Virtually all of the land we currently manage sustainably can give us more help with growing food. We realise this potential by using regenerative practices to improve our growing conditions, making it easier, cheaper, and more environmentally sustainable to produce food.

The goals listed in many resources on regenerative farming and gardening usually include increasing biodiversity, improving organic matter and soil carbon levels, water infiltration and storage in soil, keeping water in our landscapes, and improving soil health. While these are helpful measures to track our progress, they are all products of functioning ecosystems. We need ecosystems that work for these to improve.[1] [2] Therefore, in adopting regenerative practices, we aim to grow food in functioning ecosystems.

The Eco-logical Rationale

The production systems in our farms and gardens are no different in principle from the systems that manufacture big-screen TVs and make espresso coffee!Model showing standard production systems

Production Systems in Manufacturing and Service Industries

Except that our production systems also require ecological parts to function.

Model showing food production systemsProduction Systems in Farms and Gardens

These ecological components haven’t worked well for so long in most farms and gardens that we’ve largely forgotten about the services they naturally provide.

We’re seeing the consequences of this now.

Like any production system with essential parts that aren’t adequately maintained, our costs go up as the underlying problems mount up. We’re busy cultivating soil, applying fertilisers and pest controls, trapped on a treadmill of substituting for the processes the ecological components in our food production systems would otherwise perform. Virtually everybody does it! It has become the norm.

By way of example, by maximising plant growth for human consumption and livestock, we’ve neglected the food supply to our soil ecosystems. Our soil organisms haven’t had the resources to perform the tasks they’ve had millions of years of on-the-job training to do – maintain soil infrastructure and recycle nutrients for plants to reuse. When we manage our land to produce onsite a generous, diverse, and consistent food supply for our soil ecosystem, our plants get ‘silver service’ catering rather than intermittent and inadequate inputs supplied by us.[1] [2]

We’ve also reduced our capacity to produce food when our farms and gardens are under extra strain from droughts, flooding rains, extreme heat, and unusual pest and disease outbreaks, having neglected the crucial ecological components that would otherwise provide some protection.

Getting Practical

Currently, the emphasis in the regenerative movement is on using a practice-based approach to get our production systems working better. In deciding what to do, we look at the range of different practices available and choose the ones we think will best help us solve the issues holding us back. Using this approach we can improve the functioning of our ecosystems, but are unlikely to get the best outcomes for the time, effort and money we put in.[4]

A more targeted approach is applying eco-logical principles to:

  1. Repair the ecological functions driving most of the action in our farms and gardens – our nutrient cycles, water cycles and capture of solar energy through photosynthesis, and
  2. Build connections to create beneficial relationships between plants, other living organisms, and the non-living parts of our environment, to improve these functions and efficiently use the resources they make available.[1] [2]

Understanding what we need to regenerate and how to apply the principles, we Learn from Nature, combining our ingenuity with 400 million years of research and development, carried out in every climate and soil type on the planet, including our own! We gain the skills to develop practical solutions that work well for our unique circumstances, build our capacity to trial techniques, learn and share our experiences, and can respond constructively to emerging issues and threats.

We grow nutritious food, create ecosystems that quickly bounce back from the impacts of extreme weather, and get off the treadmill of substituting for Nature’s free ecological services. The practical act of growing food becomes a solution rather than a cause of climate change and, we have the joy of bringing Nature back into our farms and gardens.

Support with using this Eco-logical Approach to Regenerative Farming and Gardening

Get support from Learning from Nature:

  1. How to do regenerative farming and gardening
  2. What Practices should I use?
  3. Library of videos on the supporting science and stories from leading farmers and gardeners on the Learning from Nature YouTube Channel
  4. Publications from Learning from Nature – Get help with growing from your strengths creating a GrowMap for your land, fixing your nutrient cycling with Feed your Plants without Fertilisers, and your water cycle with Drought-Proof your farm or garden. Or better still the Eco-logical Farming and Gardening Handbooks.

Image showing Learning from Nature Publications

References – What is Regenerative Farming and Gardening

[1] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Farming Handbook, Publ Learning from Nature

[2] Wendy Seabrook, 2019, Eco-logical Gardening Handbook, Publ Learning from Nature

[3] Oduiun, Eugine P. 1971, Fundamentals of Ecology, W.B. Saunders Company

[4] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, How to do Regenerative Farming and Gardening, Learning from Nature

[5] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, What Practices should I use? Learning from Nature

Featured image by Tom Fisk

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