When people talk about regenerative agriculture, they are often referring to practices of soil management and the environmental benefits that can be produced. This emphasis on environmental health is extremely important at a time when climate change and industrial agriculture are putting tremendous stress on both the land and the people who have to live off of it. By focusing on agriculture’s role in mitigating climate change, regenerative agriculture speaks to one of the most important issues of our time. Critically, these conversations are happening at the corporate as well as at the community level. Companies such as Patagonia have teamed up with field experts, as well as non-profit and philanthropic partners to launch efforts like Regenerative Organic Certified, to establish clear standards and practices to ensure that businesses stay true to the principles of regenerative agriculture, and to establish benchmarks as these practices move toward the mainstream.
Another key focus of regenerative agriculture is the production of the food that sustains communities – linking environmental security to a community’s continued ability to provide nourishment for its people. Places like the Rodale Institute, a leader in the research and promotion of alternative farming practices, describe the link as: “Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People”.
But is this enough? As the experience of COVID-19 has shown, even communities that appear self-sufficient are influenced by events that happen beyond their borders. From supply chains to capital markets – communities around the world are connected, and even reliant, on each other in sometimes unexpected ways.
That’s why, when it comes to thinking about how regenerative principles can nourish a community, we need to think beyond the field. Instead, we need to take a systems approach to regeneration to enhance and grow communities that have the resources and foundations to adapt to whatever challenges may come.