Regenerative farming and gardening is realising the potential for our land to give us more support with growing food by getting our ecosystems functioning again.

Most of the land we currently manage sustainably can give us more support with growing food. Farmers and gardeners realise this potential using regenerative practices to improve their growing conditions.

Lessening the impacts of adverse climatic conditions can make a significant difference. We do this by understanding how these conditions affect different parts of our land, and then reduce these impacts by planting, for example, windbreaks and other trees to produce shade and reduce heat and sunburn damage to fruit.[1]

But how can we effectively improve our other growing conditions?

For our soils, we usually tackle soil compaction, low water infiltration rates and the issues identified in our soil tests, such as nutrient availability, pH, organic matter, and soil carbon. While these are helpful indicators to track our progress in regenerating our soil, we need ecosystems that work for these to improve. They are the products and services of functioning ecosystems – the same as residential populations of beneficial insects and birds pollinating our crops and controlling our insect pests.

That’s why we define regenerative agriculture as realising the potential for our land to give us more support with growing food by getting our ecosystems functioning again.

Ecosystems are complex, but understanding what to regenerate isn’t complicated. Nutrient cycles, water cycles and solar energy capture are the three key ecological functions that drive most of the action in our farms and gardens.[2] Getting these ecological functions working again, we tackle the root causes for virtually all of the natural resource issues holding us back.[3]

Eco-logical Rationale

The production systems we use to grow food are no different in principle from the systems that manufacture big-screen TVs and make espresso coffee! Except they also require ecological parts to function.

Production Systems in Manufacturing and Service Industries

Production Systems in Farms and Gardens

These components haven’t worked well for so long that we’ve largely forgotten about the free services they naturally provide.

We are seeing the consequences of this now.

Like any production system with poorly maintained parts, our costs have gone up as the underlying problems have built up. We’ve all got trapped, busy cultivating soil, applying fertilisers, compost, mulch and pest controls, substituting for the free services functioning ecosystems would otherwise provide. Virtually everybody does it! It is the accepted way to grow food, whether we apply chemical or organic inputs.

By way of example, by maximising plant growth for human consumption and livestock, we’ve overlooked maintaining the food supply to the invertebrates and microbes managing our soil ecosystems. Our soil organisms haven’t had the resources to maintain the soil infrastructure and recycle nutrients for plants to reuse, tasks for which they’ve had billions of years of on the job training. When we maintain the food supply to our soil ecosystem, our plants get silver service catering directly from our soil rather than via our intermittent and inadequate inputs.[4]

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

Getting our Ecosystems Functioning Again

Understanding what we need to regenerate and how to do it eco-logically, we learn from Nature, combining our ingenuity with billions of 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 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.Image showing the joy of regenerative farming and gardening- Learning from Nature

Continue your journey in Regenerative Farming and Gardening

Recommended articles –

  1. How to do Regenerative Farming and Gardening – Ecologically
  2. How to choose Regenerative Practices – that Work!
  3. Principles of Regenerative Farming and Gardening

Or get everything you need to know with our Eco-logical Farming or Eco-logical Gardening Handbooks.

Front cover Ecological Farming Handbook

Front cover Eco-logical Gardening Handbook

References – What is Regenerative Farming and Gardening?

[1]Wendy Seabrook, 2020, Grow Food that looks after Itself!, Learning from Nature

[2] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, Principles of Regenerative Farming and Gardening, Learning from Nature

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

[4] Wendy Seabrook, 2021, How to Build Healthy Soil – Eco-logically, Learning from Nature

Featured image by Tom Fisk

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