The agricultural industry has one of the biggest impacts on our environment, as it uses land, water, and energy. “Conventional” farming practices use fertilizers that are mined and in limited supply to provide nutrients to single-crop fields. Fertilizers also contaminate our environment and ruin the soil and the water so we have to rely on fertilizers. One day, we will run out of the mined ingredients we use in fertilizers. So, it’s better to transition now to regenerative farming practices.
Regenerative farming uses compost as a natural fertilizer, which is basically broken-down organic matter like food scraps and animal poop. It also uses cover crops to provide a natural cycle and replenish nutrients in the soil. The most important thing is to not till the soil, which means to churn it up each year. When you allow the soil to be rich with long root systems and organic matter, it sequesters carbon from the atmosphere. It also provides a healthy micro ecosystem in the soil, which is what healthy plants eat from. With how much farming we do, certain organizations like Patagonia think that we could sequester enough carbon out of the atmosphere to prevent climate change by adopting regenerative farming.
Planting diversity instead of single crops or mono culture provides resilience to the farm, protecting it from any invasive species and diseases because the variety is a natural protection. Diversity provides a cycle of nutrients because different types of plants use different nutrients from the soil and return other nutrients, creating a balanced and circular system.
Animals are an important element in regenerative farming because they can eat weeds and cover crops and their poop is an excellent natural fertilizer. Any sustainable farm needs to have animals incorporated to keep it healthy—there doesn’t need to be an overabundance of animals, just enough to do their job in the circulatory system.
Eating seasonal foods is also more sustainable. You can get food that is more local because you are buying in season, rather than buying strawberries in winter that are flown in from Mexico, for example, which uses a great deal of energy in that transportation.
Organic food is better than conventional since it doesn’t allow the use of many chemicals, but it certainly is not enough. So, buy organic food at a minimum, and try to buy any food that is using sustainable, regenerative, no-till farming practices.
You can look for grocery stores that have these in their mission for sourcing food, or buy direct at a farmers market and ask them about their farming practices. You want to hear any of the following: organic methods, compost, cover crops, no till, regenerative practices, sustainable practices, no fertilizers, no chemicals or chemical pesticides, diverse plants instead of monoculture, and efficient water management.