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Photo: Andreana Bitsis

What is “Regenerative Agriculture”?

As the term “organic” increasingly comes into question, more and more alternative food labels are popping up, identifying everything from pollinator-friendly practices to products made from heritage seeds.

The latest to draw attention is “regenerative agriculture,” which Christopher Collins describes in an article for Civil Eats as a series of non-invasive practices (like using “compost, cover crops, and tills only minimally”) aimed at returning soil to better health.

Photo: Dusan Kostic/Adobe

While the practices behind regenerative agriculture are nothing new, they have become increasingly popular in recent years, as farmers look to methods more in tune with the effects and repercussions of Climate Change and the environment at large, rather than focusing simply on the organic aspect. As Collins writes:

At the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, executive director Jeff Moyer wants to use regenerative ag to help raise the standards of the National Organic Program. The Institute is uniquely positioned to make that happen, since founder J. I. Rodale popularized the term “organic” in the 1940s and Robert Rodale began using “regenerative” in the 1980s.

“We want to be very cautious and maintain ownership of the word regenerative and link it to organic as a baseline,” Moyer said. “We’re well aware of what happened to the word ‘sustainable’—it was a buzzword and it became so watered down it became meaningless. There’s going to be a battle for words and language expressed over the next few years.” That battle could manifest itself in the form of a trademark, he said.

Moyer said Rodale is also in discussions with “specific partners” in the marketing and food industries regarding regenerative, but gave few details. A Rodale spokeswoman said, “there will be some big announcements with really well-known brands and some products that are going to be on the market.”

Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), said, “from our perspective, organic is regenerative.” Organic growing practices already facilitate carbon sequestration, she said; a forthcoming study by the OTA’s Organic Center and Northeastern University is expected to show higher levels of sequestration in organic soil than in conventional soil.

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Read the rest of the article on Civil Eats.

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