Regenerative Agriculture: Sowing Health, Sustainability, and Climate Stability
Green San Miguel
By Rachel Kastner
It’s time we acknowledged the disastrous effects industrial farming systems have on our health and the environment. The destructive practices of industrial farming include pollution, chemical residues in our food, exploitation of water, soil erosion, destruction of local ecologies, and more. Agricultural production is one of the most environmentally destructive industries, but it doesn＊t have to be this way. Agriculture can heal eroded ecosystems, produce healthy food, and support local economies.
The State of Guanajuato is one of the largest agricultural states in Mexico, and we are beginning to see the effects of industrial farming locally. Eighty-five percent of the groundwater in the state is used to irrigate cropland and, as a result, aquifer levels are dropping annually. An estimated 48 percent of the surface of the state of Guanajuato is used fot agricultural cultivation. Subsistence farmers in San Miguel have seen production of traditional crops drop in recent years. Due to many factors, we are seeing depleted soil and water resources, resulting in lower crop yields and less productive grazing areas for animals. Instead of buying into chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and modified seeds, farmers have another option.
Vía Orgánica, along with a growing number of organizations and farmers, believe: the solution lies in an ecological approach to farming known as regenerative organic agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic farming system that enhances natural resources, rather than depleting them. Regenerative agriculture takes advantage of natural processes to replenish nutrients, water, and soil while producing nutrient-dense, healthy food. Regenerative farmers create healthy soils through the use of compost, cover crops, minimal tillage, and rotational grazing of animals. Each piece of land is designed as a food-producing ecosystem. Landscapes are designed to capture rainwater in the soil. Pests and diseases are managed by creating healthy ecosystems with a proper balance of beneficial insects, bacteria, and fungi. Animals are allowed to live on the land and are managed in a way that benefits the soil and pastures. Regenerative agriculture designs production systems and can recover from environmental changes and other threats.
One of the most important benefits of regenerative farming is its ability to sequester atmospheric CO2, therefore helping to mitigate global climate change. Regenerative agriculture uses techniques that replicate the natural carbon cycle to sequester carbon in the soil through the use of plants. Through photosynthesis plants absorb CO2 and store carbon in their leaves and roots. A portion of this carbon is stored in the soil and if left undisturbed is safeguarded for centuries. According to a recent study by the Rodale Institute, if regenerative agricultural practices were practiced worldwide, they would mitigate more than 100 percent of current CO2 emissions.
As part of our ongoing research at the Vía Orgánica Ecological Ranch, we are developing a variety of regenerative agriculture trials. Our trials focus on putting regenerative agriculture into practice by producing annual and perennial crops and grass-fed livestock. We are working to create an educational model that will demonstrate how regenerative agriculture can produce a diversity of crops, preserve natural resources, enrich local economies, and improve the lives of small farmers here in Mexico.