BY SETH ROFFMAN
Studies have shown that conventional, industrial agriculture has contributed as much
as 25 percent of the emissions driving the climate crisis, and that global topsoils will,
at the current rate, be depleted in 60 years. Depleted soils endanger the complex balance
of natural systems, threatening everything from the productivity of cropland to
the availability of foods and commonly used materials.
Regenerative organic agriculture focuses on the full farm ecosystem. To be truly regenerative, farmers, as stewards of their lands, must consider all players involved—
from soil microbes to animals to workers. Regenerative organic agriculture may
include practices such as cover-cropping, crop rotation, minimal soil disturbance
(low- to no-till), rotational grazing, compost, and zero use of persistent chemical
pesticides and fertilizers. Layered into these practices (depending on a farm’s needs)
could be the addition of perennials, development of pollinator and wildlife habitats,
incorporation of agroforestry systems, vegetative barriers and other practices that
contribute to the development of soil organic matter.
Regenerative agriculture is not a modern creation. It draws on Indigenous wisdom
and practices. The term was first introduced by Dr. George Washington Carver
and popularized by Robert Rodale of the Rodale Institute, who coined the term to
distinguish a kind of farming that goes beyond “sustainable.”
The nonprofit Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA) was founded in 2018 by the
Rodale Institute, Dr. Bronner’s and Patagonia to promote regenerative farming as
the gold standard for agriculture. It is designed to “heal a broken system, repair
a damaged planet, and empower farmers and eaters to create a better future.” Its
members believe that by adopting regenerative practices on farms around the
world they can create long-term solutions to the climate crisis, factory farming
and fractured rural economies.
In 2020, a group of ROA farmers, business leaders and soil health experts created
“Regenerative Organic Certified,” (ROC™) for food, fiber and personal care
ingredients. Soil health, animal welfare and social fairness are its three pillars.
ROA members continue to review and update the ROC framework. For more
information, visit https://regenorganic.org.