More growers and distributors of organic food are embracing the practices of regenerative agriculture – an approach that complements and builds on the organic sector’s focus on natural farming methods without use of genetically modified seeds or most synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Consumers who buy organic say one reason is their desire to protect the environment. Because “regenerative organic” offers multiple benefits to the environment – and to humans, animals and communities – its proponents believe the more Canadians learn about this approach, the more they’ll embrace it.
Regenerative agriculture is a term popularized in 2015 by the organic sector itself, stemming from its desire to address broader environmental, health and social issues at a time of urgency.
“We have moved well beyond the goal of environmental sustainability,” says André Leu, one of the founders of the global regenerative agriculture movement and international director of Regeneration International. “We have a planet in crisis. We don’t need to simply sustain it – we need to make it better. And we can do that by harnessing this powerful force of nature we call regeneration.”
Combining organic and regenerative principles encourages innovative land-management practices that allow nature to do the work – using holistic farming and grazing techniques that rebuild soil organic matter, which Mr. Leu believes is “key to regenerative organic.
“It was the basis of organic originally, and we want to restore the emphasis,” he says. “The more soil organic matter you have, the more nutrients you will have in the soil and in the food.”
One company that has embraced organic regenerative practices for building a stable, thriving food system is Yorkshire Valley Farms, Canada’s leading organic poultry producer that offers certified organic chicken, turkey and eggs.
“Our programs have been organic since day one because we believe everyone thrives on good food,” says James Sculthorpe, president and CEO of Yorkshire Valley Farms. “We want to build long-term resilience for the farms and communities that we support. To do that, we need to foster healthy soils, promote natural eco-systems and displace synthetic chemicals.”
Other growers and companies in Canada are joining Yorkshire Valley Farms in the adoption of regenerative organic methods.
“ We have a planet in crisis. We don’t need to simply sustain it – we need to make it better. And we can do that by harnessing this powerful force of nature we call regeneration.
Co-founder of the global regenerative agriculture movement and international director of Regeneration International
“The footprint of regenerative organic is expanding,” says Kris Nichols, director of research and extension with Canadian Organic Growers, who is helping to introduce more Canadian growers to regenerative techniques. “Regenerative methods are becoming more popular especially in places susceptible to drought, like the prairies.”
Building up organic matter in soil allows better water management, Dr. Nichols explains. “In this way, regenerative organic practices can help mitigate the impacts of climate change. And evidence shows they can also address causes of climate change. When we look at soil carbon accrual, taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it in the soil for longer, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The most effective path to get regenerative organic on a much larger scale is through consumer support, says Dr. Nichols. “We believe that with more education, consumers will support these products because of the multi-layer environmental benefits and the potential to grow healthier food.”
Healthier food and healthier communities are also goals to which Yorkshire Valley Farms is committed. “We like to say that doing better tastes good,” says Mr. Sculthorpe. “We think you can taste the difference that organic offers.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA). The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.