Using regenerative approaches to farming and gardening, growers recognise that their land can give them more support with growing food, and use practices to improve their growing conditions.

Improving biodiversity, organic matter, soil carbon, water infiltration and storage in soil, etc., are commonly cited goals. But it’s more effective to use regenerative practices to improve the functioning of the ecological systems (ecosystems) in our gardens and farms because we need ecosystems that work to achieve these goals. They are the products and services of functioning ecosystems!

That’s why at Learning from Nature we define regenerative farming and gardening as realising the potential for our land to give us more support with growing food by getting our ecosystems functioning again.

As a society, we value productivity and benchmark supply chains, manufacturing and service industries, and organisational structures on their ability to create goods and services resource efficiently. Yet, in our farms and gardens we have mostly ignored, neglected and reduced to bare bones the sophisticated, locally adapted, complex eco-systems underpinning our home and commercial food production.

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 systems to function!

Diagram showing ecological producton systems

Production Systems in Farms and Gardens

Like any production system with poorly maintained parts, our operating costs have increased. We’re cultivating soil, applying pest controls, fertilisers, compost and other organic and biological inputs, substituting for the free services ecosystems would otherwise provide. Virtually everybody does it! It has become the norm whether we use chemical or organic inputs.

Our home and commercial food production systems are more likely to break down when under extra strain from the impacts of drought, floods, extreme heat, and unusual pest and disease outbreaks.

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 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]

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 manage of farms and gardens to maintain the food supply to our soil ecosystem, our plants get silver service catering directly from our soil rather than via the intermittent and inadequate inputs we supply.[4]

Learning how to apply eco-logical approaches we combine 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 place-based 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.

Using eco-logical approaches to regenerative farming and gardening, we get off the treadmill of substituting for Nature’s free ecological services and create ecosystems capable of bouncing back from the impacts of extreme weather.

The practical act of growing food becomes a solution rather than a cause of climate change. We have the joy of producing nutritious food and bringing Nature back into our farms and gardens.Image showing the joy of regenerative farming and gardening- Learning from Nature

Getting help with using this Eco-logical Approach to 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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