Regenerative farming is a marketing term that was coined in the 1980s by Robert Rodale of the Rodale Institute and publisher of Organic Gardening and New Farm magazines. He felt that the term “sustainable” was a poor choice because it felt like just trying to maintain where we are now without striving for improvement.
Robert Rodale defined Regenerative Agriculture as follows: “the term “regenerative organic” to describe a holistic approach to farming that encourages continuous innovation and improvement of environmental, social, and economic measures.” For him, the continuous innovation and improvement was key.
Regenerative farming and Organic farming were both the standard way of farming before the advent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides…what is now called “conventional agriculture” Before the chemical revolution, regenerative and organic were just called FARMING. For example, my mom Della, grew up on a 100 acre farm outside of Nampa, Id which incorporated many of the components of regenerative ag. First, there was a mix of crops and livestock and poultry. Up to 10 different crops were rotated through the fields with the livestock. The manure was all returned to the fields to build soil health, fertility, and that elusive quality we refer to as “tilth”
On my little 20 acres in the Willamette Valley I rely pastured pigs and geese to turn and fertilize the soil. There is no money to be made on pigs, but they add so much to the health of the soil, and that is always number one consideration for me. They graze, they turn the soil over, they root up weeds and in time leave a pasture comprised of the vegetation they find most palatable. I have beautiful pastures of mixed clovers and ryegrass that I did not plant…the pigs cultivated them to suit their palates.
A key thing about pigs is that they are not ruminants like a cow or sheep. Their digestive system is much closer to a humans, with a single relatively small stomach. While they love to graze greenery and munch roots and leaves they need to be fed a concentrated ration everyday. As those pigs work through their pasture they spread the feed I provide across the fields in their manure. Pigs have a plow on the front and a manure spreader on the rear. When I take a pasture from pigs and make it a field for growing veggies, or hemp, the soil is incredible!
Here are 2 photos of one such pasture being disced up to ready it for planting vegetable seed…just the 1st pass with the disc and it is beautiful, crumbly and well aggregated. Outstanding looking Willamette Valley silt loam, after 14 years of organic management.
As you can see in the above photos, I always let some weeds grow. The tall ones a Queen Anne’s Lace, which is a wild carrot. Carrots are “umbelliferous”. A botanical term meaning: belonging to the Umbelliferae, a family of herbaceous plants and shrubs, typically having hollow stems, divided or compound leaves, and flowers in umbels: includes fennel, dill, parsley, carrot, celery, and parsnip. Umbels are the preferred nectar source for many beneficial insects…ladybugs, lacewings, tiny parasitic wasps. They need the sugar from the nectar for energy so they can chase down and devour their protein source, the bad bugs that damage crops.
Also, being a little sloppy on the landscape gives habitat to beneficial insects, many different species of birds, amphiibians, snakes, pollinators. I let them use the ground until I am ready to use it for a crop. It is a symbiotic relationship.
Just a quick taste of the vast subject of regenerative farming, and in future posts I will go deeper. I will also relate it to how it ties into producing high quality CBD rich hemp for our Della’s Garden high potency CBD products.