Organic Agriculture In Comparison To Regenerative Agriculture

If you did not read my last post, please do. It explains in more detail what Regenerative Agriculture is and why it is important.

Typical Organic Farm
Typical Organic Farm

 

Most people are aware of what Organic means: no chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides, or GMOs were used to grow the food.

Almost 100% of Regenerative Agriculture is Organic in the sense that no chemicals or GMOs are used.

But Regenerative Agriculture goes far beyond Organic. Organic farms usually have simply replaced the chemical inputs with so-called “natural” inputs. The basic farming paradigm remains the same. Regenerative Agriculture, on the other hand, is the result of a fundamentally different understanding of the way plants grow. 

Mark Shepard's Regenerative Farm.
Mark Shepard’s Regenerative Farm.

 

Regenerative farmers find their techniques and solutions by observing nature. They use the sciences of ecology and biology, whereas Organic agriculture relies mostly on the science of chemistry. Ecological solutions cannot by patented or easily sold so they face a lot of opposition from the people who make money off of chemicals. But, for the farmer, ecological solutions are turning out to be almost universally more effective and far cheaper. The functions of fertilizers can be replaced by the soil food web, which is completely free, builds soil, and gets better and better over time. The functions of pesticides can be replaced with beneficial organisms like birds and insects and through the use of plant diversity.

Regenerative Agriculture in South Africa.
Regenerative Agriculture in South Africa.

 

Regenerative farmers recognize that agriculture can be a force for good. Why should we settle for simply sustaining the current degraded state of our world when we know how to regenerate it? Regenerative farmers are building topsoil at astounding rates, increasing soil organic matter, sequestering carbon, increasing net calorie production beyond even the most productive conventional farms (and they say we can’t “feed the world”, ha!), increasing the biodiversity of insects, birds, plants, and wildlife on their farms, healing riparian areas, reducing erosion and flooding, reducing the need for heavy machinery, and producing healthier food.

There are farmers who call themselves Organic who are doing these great things too. But the majority of Certified Organic food you buy in the grocery store is not grown in a regenerative way.

3 Replies to “Organic Agriculture In Comparison To Regenerative Agriculture”

  1. Thank your for your post. My family are farmers in central Illinois and we are trying to learn more about regenerative farming. My cousin just asked me to find out what the difference is between regenerative agriculture and biodynamic agriculture.

    Thanks,

    June

    1. Biodynamic agriculture was created by the cult-leader Rudolf Steiner. It is not based on any science, but is more of a spiritual practice. Biodynamic agriculture frequently involves making fertilizer potions (called “preps”, but they are potions, really) and organizing activities by the phases of the moon. I would say Biodynamic Agriculture is a lot like the homeopathic medicine of the farming world: it usually doesn’t provide any benefit, and when it does its via the placebo effect. Regenerative is simply any sort of farming that produces measurable improvements in the overall ecosystem health of the farm land.

  2. Outstanding article…not enough people have the slightest idea about this. I am a complete believer in regenerative methodology. If plant roots absorb nutrients from microbial sources better then synthetic fertilizers and there is already some evidence that plant roots also find it easier to absorb micronutrients AND much of the synthetic chemicals are simply washed away with ground water…making fresh water sources toxic what about our bodies?

    Are the synthetic chemicals in vegetables being absorbed or are they being flushed? And what about synthetic nutrient in vitamin pills?

    I simply can not believe that one process works one way in plants and another in the human body!

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