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

Listed goals usually include increasing biodiversity, improving organic matter and soil carbon levels, water infiltration and storage in soil, and imprecise statements like keeping soil covered, water in our landscapes, and improving soil health. While these measurable goals are helpful to track our progress, they are all products of functioning ecosystems. We need ecosystems that work for these to improve.[1] Poor ecological function is the underlying cause of our natural resource issues.

Therefore, the aim of regenerative farming and gardening is to grow food in functioning ecosystems. To do this, we repair the ecological functions that drive most of the action in our farms and gardens – our nutrient cycles, water cycles and capture of solar energy through photosynthesis, and build connections creating beneficial relationships between plants, other living organisms, and the non-living parts of your environment.[2] [3] Organic matter levels, water infiltration, and the other products produced by functioning ecosystems improve as a result.

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 – except that our systems also require ecological parts to operate!

Image showing Agricultural Production System with Ecological Components - Learning from Nature

Production Systems in Farms and Gardens

In most farms and gardens, these ecological components haven’t worked well for so long, that we’ve largely forgotten about the services they naturally provide. Like any production system in which the essential parts haven’t been adequately maintained, our:

  1. Costs go up as the underlying problems mount up, and our
  2. Production systems are more likely to break down when under extra strain.

We’re seeing the consequences of this now.

Having neglected crucial ecological components that would otherwise provide some protection, our ability to grow food is collapsing under the extra strain from droughts, flooding rains, extreme heat, unusual pest and disease outbreaks.

We’re busy cultivating soil, applying fertilisers and pest controls. Trapped in a vicious cycle substituting for the processes that these ecological components would otherwise have provided. It has become the norm. Virtually everybody does it!

By way of an example, by maximising plant growth only for human consumption and livestock, we’ve neglected our soil ecosystem. Our soil organisms haven’t been adequately resourced to complete the tasks they have had million years of on-the-job training to do. That is to maintain soil infrastructure and recycle plant nutrients for plants to reuse.

Designing and managing our farms and gardens to also produce 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.

Benefits of Regenerative Farming and Gardening

By learning from Nature, we combine our ingenuity with 400 million years of research and development, carried out in every climate and soil type on the planet!

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 with fertiliser, pest controls, and other inputs.

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.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I do regenerative farming and gardening? >> See here

2. What Practices should I use? >> See here

3. What grants and other incentives are available for regenerative agriculture?

There are grant programs in some regions, and we can tap into the payments made for the carbon sequestration and the other vital ecosystem services – biodiversity, flood mitigation, reduced fertiliser, pesticide and sediment runoff, we supply as natural by-products from repairing the ecological components in our production systems.

Financial support is certainly useful. But we don’t need it because of the cost savings, production efficiencies, and reduced risks realised from getting our ecosystems functioning again.

4. Compost, biological and other organic inputs – are they regenerative practices?

It depends on how you define regenerative. Switching from chemical to organic and biological fertilisers and pest controls will improve the functioning of your ecosystem. As will, boosting the amount of compost, biological and other organic inputs, you regularly apply (see diagram below). Therefore, in this context they are regenerative.

However, relying only on inputs to improve your ecosystem won’t get you to the stage where you can step back and leave more of the work to your ecosystem. To benefit from functioning ecosystems, you’ll need to develop practices enabling you to mimic how the ecological functions holding you back, get naturally repaired in your climate and other growing conditions.

Image showing Regenerative farming and Gardening - comparison of approaches

 

Get all the help you need to regenerate your farm or garden using our Eco-logical Farming Handbook or Eco-logical Gardening Handbook.

Front cover regenerative gardening

Front cover Ecological Farming Handbook

References – What is Regenerative Farming and Gardening

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

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

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

Featured image by Tom Fisk

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