What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative Agriculture is both a tool and a vision.
It’s a tool for reversing the flow of greenhouse gas emissions, for example, and creating an enormous repository of carbon in the soil. It’s a vision for a future agriculture that combines indigenous knowledge with western science and technology, a future that re-establishes relationships between humans, crops, animals, soil, and ecosystems.
Our planet can provide safe, nutritious food and fiber. We can listen to the wisdom of indigenous cultures who have studied the complex relationships between humans, animals, crops, and ecosystems. We have access to the enormous agricultural research capabilities of federal agencies, land grant universities, the private sector, and thousands of farmers learning more each year. We have the ability to create a food and agricultural system that reduces racial inequities and other injustices.
Despite this abundance, global food and ecological systems are facing continuous crises, including depleted soils, contaminated water, accelerated greenhouse gas emissions, viral outbreaks, farm bankruptcies, enormous wealth disparities, and increasing hunger.
Regenerative Agriculture is any practice, process or management approach that enhances the functioning of the systems on which it relies. This includes core ecosystem cycles such as energy, water and minerals by enhancing biological function. It also includes improving economic and social systems. In other words, any practice that makes the land, community and bottom-line healthier year after year is regenerative. It is based on outcomes, distinguishing it from most sustainable/conservation agriculture efforts.
Regenerative Agriculture is:
- Not a new idea. While the use of the term has increased dramatically, the concept goes back millenia. It’s a paradigm shift from an emphasis largely on production to recognizing multiple priorities for agriculture, and advancing those priorities by incorporating indigenous knowledge, modern research, adaptive learning, and a deep respect for farmer wisdom.
- Difficult to define. Regenerative Agriculture is not a well-delineated set of practices, a certified type of farming, or solely based on a series of metrics such as concentrations of soil organic carbon and water quality. It is better thought of as steps toward solving multiple crises.
- Grounded in community. Agriculture touches us in many ways besides the calories produced. Regenerative agriculture provides a framework for valuing those touchpoints.
- A journey. It moves us toward a world of plentiful food and fiber production, restored ecosystems, well-functioning water and carbon cycles, flourishing communities, and a just, equitable and thriving food economy.
Who Are We?
The Regenerative Agriculture Foundation
RAF is an intermediary funder, launched in 2016 through the vision of Kevin Boyer and the generous support of the 11th Hour Project. Regenerative agriculture can advance multiple different goals, from climate change mitigation and ecosystem services to rural economic development to public health to racial equity.
RAF staff and partners keep up-to-date on research, policy, markets, and the activities of nonprofit organizations in order to provide funding partners with the most promising opportunities for driving impact. Continuous learning is a priority, and RAF became a founding partner of the Funders for Regenerative Agriculture (FORA) in order to create a forum for learning. RAF also collaborates with funding partners in the California Foodshed Funders and the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders.
RAF makes grants twice a year (summer and winter) using an invitation-only process. Nonprofit organizations seeking grants should use this inquiry form for bringing a proposal idea to the attention of RAF staff.
We envision a world where the inherent value of people, plants, animals, community, and the planet are honored and stewarded in a way that regenerates both human and natural communities.
The mission of the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation is to foster the economic, policy, and knowledge conditions that support land stewardship, provide climate solutions, protect freshwater and oceans, advance racial equity and a just economy, support thriving rural communities, and sustain diverse human and ecological life.
RAF Executive Director
Mark Muller came to RAF in March 2020 after spending over 20 years working on related issues including agricultural conservation, Midwest water quality, racial equity in the food system, and effective federal food and agricultural policy. Most recently Mark served as director of the Mississippi River program at the McKnight Foundation, and prior to that he directed the Food & Community Fellows program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. He also spent two years teaching high school in New York City and 18 months volunteering in Honduras and Guatemala. He and his spouse and three children live in south Minneapolis.
RAF Founding Director
Kevin Boyer is the Founding Director of the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation. Before starting RAF, he spent 5 years managing the Regenerative Rangelands and Composting programs at The 11th Hour Project of The Schmidt Family Foundation. Kevin has worked for several food and farm-related nonprofits, and he grew up in Tulare County, California (one of the agriculture capitals of the world) surrounded by conventional agriculture. He maintains an active role in a California citrus farm that is transitioning to regenerative practices.
RAF Board Chair
Sallie owns and manages Paicines Ranch, a 7,600-acre ranch in central California. She is an impact investor, activist, and philanthropic funder in regenerative agriculture. Her work focuses on improving the health of agricultural soils and sequestering carbon in soil to mitigate climate change, while creating healthier people and planet. She is the founder of the No Regrets Initiative, which seeks to use all available forms of capital—human, natural, investment, and philanthropic—to affect change in the agricultural system.
Prior to becoming a rancher and farmer, Sallie spent almost 25 years as an engineer, COO, and high-tech entrepreneur; she was co-founder of Globetrotter Software, Inc. where she served as COO/CFO. She is now the managing member of Cienega Capital, an impact investing firm, and the president of the Globetrotter Foundation, a family foundation.
RAF Board Member
For over thirty years, Betsy Taylor has built a solid reputation as a philanthropic advisor, social change leader, motivational speaker and problem solver. Betsy has led several non-profit groups and campaigns, served as Executive Director of the Ottinger Foundation, Stern Family Fund, and Merck Family Fund and currently advises a small number of donors and foundations. Author of three books and frequent public speaker, Betsy Taylor is known for challenging her clients to think big and to tackle the root causes of social and ecological problems. She specializes in bringing diverse stakeholders together to achieve a shared vision in support of bold action for a better world. For the past four years, Betsy has worked to build the field of regenerative agriculture through grant-making, network development, global convenings, and general cheerleading about the potential of our lands to sequester carbon pollution while boosting food security and habitat protection.
RAF Board Member
Sarah Bell is Program Director for Food and Agriculture at the 11th Hour Project, a program of the Schmidt Family Foundation. She joined the foundation in 2007 and launched the program in 2010. Her grantmaking focuses on the intersection of ecology, local economies, and equity in the U.S. She sits on the board of Pie Ranch in Pescadero, CA and is active in numerous funder affinity groups. She received her B.A. in English Literature and French from the University of Colorado and studied regenerative design in Northern California.