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What is regenerative farming?

30 June, 2021

We caught up with Swperbox, a community interest company based in Carmarthenshire. They share their thoughts on how regenerative farming can boost biodiversity and resilience for the crops we choose to grow – and the wildlife that is supports.

 

Words by Alex and Stuart, Swperbox CIC

It simply is not good enough to be sustainable any more, we need to regenerate.

At it’s most basic element, Regenerative Farming is a practice that has soil regeneration at it’s core. Regeneration International describes regenerative agriculture as a “holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.”

Soil depletion is a massive concern for farmers, through the use of chemical fertilizers, buying in seed and chemical pesticides we are led to believe farmers can grow more and more food in the same place. But this is not the case and it masks a problem, the nutrient density of soil is being depleted year after year. So much so that farmers now feel locked into the same degenerative practice as the soil in which we all grow becomes a baron of nature’s bountiful nutrients.

Soil is our most important factor in the ability to feed our nation and provide food security against a changing climate. It’s no secret that using modern farming practices of pesticide, herbicide, fertilisers and monocultures are damaging our soil, even a vegan diet can rely heavily on this type of farming. Especially with the ever prevalent use of ultra-processed vegan food relying on imported goods such as un-sustainably farmed soya, which we all know is having a hugely negative impact on the global environment.

However this is not the only regenerative benefit, these traditional farming methods also help boost biodiversity and resilience – both in the crops we choose to grow and the wildlife that it supports.

One of the most important benefits of Regenerative Farming is Carbon Sequestration, plants use the sun to photosynthesise Carbon Dioxide and Water into energy, thereby sequestering atmospheric carbon into the ground and adding nutrients into the soil for future crops to utilise.

We have an amazing network here in Wales of small-scale regenerative farming, pioneering in their efforts collectively to reverse the impacts of climate change. One of the challenges we face as consumers is access to this produce and the opportunity to support them.

What is a regenerative diet?

Eating a regenerative diet is more about how the food you eat is grown, rather than just what food you eat.

It is a varied diet, to increase the biodiversity of crops grown, it is eating locally, it is choosing grass and pasture fed meat as opposed to soy and grain fed. It is eating a higher amount of nitrogen fixing crops such as beans and pulses, it is having a higher proportion of vegetables on your plate.

The regeneration aspect does not stop with farming, eating a varied diet mainly consisting of  fruits, vegetables and pulses can have a regenerative effect on our gut health, which are basically small farms. Eating regeneratively farmed food that has a higher nutritional density is important because it means we can consume more nutrients. Doing so in a way without a higher calorie intake that is consistent with eating more foods that are less nutritious.

One of the biggest opportunities of our lifetime is the integration of such food across the public plate in schools, hospitals and care homes. This huge demand supported by public money (our money) has the potential of transforming the farming nation of Wales to a regenerative agriculture model. The seasonal menus can celebrate these locally produced ingredients, fresher, more nutritious and diverse.

Public contracts, Government  Policy, National Organisations and the correct management structure can financially and technologically support our suppliers to make the change, at the same time rewarding those who already meet these standards through true cost accounting in the supply chain.

We the people have a responsibility to make these changes ourselves, beyond the “middle-class” organic food food movement, increasing supply means more affordable prices and increasing food literacy means we all understand how to cook and eat better for our health.

It is about giving people the opportunity and access to a diet that not only regenerates our bodies but also regenerates our planet.

If we invest in our regenerative diets now we can not only tackle climate change but also tackle the impacts of increased diet related disease here in Wales. Who knows, maybe the future money we save as a country could be re-invested in new climate technology and social enterprise.

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