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Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services.


By capturing carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, Regenerative Agriculture aims to reverse current trends of atmospheric accumulation. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming communities.

FEATURED RESPONSES

  • I have gone through your definition and it is absolutely correct to the meaning of the regenerative Agriculture.
    Paul Yeboah, Ghana Permaculture Institute
  • Narrowing the definition too much defeats the purpose... To be truly regenerative an agriculture of the future needs to connect to the “sacred” in Nature AND to a moral, fair, generative, associative economy, through human coevolutionary efforts.
    Steffen Schneider, Hawthorne Valley Farm
  • I agree completely that Regenerative Agriculture is about far more than carbon...I do think that the term "Regenerative Agriculture" is human-centered and therefore both conceptually and ecologically limited. Humans exist only by grace of the web of life, the whole web of life.
    Adam Sacks, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
  • Excellent idea, because it is an innovation. Microorganisms and small animals in the soil are necessary for regenerative agriculture, hence the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers does not guarantee the promotion of biodiversity, climate resilience and family welfare.
    Aaron Kalala Karamba, APAA Congo

Alternate Definitions

Regenerative Agriculture: A) Increases biomass & biodiversity B) Increases soil carbon C) Produces food, fiber, and/or fuel D) Increases or maintains local water resources (E) Is profitable–To the extent that this definition is for corporations seeking certification, I would eliminate E.) –Neal Spackman

Regenerative Agriculture includes systems of farming that reverse the loss of biodiversity, enrich soils, store carbon, restore watershed health, and increase ecosystem services, while eliminating the release of toxins and pollutants. Regenerative Agriculture increases yield efficiency, resilience to climate fluctuation, and strengthens health and vitality of all the members of our communities, now and for generations to come. These systems draw from decades of scientific and applied research by many global communities, including those working on organic farming, agroecology, Holistic Management, ecological restoration, and agroforestry. –Paul Ceregrino

Regenerative Agriculture is any practice, process or management technique which serves to enhance the functioning of the core ecosystem cycles of energy, water or mineral by enhancing biological function. In other words, anything that makes the land healthier year after year. –Regenerative Agriculture Foundation

Regenerative organic agriculture improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well being. –Rodale Institute

How do YOU

define Regenerative Agriculture?

What changes would you make to this definition?    

Or do you think it would be better to start from scratch?  

Add your voice to the discussion below…

DISCUSSION BOARD

27 Comments

  • Joseph Lentunyoi

    Reply

    Good to hear about Regenerative Agriculture, I think is a good document and well done, we just need to understand that the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides will be too harmful for our soils, so a combination of different natural methods will be good to restore our biodiversity on Earth.

  • Andrew Baskin

    Reply

    I’m a little heartbroken that this hasn’t been mentioned yet above, but now is as good a time as any I suppose. In the existing definition it says: “The system draws from decades of scientific and applied research by the global communities of organic farming, agroecology, Holistic Management, and agroforestry.”
    Could we amend it in a way that credits indigenous peoples for their vital role in developing and engaging for millennia in practices which we now refer to as organic farming, agroecology, Holistic Management, and agroforestry. Attending to this is so important so that we don’t perpetuate the invisibilizing & marginalizing of indigenous peoples, esp. when they have played such a foundational role in the current iteration of these knowledge systems. As if we just stumbled upon these practices in recent years by mentioning decades of scientific and applied research without mentioning the millenia of indigenous praxis reveals a deep-seated blind spot in an otherwise very mindful worldview. Hoping the agreed upon definition can transcend this harmful pattern that contributes to the further devaluation of these people and what they have given to us.
    Perhaps we might try something like: “The system draws from decades of scientific and applied research by the global communities of organic farming, agroecology, Holistic Management, and agroforestry – all of which have deep roots in (and are derivations of) the wisdom, values, and practices that indigenous peoples around the globe have been demonstrating for millennia.”

  • Hal Hamilton

    Reply

    I fear that this effort will be one more ideologically polarizing step. If we focus on the most important goals–improving soil health among them–and if we consider practices that will deliver those goals in the vastly diverse farming systems around the world, then we can find common purpose among large and small farmers in many cultures. We will also have ways to assess which interventions are truly increasing soil carbon, protecting biodiversity and water, and improving the lives of people. Results matter. Competing world views get in the way.

    • regenerateadmin (Author)

      Reply

      Hi Hal, thanks for your comment. Agreed that we need approaches that will resonate with large and small farmers & land managers in all cultures around the world. Agreed that we must build soils, increase biodiversity and water health, and improve the lives of people.

      What are the worldviews you’re seeing getting in the way within what we’ve proposed? What do you think is the best way to move things forward?

      • charlotte athony

        Reply

        the biggest world view contradiction is between the agricultural paradigm (coined by toby hemenway). this paradigm toby (and I) would like to see us use is a horticulture paradigm.

        differences include fear/scarcity experts, paid workers, for ag.
        love/abundance, everyone is a source of creative input for horticulture.

        i found a lot of remnants in india of the horticulture paradigm, in spite of their being colonized once by the english and then by the green revolution.

        meaning that when a bus broke down, lots of people came and tried to fix the bus (and usually did). the workers do not do what the employers pay them to do. they do what they know ow to do.

        my criticism of your adoption of eric toensmeier’s tools is that toesnsmeier does not consider the microbes or the underlying ecosystem. in the horticulture model the ecosystem in primary. we want to eliminate interference with the ecosystems, so practices such as bare ground and tilling would not be usedl although in india they use oxen driven plos and maintain their microbes,.

        also toensmeiers findings for holistic management seem flawed when you consider what these systems have done on deserts for return of water, and reversing desertification.

        it is not the way we plant, annual or perennial, it is the soil that results that makes what we do that makes it regenerative.

  • Rachel Kastner

    Reply

    I like the idea of the definition acknowledging the fact that regenerative agriculture is modeled after nature itself and healthy ecosystem function. A modified Terra-Genesis definition could be “Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that by increasing biodiversity, enriching soils, improving watersheds, and enhancing ecosystem services.”

    It’s only by looking at how ecosystems function that we are able to begin to understand the complexity of nature’s innate regenerative design.

    • Rachel Kastner

      Reply

      Oopps, the definition above left out the phrase I wanted to add. Here is a modification of the Terra-Genisis definition: “Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that models healthy ecosystem design by increasing biodiversity, enriching soils, improving watersheds, and enhancing ecosystem services.”
      or
      “Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices, inspired by natural design, that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services.”

  • John Hayden

    Reply

    I agree with Ethan and Paula about including social aspects in the definition. A regenerative approach should be a source of sustenance and healing for the farmers/employees and their communities as well.

  • Chris

    Reply

    I’m noticing that energy is not mentioned in the core components. Shouldn’t we be including renewable energy generation in there? We have the technologies to generate much of the we need from residual biomass and food. Anaerobic digestion and gasification are two novel ways reclaim this often wasted energy. Can we add them to the list ?

  • Dyllos

    Reply

    This conversation is so important that more languages definitely need to be included to include a much larger cross section of the world population – i.e. Mandarin, Hindi, French, perhaps others… Get the call out for translators/interpreters please

  • Melissa Vogt

    Reply

    My PhD thesis associates definitions of similar concepts including regeneration.

    I think what can distinguish regenerative agriculture is the idea of recreating and maintaining a system where biological production and ecological structure becomes more complex. Through this process yields increase and external inputs decrease. Such structure and production is possible through ecosystem function.

    I refer to functional complexity among other things.

    • regenerateadmin (Author)

      Reply

      Thanks Melissa, I think finding a way to incorporate functional complexity is a great idea. Do you have a link to your PhD thesis? We’re going to collect a set of top-notch resources to share with folks on the site!

      • Melissa Vogt

        Reply

        I don’t have a link yet but I will add it here when I do

  • jay

    Reply

    I Like Ethans defined “stake holders”. There is so much to unpack in these definitions and such a definition needs to be all encompassing yet easy to digest.

    Something I would like to see included or better defined that seems overlooked yet implicit in the definition of “Regenerative X” is that to regenerate something it is currently in a degenerated state. And that state was humanly instigated, so regeneration starts with halting the degenerative actions while simultaneously building these regenerative relationships.

    Ive seen “sustainable developments/farming” tear down pristine forests for their lofty goals…so some how defiining and addressing this ecology integration with the “less/no-bad-while-more-good” approach. This is another way to further distance and clarify the difference from “Sustainable”.

    Also, I think being sure it addresses the personal, social, ecological integration of these systems…that we can’t regenerate them separately.

    • regenerateadmin (Author)

      Reply

      Hi Jay, we too have seen “sustainable developments” that are simply using the term as greenwashing and end up doing more ecological & social harm than good. The timeframe IS important – it does not make sense to clearcut old old growth forest and start holistically grazing cows and call the system “regenerative”.

      However, this does not mean that an entity must start in a degenerated state in order to become regenerative. Even currently regenerative systems must continue consciously evolving their vitality and viability; Regeneration is an ongoing process that must be literally regenerated as systems grow and change.

      In this way “regenerative” is different than “restorative”, which seeks to re-store an entity or system to some past state that it degenerated from.

      In terms of Regenerative Agriculture, even farms that are already doing excellent “carbon neutral” farming could become Regenerative by working with the 4 Principles & appropriate Practices.

  • Paula Gagnon

    Reply

    Thanks for starting the dialogue. I’m glad to see a definition that doesn’t limit the potential of full regenerative agriculture practices. As a aquatic ecologist and farmer I’ve been using this definition:

    Regenerative Agriculture is a system of agricultural practices that rebuild and enhance soil, water, biodiversity and climate health by mimicking and amplifying natural ecological processes. In doing so, regenerative agriculture also revitalizes the livelihoods and communities that engage with that land.

  • Federico Barceló

    Reply

    Very important for me is the healthy soil and plants for increase nutrition to humans, for healthy society.

  • Loren Luyendyk

    Reply

    Regenerative Agriculture is the intentional integration of land management practices that improve water and mineral cycles on agricultural lands while increasing species diversity (both native and introduced), improving economic resiliency of farming operations, and which are based on socially just business models. Regenerative Agricultural practices significantly improve upon the USDA National Organic Standards, Fair Trade Certifications, and are applicable at any scale.

  • Ethan Soloviev (Author)

    Reply

    Here’s a clarification on our proposed definition from the main page, which (in Principle 3) uses the term “Stakeholders”. We define stakeholders to explicitly mean mean all producers, workers, customers, co-creators, investors, the local community, and the earth – all of which are involved in any Regenerative Agriculture project.

    This is based on a comment by Erik Oehlson of Permaculture Artisans:

    “Social can’t be removed from agriculture. Regenerative Labor practices needs to be included. It is a fundamental part of the system that manages landscapes and production… I read through the principles and can see where social is there but I think the term “stakeholders” is up for interpretation and I think actually using the word labor or similar may make it much stronger. Or maybe defining stakeholders in the principle somehow?”

    • Erik van Lennep

      Reply

      Hi Ethan,
      I’d like to add “future generations” ( eg Seventh Generation ) to the explicit list of stakeholders.

      This aligns with the stewardship principles established by the Haudenosaunee nation whose Six Nations Confederacy inspired the drafters of the US Constitution. This is enshrined in The Great Law of Peace.

      Too bad that bit was left out by the original US framers, but we can all pick up and include it now.

      http://www.haudenosauneeconfederacy.com/

  • Albert

    Reply

    Here are my first comments. If you want them posted somewhere else let me know and i will oblige. 1. for “ecosystem services” replace with “ecosystem functions.” This comes from John Liu. Services implies a master servant relationship and commodification. 2. The first sentence is a good, if overly broad, definition. The next three sentences serve different functions: the second states a goal (reversing climate change); the third suggests a payback (yield multiplication); the fourth describes a provenance. I would delete the 4th entirely, mainly because it is too ancillary to creating a definition by also because these choices are somewhat redundant and at the same time leave out many other influences (Mollison, Yeomans, Beers, Fukuoka, Neuberger, Smith, King, etc.); 3. There is a troubling lack of mention of wet systems agriculture, aquaculture and aquaponics.

  • Harry Greene

    Reply

    The sustainability and stability of an agricultural enterprise are a function of the amount and distribution of both profit and biomass over space and time. For an enterprise to be classified as regenerative, both of these indicators must show growth and healthy distribution.

  • Jonas

    Reply

    On the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation Website, they have a slightly different but related definition:

    “Regenerative Agriculture is any practice, process or management technique which serves to enhance the functioning of the core ecosystem cycles of energy, water or mineral by enhancing biological function. In other words, anything that makes the land healthier year after year. In this way it is based on outcomes, not practices, distinguishing it from most sustainable/conservation agriculture efforts.”

    http://regenerativeagriculturefoundation.org/

  • Marie

    Reply

    Great to have this space to discuss the definition! I found a similar one on the Lexicon of Food (https://www.lexiconoffood.com/definition/definition-regenerative-agriculture) from Mark Smallwood at the Rodale Institute:

    “Regenerative Organic Agriculture promotes plant and Soil health through Biodiversity and balance of natural systems. We work with nature, not against her…

    Regenerative Organic Agriculture uses Biology to build soil organic matter and promote thriving ecosystems. Instead of seeking to kill off plants, insects, pathogens or microorganisms, Regenerative Organic Agriculture increases biological activity to produce abundant yields while stewarding the Earth.”

  • Regenerator

    Reply

    Here’s how the Rodale Institute (rodaleinstitute.org) defines it:

    “Regenerative organic agriculture improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. It is a holistic systems approach to agriculture that encourages continual on-farm innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well being.” – Rodale Institute

  • Nathalie

    Reply

    On the Regeneration International website page, “Why Regenerative Agriculture?”, Ronnie Cummins writes,

    “If you’ve never heard about the amazing potential of regenerative agriculture and land use practices to naturally sequester a critical mass of CO2 in the soil and forests, you’re not alone. One of the best-kept secrets in the world today is that the solution to global warming and the climate crisis (as well as poverty and deteriorating public health) lies right under our feet, and at the end of our knives and forks.”

    Source: http://regenerationinternational.org/why-regenerative-agriculture/

    • Jesse

      Reply

      The Regeneration International Website also describes that Regenerative Agriculture can:
      • Improve Yields
      • Create Drought-resistant Soils
      • Nurture Biodiversity
      • Preserve Traditional Knowledge
      • Improve Nutrition
      • Restore Grasslands
      and more!

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