits, if applied correctly. And they are almost all guaranteed to regenerate land.

Mark Shepard's Regenerative Farm.
Mark Shepard’s Regenerative Farm.

1. Holistic Decision Making (a.k.a. Holistic Management)

  • Holistic Decision Making is a method managing complex systems (like farms, families, nations, companies, etc). This decision making framework has been tested on thousands of farms and ranches around the world for decades. It works. Holistic Decision Making takes into account the financial, environmental, and social aspects of every decision. It also offers methods for changing decisions that aren’t going as planned. And it is simple enough for farmers in rural Africa with absolutely no education to use. This is #1 on my list because most farms and land managemers fail because their decisions do not adequately address the social and financial and environmental aspects of their situation. Holistic Decision Making is a basic prerequisite to long-term sustainability. Read this article for a more detailed explanation of Holistic Management.
  • Holistic Decision Making cannot easily be explained in a short blog post, so I encourage you to read the foundational book: “Holistic Management: A New Framework For Decision Making” by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield.

Bunched Bison

2. Permaculture Design

  • Permaculture is a philosophy, a design science, and a global movement (read this article to understand those three aspects of Permaculture). The design science of Permaculture is an invaluable tool for farmers and land managers. It is basically landscape design, but unlike most landscape design it is tailored to the needs of agriculture, and it also takes into account the principles of ecology. A Permaculture farm will tend to be more efficient for the farmer, it will tend to have better functioning ecosystems and water cycles, and it will tend to be beautiful as an added bonus.
  • Permaculture Design, like Holistic Management, cannot be easily explained in a single blog post. I encourage you to read the founding text “Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual”, as well as more contemporary guides to Permaculture like “Gaia’s Garden”, “Restoration Agriculture”, and “The Resilient Farm and Homestead”.
Ben Falk's excellent Permaculture Farm.
Ben Falk’s excellent Permaculture Farm.

3. The Soil Food Web

  • The Soil Food Web is not a farming technique, it was not invented by anybody. It is simply the natural process which allows plants to grow when chemical fertilizers are not around (ie. for the past hundreds of millions of years). Elaine Ingham has been the soil scientist who has done the most to reveal the critical importance of the Soil Food Web. The Soil Food Web refers to the microorganisms in the soil (bacteria, fungi, nematodes, etc) which extract nutrients from the soil and provide these nutrients directly to the roots of living plants. Elaine Igham has shown that by managing the the Soil Food Web on your farm carefully you can dramatically improve your plant growth in very short periods of time. This usually entails a one-time application of well-made compost or compost tea, followed by a change in management to protect the health of the soil organisms in the long term (no-till, organic, perennials, etc).
  • For a brief intro to the Soil Food Web watch this inspiring video. The book “Teaming With Microbes” is probably the first book you should read on the subject, followed by Elaine’s more technical guide to making compost “The Field Guide For Actively Aerated Compost Tea”.