4 Ways to Adopt Regenerative Agriculture in Your Own Garden
We hear a lot about the sustainability of our food. How it's grown, packaging, compostability, fair labor practices— there are a multitude of factors that make what we eat "sustainable." Not to confuse matters, but as it turns out, there's a new (old) way of growing food that has the possibility to be even better than sustainable—we are aiming for food systems that are regenerative.
Regenerative agriculture, put simply, is a way of farming that not only protects our valuable land and soil, but may actually improve the health of the soil and, therefore, assist with carbon sequestration. It's a big topic, and one that is likely not going away anytime soon. Companies like General Mills have pledged to use regenerative practices on a million acres of farmland in the coming decade, and movies like The Biggest Little Farm are starting to help the concept go mainstream.
While it's good to learn about the basic tenets and how we can support farmers and ranchers who are utilizing them in food production, what about the produce that many of us are already growing in our backyards? Is there a way to apply regenerative principles to the way we garden at home? To find out, we asked Marcus McCauley, farm manager of McCauley Family Farm, a regenerative farm in Boulder and founder of Foremother Foods.
What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
The basic principles of the regenerative agriculture approach revolve around treating the soil as a self-nourishing ecosystem that benefits the environment through its own healing process. According to McCauley, it really comes down to two questions: How can I leave things better than I found them, and what does the land want to be?
"At the core of regenerative is the understanding of the connectedness of nature," says McCauley. "That we impact and are part of a greater ecological system. The water cycle is connected to the soil, the food web is connected to the carbon cycle, and so on. We are honoring those cycles and reconnecting them while remembering that we are also an integral part of those systems."
How to Practice Regenerative Gardening at Home
"Just by starting a garden in your backyard you are being regenerative because you are maximizing the proximity of the provisioning of resources, which is how ecologies function," says McCauley. It can't get much more local than eating a cucumber grown in your own backyard, which has a significant impact on both local and global ecosystems.
Beyond that starting point, there are additional steps you can take when designing your home garden to maximize the ecological benefits through regenerative principles. Here are McCauley's top tips for bringing regenerative agriculture principles into your own backyard.