Regenerative Agriculture

Randy Buresh from Oregon's Wild Harvest - healthy soils are the heart of regenerative agriculture

Regenerative Agriculture

Healthier ecosystems create healthier plants, which create healthier herbal medicine.

At the current rates of soil degradation, the world’s topsoil could be lost within 60 years, a senior UN official has said. Herbal products companies are already experiencing disruptions in their supply chains from shortages from unprecedented rains, droughts, fires, hurricanes and other weather events caused by climate change. These disruptions will only increase in the future.

We all need to take action – and quickly. Companies need to lead these efforts to ensure the continued supply of the raw materials on which their products depend.

Regenerative agriculture is a return to what organic was originally all about – rebuilding topsoil, protecting biodiversity, empowering farming communities. Caring for the soil is at the heart of regenerative agriculture – healthier soil percolates water better and makes more nutrients accessible, which improves the ability of that soil to grow crops. Well-managed soils also have an extraordinary capacity to absorb and hold carbon.

Terra Genesis International launched a creative commons licensed, open global discussion with this definition:

“Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. By capturing carbon in soil and above ground biomass, Regenerative Agriculture aims to reverse global climate change. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming communities. The system draws from decades of scientific and applied research by the global communities of organic farming, agroecology, holistic grazing, and agroforestry.”

Tending the Soil at Avena Botanicals (video)

What is the natural products industry doing?

Regenerative agriculture isn’t new. Companies created with a vision of using enterprise to support healthy ecosystems have based their sourcing practices on these principles from the outset. These companies will continue to be the leaders in deepening and developing farming systems that mimic natural systems.

What is new is the urgency and the sudden attention that regenerative agriculture is getting in the news in general and in the natural products industry in particular. A number of initiatives have emerged.

Dr. Bronner’s, Patagonia and Rodale Institute are leaders in developing a new standard for regenerative agriculture. Read about HerbPharm’s experience in the pilot program to test this standard. The standards are available for everyone regardless of whether you choose to be certified or not and offer a fantastic and thorough guide for improving your farming practices.

The Soil Carbon Initiative is an outcome-based, verifiable standard designed to improve soil health and build soil carbon by encouraging the shift to regenerative agricultural practices. This initiative, led by Carbon Underground and Green America, champions a practice for measuring soil health that can be used by certified organic and conventional farmers to improve soil quality.

New Hope Network and the Climate Collaborative have organized a series of discussions focusing on the role of regenerative agriculture in addressing climate change. Live stream videos as well as shorter summaries of the various panels and presentations can be found at Climate Collaborative.

New Hope has resources as well. “Moving Toward Regenerative Agriculture” (videos of the session here) is a 2018 panel at ExpoWest that was held in a room filled to capacity. They have a series of posts on regenerative agriculture targeted to natural products companies, including 9 Ways Your Brand Can Support the Regenerative Movemenwith some great suggestions to get started, if this topic is new for your company.

Farming and More provides six agricultural courses and themes about sustainable farming management from explaining videos, demonstrations of real farmers, posters and many more on how to use sustainable practices on farms.

Elixir Farm, Brixey, Missouri by Steven Foster

What SHP is doing

Our vision is not simply that the sourcing and manufacturing of herbal medicine does no harm – we believe sourcing and manufacturing remedies to improve human health should improve the ecological health of the places where they grow. Just as good sourcing strategies are built on actively building and maintaining relationships along the supply chain, good growing practices should actively build and maintain healthy soils and healthy ecosystems.

SHP will support broader efforts to encourage regenerative agriculture practices in botanical industry supply chains by:

  • Producing stories (video and blog posts) of regenerative farming in the natural products industry, beginning with a short video describing the practices that Avena Botanicals, a biodynamic apothecary in Rockland, Maine has been using to maintain healthy soil since the company was founded.
  • Share stories of disruptions in botanical supply chains to contribute to the sense of urgency needed to bring about change.
  • Blog posts addressing companies taking steps to build regenerative practices into their value networks:
  • Sharing resources geared to companies interested in learning more about efforts to incorporate regenerative farming practices into their supply chains.
  • If needed, produce tool kits/webinar for farmers interested in getting involved in regenerative farming, what the risks are and why it is so crucial.