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.

Man hauling hay bales with chickens in the background

© Copyright - Regenerative Agriculture Foundation - Images courtesy of our grantees, many images by Alicia Arcidiacono.