Farming for the climate, the animals, the land & for the quality of our food

Have you heard about what regenerative farming is?

Well, let’s start with a cold hard fact.

Agriculture is rightly blamed as a major culprit for our climate crisis.

However, if we change our farming methods.

It could be seen as part of the global carbon emissions solution.

I’m not saying it’s THE solution, rather part of the change.

This is where regenerative farming comes into play.

What is regenerative farming?

It’s farming for the production of food or fibre.

But it helps improve the environment.

And this primarily means regenerating the soil.

Regen. farming tries to mimic nature’s natural systems as closely as possible.

So that means steering away from the monoculture system i.e., producing one crop over and over.

And instead integrating cover crops, livestock etc to continually rejuvenate the land.

What are cover crops

This is planting that helps slow down erosion.

And improves soil health, controls weeds, helps with water etc after the land has been harvested.

When it is often left bare on large industrial-sized farms.

What do we mean about soil health

We’ve been farming for millennia.

And ploughed and planted into healthy soils resulting in great food production.

But after years of ploughing and planting in the same soil, food production would drop off.

The soil would lose its health.

So, the only way to improve this land was to rest it OR feed it.

Nowadays, with industrialised farming all over the world.

We have forgone these important steps.

And we’re paying for it now with poor soil.

The impact of industrialised farming

First of all, not all countries are farming in this way.

But places like America, China and Brazil are using industrial agriculture.

Which is the large-scale, intensive production of crops and animals.

The impact on animals

Intensive farming uses modern technology to promote faster growth.

Such as antibiotics to reduce illness and death rates in livestock.

And spraying pesticides and fertilisers to ‘improve’ crop production.

Which in turn, creates food products on a mass scale. 

Meaning cheaper food for the world.

However, it does come at a cost.

Intensive farming, for example, feedlots, can increase:

  • water pollution
  • CO2 and methane emissions
  • antibiotic usage and resistance

Impact on crops

Industrialised farming has also been used for crops in food production.

Monoculture farming often sees large pieces of arable land ploughed within an inch of its life.

Which has resulted in the soil becoming so unhealthy.

In America, for example, they had the devastating Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

Where enormous dust storms, literally were blowing away dirt (that was once good soil) due to overworked land and drought.

And they could be heading for another period like this due to continued monoculture farming.

What is monoculture?

It’s the planting of a single crop on the same farmland year after year.

And as I mentioned above, planting the same crop over and over again depletes soil nutrients.

Plus, it means pests that live off a certain plant will wait around the same spot for their favourite food to keep returning.

So, a vicious cycle begins of fertiliser and pesticides which continues to deplete the soil’s nutrients.

Often, monoculture farming leads to rapid erosion because the land is usually left bare outside of the crop’s growing season.

So, regenerative farming tackles many of these problems in a more holistic approach.

This may sound a bit hippy.

But being in tune with nature rather than stealing from her, is really the only way forward.

Monoculture farming

Why soil is so important

It’s alive!!

Soil is a very complex ecosystem (when it’s healthy).

Just one handful of soil holds more than 50 billion life forms.

That’s mind-blowing.

When you dig some soil up, it should be dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling and crawling with worms and life.

Because it’s full of billions of microscopic organisms.

They’re all working and feasting on each other and sugars exuded from the roots of growing plants.

There are complex networks of worm-holes, fungal hyphae, labyrinths of microscopic air pockets…

And all this life and activity is supported by growing plants.

But in return, the insane life beneath, helps the plants grow.

However, a lot of arable lands have been farmed until they are stripped of all their goodness through monoculture farming.

So, then in come the fertilisers and pesticides to counteract all this damage, causing even more.

BUT, if we try and mimic a permanent pasture whilst growing annual crops, we can start to reverse the degradation.

The 5 principles of regenerative farming

Let’s get down to the basics and the 5 principles of regen. farming.

  1. Minimize or eliminate tillage 
    • Ploughing or heavy doses of fertiliser or sprays can hurt the underground system
  2. Keep the soil surface covered to eliminate erosion
    • The impact of rain drops or burning rays of sun or frost can all harm the soil. A duvet of growing crops, or stubble, will protect it.
    • Soil fertility is increased in regenerative systems biologically through application of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures, which restore the plant/soil microbiome to promote liberation, transfer, and cycling of essential soil nutrients
  3. Keep living plant roots in the soil as long as possible
    • Keeping living roots in the soil are vital for feeding the creatures at the base of the soil food web – remember the 50 billion micro-creatures in one handful that we need to look after?!
  4. Increase biodiversity
    • Monocultures do not happen in nature and our soil creatures thrive on variety.
    • Reg. farming should try:
      • Cover cropping, (growing a crop which is not taken to harvest but helps protect and feed the soil).
      • It allows arable farmers to rest their land for one, two or more years. This in itself feeds the soil but also by adding grazing livestock, it will supercharge the impact on the soil
  5. Integrate livestock
    • Well-managed grazing practices stimulate:
      • improved plant growth,
      • increased soil carbon deposits,
      • and overall pasture and grazing land productivity while greatly increasing soil fertility, insect and plant biodiversity, and soil carbon sequestration.
      • By doing this we improve ecological health, but also the health of the animal and human consumer through improved micro-nutrients availability and better dietary omega balances 

Reference: Groundswell

Regenerative farming

I’m a food blogger.

Not a scientist.

And not a farmer.

So, it’s easy for me to sit at my desk and read up on various websites what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

And what needs to be done or not done.

Then talk about it in a post.

But it’s not as simple as that.

The world population has and is, still growing dramatically.

There are more countries eating meat as their economy grows.

And we live in a global market.

Alongside that, we also know we’re destroying our own planet with some of our choices.

So, as consumers, we need to help both sides of the story.

We can do this by:

  • Eating less meat.
  • But eating higher quality (think 100% grass-fed where possible, then work your way from there).
  • Buying as local as you can with fruit, veg and meat, so you’re helping cut the supply chain miles down.

And let’s support the farmers as they help tackle environmental and animal welfare issues.

It may cost us a little more.

But good food production shouldn’t be cheap if it’s quality.

I bet you pay more for certain clothes brands or a coffee brand, without questioning it?

And jook at Jeremy Clarkson’s Farming series on Amazon (it’s worth a watch).

Because, after a year of hard-slog, he made around £140net profit for the year.

So, farming quality produce that looks after the land and animals isn’t easy.

Let’s make some good choices for the planet, the land, the animals, the farmers and our health.

oh, and btw, Mum just laughed when I asked her about the haircuts she used to give me!




Regenerative Farming