Regenerative farming needs a new voice

Nov 17, 2020

Regenerative farming covers a multitude of topics, but it essentially means adopting practices that focus on topsoil health, increased biodiversity, improving the water cycle, and more to make farms healthier.

In our state, there are thousands of acres that employ no-till/low-till farming practices. This method of regenerative farming minimizes or eliminates tilling the remains of a crop after harvest into the ground in favor of topsoil retention by allowing those remains to stay undisturbed. 

Yet, many farms have not adopted regenerative practices. 

Regenerative agriculture has an audience problem. When watching documentaries like Kiss the Ground, narrated by Woody Harrelson, the viewer gets the sense that some of the people featured are not appealing to a conventional farmer. For lack of a better description, the helpful message is drowned out by the participants who sound not like farmers but like people at Burning Man. 

Regenerative agriculture should appeal to a broad range of farmers because the number of versions of regenerative farming is significant. If no-till/low-till isn’t suitable for a farm, the integration of livestock grazing, compost, or the use of cover crops might be.

Proponents of regenerative agriculture also claim that if all farms practiced the methods, climate change could be slowed significantly or even reversed. Opponents suggest there’s no credence to the claim that regenerative agriculture can reverse climate change. 

What regenerative agriculture needs is more family and commercial farmers telling the stories of how they’ve saved money by reducing the amount of tillage, or highlighting how introducing cattle grazing to a recently harvested field of corn is dual purpose – it feeds the cattle during cold winter months and upcycles the corn stalks and cobs into useable forage while also benefitting the soil with manure deposits and aeration.

Additionally, policies should reflect the benefits farmers bring to the table by rewarding carbon sequestration, low-flow irrigation, and more. 

Washingtonians should remember that farming – in all its forms – is a beneficial pursuit. If policymakers want to push farmers into a different sphere of agriculture – like regenerative farming – they need to find voices and incentives to give it more appeal to conventional farmers.

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