Agriculture is in the midst of worldwide crisis. We are living in a world where corporate agriculture has eclipsed the family farm and left disasters in its wake: lifeless soil dependent on carcinogenic chemicals, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which have killed off an alarming percentage of the bee population—our lifeline to plant fertilization. While sustainable farming practices have started to address those issues, the concept of sustainability does not propose a solution to the havoc we have wreaked on nature for decades. Merely "sustaining" what is already unhealthy is simply not enough. We must raise our standards significantly if we ever hope to feed a growing world population.
Regenerative farming is a much stronger and far more precise term of what we need, because it not only takes into account the long-term potential of the farm organism, but it also emphasizes healing what has been lost after decades of abuse. In essence, regenerating the earth means giving back more than we take rather than just replacing. The principles of biodynamics, suggested by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, offer the most holistic strategic implementation of farm regeneration, as they consider the relationship of all beings on the farm to one another (animals, humans, plants, and insects) but also the farm's relationship to the larger world around it. While biodynamic philosophy has classically been touted as idealist thinking, it is the only proven pragmatic answer to farming. There is no question that these methods are more labor-intensive than industrial farming, but the results are profound: healthy soil rich in nutrients and microbiotic life, strong crops resistant to disease, an interdependent and polycultural farm that feeds itself, and an economically viable business.
When considering the path of regenerative farming, it is important to take a holistic look at the entire farm as an organism unto itself. The natural assets are the head of this organism, containing the inherent wisdom, intuition, and intelligence of the entire being. The human assets are not unlike the circulatory system; they bring the lifeblood and energy to every corner of the farm. The economic assets, or capital, drive the metabolism of the organism, allowing it to process, adapt, and grow in harmony with nature.
Once each part of the farm is assessed, an understanding of its real potential can be determined. The cycle of regeneration consists of mindfully engaging in the past, present, and future of the farm. By looking critically at the past, we are able to understand what have come before us or as served as a catalyst for change. At that point, we are ready to engage in the present, intuitively asking what specific change needs to occur. Our goals create the prototype of the future, a birthing action which allows a fluid and shifting response to nature and the creation process. Looking at the future of the farm involves planning for both familial and business succession if it is to continue into the next generation. And from there, the cycle of questioning, critical thinking, and creation starts anew.
While the marginalization of the small family farm over the last several decades threatens the fate of humanity, we have reached an important crossroads, challenging us to look at the role food takes in our health—both as individuals and as a culture. A rising consciousness around food provenance and politics has bred a surprising number of farmers, young and mature alike, who have begun to make a change. By diversifying crops, implementing healthy and regenerative practices into the farm as a whole, and constantly adapting to change using natural means, a new era of farming is at last proving to consumers that right intention in food can truly make the world a better place. Browse our website to learn more about our mission or how you can make a difference, either through advocacy work or by incorporating regenerative principles into your own farming practices. Click here for more information on biodynamic farming.