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Regeneration

Updated: May 28


What is regenerative agriculture? According to the NRDC, it is “a philosophy and approach to land management, [which] asks [consumers] to think about how all aspects of agriculture are connected through a web—a network of entities who grow, enhance, exchange, distribute, and consume goods and services—instead of a linear supply chain. It’s about farming and ranching in a style that nourishes people and the earth, with specific practices varying from grower to grower and from region to region. There’s no strict rule book, but the holistic principles behind the dynamic system of regenerative agriculture are meant to restore soil and ecosystem health, address inequity, and leave our land, waters, and climate in better shape for future generations.” In the past several years, books, documentaries and films have highlighted the importance of preserving soil--a mere six inches that keep the world’s population in existence.

 

Earlier this year Chad Kirby (Kirby Farms) provided a Land Acknowledgement for a PARA meeting that not only recognized the peoples who originally held this land, but also touched on his farm’s own efforts to implement regenerative practices: “I would like to start out by stating that my livelihood, our livelihood, relies on the land. It relies on the health of the land, the diversity of life within, upon, and above the land. It relies on the health of the people working the land and living around this land. Land that is now called New York State, which was stolen from the original stewards: the peoples of the Onondaga Nation, Firekeepers of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. This theft was something I first began truly understanding 6 years ago when it was brought to my attention at the NOFA NY (Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York) Organic Farming Conference with a land acknowledgement before every workshop. This issue has been growing more prominent in my mind and my heart ever since, as I try to do my job as a farmer, and steward of the land. A land acknowledgement is an excellent start, but I am hoping in the future to do more to repair what was done and continue to take steps towards an equitable relationship and reconciliation with the original stewards of this land. I am extremely pleased to realize that joining this organization, Pachamama Alliance, is one of those steps, and I’m looking forward to seeing how our farm, and all of us together, continue on this long journey.“ 

 

Chad Kirby’s YouTube Video about Kirby Farm's transition to Regenerative Farming describes the journey he and his family are making to transition to regenerative farming. Including some successful regenerative practice changes and successes that have evolved on their farm. Chad and his wife Mandy have also shared more about Kirby Farms, with Chad noting that, transitioning to organic/regenerative farming practices is a learning curve. He described how he and Mandy have watched the farm change, as they move towards more sustainable, organic, farming practices, and they have seen that the soil has changed from dusty to healthy. Chad and Mandy acknowledged that they are working to become stewards of the land, and they have seen an effect on older generations, who are learning to appreciate sustainable, organic, food production/farming. 

 

Articles, books and films have highlighted land practices that are regenerative and wholistic.

One of the films specifically addressing soil health and efforts to preserve and protect soil is aptly titled, Dirt, which explores “the living, breathing ecosystem beneath our feet...[and] delves into how Arkansas farmers, ranchers and more are improving their operations by helping the environment.” 

 

Another important film on the protection and preservation of soil is Common Ground, which offers a “s]obering yet hopeful, exposé of the toxic interconnections of American farming policy, politics, and health, by sharing stories of destruction and healing across the United States and beyond, and how regenerative agriculture and soil health [play] a vitally important role in changing these systems for the better. At its root, it explores how people from different walks of life, different political backgrounds, and different places share one thing in common – the very soil beneath their feet. The film is directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, who have created bold and inspiring environmental films for many years.” 

 

An earlier film of the Tickells’ Kiss the Ground, also addressed soil degradation, regenerative agriculture, and the need to “build ... political will to advance regenerative agriculture.” This film specifically discusses “Regenerate America,” a coalition of farmers, businesses, nonprofits, and individuals from all around the country and all political stripes working together to work to provide legislative support for regenerative agriculture.

 

Another Tickell film,  On Sacred Ground, is a drama about the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The Tickells’ film, Regenerate Ojai, discusses “pesticide exposure in Ojai, a small Southern California town located in the agricultural county of Ventura, California.”

 

The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming by  Masanobu Fukuoka  offers a re-thinking of our attitudes not only regarding farming but also eating. From the Amazon description of the book: ‘Masanobu Fukuoka’s manifesto about farming, eating, and the limits of human knowledge presents a radical challenge to the global systems we rely on for our food. At the same time, it is a spiritual memoir of a man whose innovative system of cultivating the earth reflects a deep faith in the wholeness and balance of the natural world. As Wendell Berry writes in his preface, the book “is valuable to us because it is at once practical and philosophical. It is an inspiring, necessary book about agriculture because it is not just about agriculture.” Trained as a scientist, Fukuoka rejected both modern agribusiness and centuries of agricultural practice, deciding instead that the best forms of cultivation mirror nature’s own laws. Over the next three decades he perfected his so-called “do-nothing” technique: commonsense, sustainable practices that all but eliminate the use of pesticides, fertilizer, tillage, and perhaps most significantly, wasteful effort. 

 

To save their soil, Kansas tribe shifts to regenerative agriculture – and transforms their farms describes the efforts of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska to transition away “from monocropping – growing one plant in the same soil, year after year – to regenerative agriculture, a process designed to promote biodiversity and soil health by minimizing disturbances and maintaining living roots as much as possible.” As a result, their practice is to rotate diverse crops throughout the year and eliminating “the need for herbicides and pesticides.”

 

Thus the practices of these stewards of the land may be the grace that saves us all. 


~Based on a Land Acknowledgment by Chad Kirby with references added by Patricia Woehrlen.

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Reading this was like feeling a gentle rain falling on my soul, stirring to life little shoots of hope and joy. Our ravaged Earth is stirring back to life through the vision and dedication of the Kirby's and so many others. Thank you!

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