Written by: Vincent Pedre M.D. | January 24, 2024 | Time to read 13 min
Our Soil’s Ticking Time Bomb
60 years of farmable soil!
That’s all we may have left if we don’t do something about it…. VERY…. SOON!
As Rob Herring calls to our attention in the masterfully-produced documentary, "The Need to Grow" —this is a wake-up call with a timer ticking down. This doc takes us on a startling journey, revealing that we might have as little as 60 years of farmable soil left if we continue our current agricultural practices.
This shocking revelation serves as a stark reminder of our precarious relationship with the very earth that feeds us. Herring's work is not just a film; it's a rallying cry to rethink and reshape how we treat our planet's precious soil, urging immediate action to preserve and rejuvenate our vital agricultural foundations for future generations.
Now imagine a world where farms are not just food factories but vibrant ecosystems that heal the Earth. That's regenerative farming for you, an approach that's more than just sustainable – it actively rejuvenates the environment and soil. This innovative method focuses on improving soil health, enhancing biodiversity, and acting as a natural carbon sink. Techniques like no-till farming, cover cropping, and diverse crop rotations are not just about growing crops; they're about growing hope.
And, hello! If you’ve read my book, The GutSMART Protocol, you know that diversity is the holy grail of health. Diversity in our gut microbiome creates a healthier body and brain for you. But our gut diversity is not the only diversity that has been threatened by modern practices like antibiotics and pesticides. Factory farming and GMO’s are threatening to destroy our farmable soil in less than 60 years if we don’t do something about it.
The Dark Side of Agriculture: Factory Farming's Environmental Toll
In stark contrast to the nurturing methods of regenerative farming (which I’ll discuss shortly), factory farming looms like a dark cloud. Characterized by intensive animal rearing and monoculture crop production, factory farming comes with a heavy environmental price tag.
It's a significant contributor to methane and nitrous oxide, potent greenhouse gasses. The overuse of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in crop production, especially with GMO crops designed for glyphosate tolerance, leads to soil degradation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.
The Worst Greenhouse Gasses Aren’t Coming from Cars
Methane and Nitrous Oxide are both significantly more potent than carbon dioxide in their ability to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, which is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Methane (CH4) is about 30 times more effective than Carbon Dioxide (CO2) at trapping heat in the atmosphere over 100 years. This increased potency is due to the molecular structure of methane, which allows it to absorb infrared radiation more efficiently. Methane lifespan in the atmosphere is much shorter than carbon dioxide. However, its immediate impact on global warming is significant.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is about 300 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat! It remains in the atmosphere about 10 times longer than Methane — 115 years! This extended presence, combined with its high potency, makes Nitrous Oxide a particularly concerning greenhouse gas in terms of its long-term impact on global warming.
GMO Crops and Glyphosate: A Problematic Partnership
GMO crops engineered for glyphosate resistance seem like a modern agricultural marvel, but come with their own set of environmental issues. They demand nitrogen-based fertilizers, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and soil degradation. And due to increasing weed resistance, farmers are using more and more of this herbicide than ever before, up to 6X more than would be required normally.
These fertilizers, while effective in boosting crop growth, play a significant role in increasing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly nitrous oxide, which is a potent contributor to global warming.
Additionally, the excessive use of these fertilizers can lead to soil degradation by disrupting the natural nutrient balance, reducing soil fertility, and harming the beneficial microbes essential for healthy soil ecosystems. This dual impact underscores the environmental challenges of conventional farming methods. 🌍🌾💨
In the past 50 years alone, an astonishing 3.5 billion pounds of Glyphosate, the most heavily utilized herbicide, have been dispersed across American soils. Glyphosate has been linked to biodiversity loss and potential health risks, including cancers, raising questions about its widespread use in modern agriculture.
Are Plant-Based Meats Better? Their Environmental Impact
Plant-based meats, often referred to as “fake meats,” are lauded as a sustainable alternative to traditional animal protein. However, the reality of their environmental footprint isn’t as clear-cut as many proponents claim. While these products do offer benefits lauded by herbivores and vegans worldwide, such as reduced animal farming, they come with their own set of environmental concerns.
Enter the age of “Frankenmeat” enterprises: they're mixing and matching plant substitutes like a botanical DJ, but the environmental tune they're playing has complex notes of resource use, a high carbon footprint and greenhouse emissions.
Here are a few of those notable companies:
Beyond Meat: Pioneers in plant-based meat, known for their Beyond Burger and other products that closely mimic the taste and texture of animal meat. Yet, it’s not real meat, and if you’re plant-based, why do you need to eat something that mimics the taste and texture of the real thing? Hmmm.
Impossible Foods: Famous for their Impossible Burger, they use scientific methods to replicate the flavor of meat using plant-based ingredients, notably their use of heme, a molecule that gives meat its characteristic flavor. Again, why pretend when the real thing, ethically raised, is better for you and the environment?
Gardein: Offers a variety of frozen, refrigerated, and shelf-stable plant-based proteins, including meatless meatballs, chicken strips, and fishless filets. Just turn around the packaging and you will see a full scope of unhealthy ingredients like soy protein isolate, wheat gluten, and canola oil that can disrupt your gut health and cause leaky gut, leading to bloating, gas, diarrhea, and inflammation.
Tofurky: One of the earlier entrants into the market, best known for their plant-based holiday roasts, but also offering a range of other products like deli slices and sausages. Do you know what else they offer? Inflammation and weight gain.
Lightlife: Their burgers, hot dogs, and ground meat substitutes may seem like simple and recognizable ingredients, but they often contain hidden emulsifiers and stabilizers like methylcellulose and cellulose gum. These ingredients can interfere with your digestion and nutrient absorption in sensitive individuals, leading to bloating and gas.
Field Roast: Known for artisanal plant-based meats and cheeses, offering products like sausages, roasts, and burgers made from grains, vegetables, and spices. Healthier for you? Not so fast. Many of their plant-based substitutes contain vital wheat gluten and omega-6 expeller pressed safflower oil — ingredients that cause leaky gut, water retention, and inflammation. If you are gluten-sensitive, then you need to stay away.
MorningStar Farms: A subsidiary of Kellogg's, offering a wide variety of plant-based products such as burgers, sausages, and meal starters. You had me at Kellogg’s, the manufacturer of sugar-laden wheat cereals pedaled on our youngsters. Need I say more?
What’s the problem with these fake meat alternatives? No one is talking about their environmental impact in comparison to regenerative farming (I promise, I’ll get to that soon enough). One significant issue is how the key ingredients — soy, peas, and corn derivatives, are produced. These often require extensive land and water, and are often derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) sources. The plant-based meat industry, therefore, inadvertently supports the GMO industry, a substantial yet underappreciated contributor to greenhouse gas emissions through its excessive use of nitrogen-containing pesticides.
This debate was brought into the spotlight by the controversial Netflix series, "You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment." The series delves into the differences in health and environmental impacts between plant-based and traditional diets. It is based on an 8-week study that put 22 sets of genetically identical twins on opposing diets. The series has sparked heated discussions regarding the real benefits and drawbacks of plant-based meats. The problem is the “healthy” meat-based group diet included dairy, which I don’t consider a healthy part of an omnivorous diet in most cases. In my opinion, the study should be redone with a strictly paleo group — yes, meat… no, dairy.
Why Regenerative Farming Deserves a Standing Ovation
Regenerative farming is like a superhero in the world of agriculture, silently working miracles for the environment. Here's why it deserves our applause:
Carbon Storage Champions
These farms are nature's own carbon capture technology, absorbing CO2 and storing it in the soil, reducing greenhouse gasses.
Water Conservation Experts
Healthier soils retain water better, reducing irrigation needs and preserving water resources.
Regenerative farms foster rich ecosystems, supporting a variety of wildlife and plant species.
Climate Change Warriors
By sequestering carbon and improving resilience to extreme weather, these practices contribute significantly to mitigating the effects of climate change.
Here are just a few examples of the many farms across the U.S. that are adopting regenerative agriculture practices to not only sustainably produce food but also to combat climate change and enhance the health of the planet. Furthermore, these farms offer the unique opportunity for consumers to directly order meats and other produce, ensuring access to fresh, sustainably raised products while supporting eco-friendly farming practices:
Polyface Farm is a family-owned, multi-generational farm, located in Virginia, that practices what they call "salad bar beef" farming. This method involves moving cattle daily to fresh pastures, mimicking natural grazing patterns and allowing the land to regenerate.
White Oak Pastures in Georgia utilizes holistic management practices to enhance land health. They practice rotational grazing, where livestock are moved between different pastures, allowing the soil to regenerate.
Paicines Ranch employs regenerative agricultural practices to improve ecosystem health. They focus on holistic management and regenerative grazing, aiming to enhance soil health, sequester carbon, and improve water retention.
And if you’re in the mood to watch a documentary to inspire you that it’s possible to heal our soil and create a balanced, thriving ecosystem, I recommend “The Biggest Little Farm.” Because it all comes down to the health of our soil.
Soil Health: The Foundation of Sustainable Agriculture
The health of the soil is paramount in regenerative farming. Healthier soils foster a vibrant ecosystem below the ground, promoting biodiversity. Techniques like cover cropping and reduced tilling enhance soil fertility, increasing organic matter content. This not only improves the soil's ability to retain water but also aids in natural pest suppression, leading to healthier and more nutrient-rich crops.
Incorporating the practice of rotating grazing animals, such as cows and sheep, across different fields is a pivotal aspect of regenerative agriculture that significantly boosts soil health. This rotational grazing mimics natural ecosystems, where animals move through a landscape, grazing and fertilizing as they go. As cows graze in one area, they naturally deposit manure, which is a rich, organic fertilizer. This not only introduces essential nutrients back into the soil but also promotes microbial diversity and activity.
These microbes play a crucial role in nutrient cycling, helping to break down organic matter and making it more accessible to plants. Furthermore, as the animals move to a new area, the previously grazed land gets time to recover and regenerate, preventing overgrazing and soil compaction. This dynamic process creates a more balanced and diverse soil ecosystem, leading to stronger, more resilient plants and a sustainable agricultural landscape.
Regenerative Vs. Conventional Farming: A Critical Comparison
When regenerative farming is compared to conventional farming, the differences are stark. When pitting regenerative farming against conventional farming, it's like comparing a nurturing superhero to a short-sighted villain.
Conventional farming, with its laser focus on pumping out as many crops as possible, faster than you can say "harvest", often bulldozes Mother Nature's favorite spots. Think deforestation, the great biodiversity bake-off, and a chemical cocktail hour that no one invited.
Meanwhile, regenerative farming is the eco-warrior we all need but probably don't deserve. It's all about giving the soil a spa day, every day, turning it into a luxury resort for earthworms and microbes. It's like Mother Nature's personal fitness trainer, helping the planet buff up and balance those pesky greenhouse gasses.
In summary: Conventional farming, often focused on short-term yield maximization, can lead to deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and excessive use of harmful chemicals. In contrast, regenerative farming emphasizes ecological health, rejuvenating soil, and balancing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Social and Economic Impact of Regenerative Farming
Beyond environmental benefits, regenerative farming has profound social and economic impacts. It promotes fair labor practices, supports local communities, and fosters economic sustainability for farmers.
By reducing dependence on expensive chemical inputs and enhancing farm resilience, regenerative practices offer a more economically viable and socially responsible model of agriculture for both the planet and humans.
Challenges and Opportunities Ahead
The path to widespread adoption of regenerative practices isn't without challenges. The transition from conventional methods requires time, investment, and education.
However, the opportunities for creating a more sustainable and resilient food system are immense, offering solutions to some of the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time. In order to do this, we need to put the future of humanity and the planet ahead of corporate profits; instead, operating from a place of social and legacy consciousness.
Let’s create a future earth with healthier soil and less dependence on pesticides that is worth handing down to the coming generations.
Regenerative Farming: A Global Movement for Change
Regenerative farming is not just a local phenomenon; it's a global movement gaining momentum across various continents. From small-scale family farms to large agricultural operations, the principles of regenerative agriculture are being embraced worldwide, signifying a paradigm shift in how we approach food production and land management.
Plants Need Animal Poop, Too!
Let’s take the stigma away from meat production, and instead see regenerative farming as a path to heal the earth and ourselves. A plant-based economy is not necessarily better for the planet. Putting an end to feedlots and raising meats responsibly through regenerative farming practices, on the other hand, IS.
For our vegan and vegetarian readers, it's crucial to understand that the conversation about sustainable agriculture isn't just black and white, particularly regarding regenerative farming. While traditional views on meat production often clash with plant-based ethics, regenerative farming is a different story. It’s an advocate for healing our planet through responsible agriculture.
This method is not about perpetuating the meat industry as we know it, but transforming it into a force for environmental rejuvenation. It's about breaking away from destructive practices like feedlots and embracing a system where both soil health and animal welfare are paramount.
How You Can Support Regenerative Farming
As consumers, our choices have a powerful impact on the agricultural industry. By choosing products from regenerative farms, we can drive demand for more sustainable practices. Each purchase is a vote for a healthier planet, encouraging more farmers to adopt regenerative methods. I already mentioned a few, like White Oak Pastures, based in Georgia, and Polyface farms from Virginia.
Here are a few more regenerative farms that sell meats directly to consumers:
Stemple Creek Ranch is a fourth-generation family ranch located in Tomales, CA, specializing in regeneratively raised, sustainable meat. They offer 100% grass-fed and finished beef and lamb, as well as pastured pork. Their practices focus on building soil, biodiversity, and carbon storage.
Grassroots Ranch is a beyond-organic, regenerative farm, located in Oklahoma that focuses on sustainable practices. They offer pasture-raised, grass-fed meat, including beef, forest-raised pork, and pasture-raised poultry. Their approach emphasizes ethical, sustainable, and regenerative agriculture.
Parker Creek Ranch is afamily-owned operation since 1846, Parker Creek Ranch is located near San Antonio and is dedicated to regenerative agriculture production. They offer grass-fed beef and lamb, emphasizing healthy habitats for livestock, wildlife, and people.
Bastrop Cattle Co., based in Central Texas, offers 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef. They emphasize regenerative and free-range practices, raising their cattle on chemical-free pastures.
Hickory Nut Gap Farm, located in North Carolina exemplifies a modern approach to farming that prioritizes ecological restoration, animal welfare, and sustainable agricultural practices. Their efforts in regenerative agriculture provide high-quality, sustainable products and contribute positively to the environment and the community.
Preparing for the Future: The Importance of Regenerative Farming
Regenerative farming is absolutely crucial, not just a trendy eco-friendly option for today, but an indispensable lifeline for our future generations. It's the antidote to the looming threats of climate change, food scarcity, and rampant environmental decay. This approach isn't just a band-aid on the world's agricultural woes; it's a revolutionary shift, a complete overhaul of our relationship with Mother Earth.
It's time we recognize that regenerative farming isn't optional – it's a non-negotiable necessity if we hope to heal our planet and secure a viable, flourishing future. Anything less is just playing with fire.
Growing Minds and Carrots: How Learning and Community Shape Sustainable Farming
Let's talk about how educational initiatives are planting seeds of wisdom about regenerative farming in the fertile minds of students and community members. Imagine schools and universities as greenhouses where knowledge about sustainable farming sprouts up between algebra and Shakespeare. These institutions are tilling the soil of awareness, ensuring that the concept of regenerative farming isn't just a chapter in a textbook, but a growing trend in real life.
Meanwhile, in the community garden of life, everything from bustling farmers' markets to community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs is turning consumers into soil-savvy citizens. It's where carrots and community meet, creating a bond stronger than the sturdiest root vegetable. This isn't just about buying veggies; it's a farm-to-fork journey that makes every salad feel like a story. So, grab your reusable tote bags and your curiosity, and over to your local farmer’s market where community and agriculture join forces to make the world greener, one sprout at a time!
Tech Triumphs: Silencing the Skeptics of Regenerative Farming
In the vibrant dance of regenerative farming, technology is the DJ that's turning up the beat. Gone are the days when skeptics could dismiss sustainable agriculture as a mere back-to-the-land fantasy. Today, tech innovations are the superheroes in the regenerative farming narrative, proving that you can indeed teach an old farm new tricks.
Soil Health Monitoring
First up, soil health monitoring. Imagine having a crystal ball that tells you exactly what your soil needs. That's what modern monitoring tools do – they're like fitness trackers for the earth, providing real-time data on soil composition, moisture levels, and nutrient needs. This info is gold for farmers, letting them know when to water, fertilize, or just let the land chill out.
Next, enter the world of sustainable irrigation. It's like giving the land a smart water bottle that knows just how much to drink and when. These systems use data to optimize water use, ensuring crops get their fill without wasting a drop. It's a game-changer in areas where water is as precious as a winning lottery ticket.
Organic Pest Control
And let's not forget organic pest control. In the past, the word 'pests' might have sent farmers running for chemical warfare. Now, with tech's help, they're turning to more organic, nature-friendly methods. Think of it as setting up a bouncer at the club who knows which bugs to let in and which to kindly escort out.
In short, technology is not just supporting regenerative farming; it's propelling it into the limelight, showing the world that this isn't just a niche trend, but a smart, scalable solution for a sustainable future. So, to the naysayers of regenerative farming: it's time to listen up, because tech is turning the volume all the way up on this green revolution!
The Future of Food: A Regenerative Perspective
Looking to the future, regenerative farming offers a hopeful perspective on the future of food. It promises a world where agriculture works in harmony with nature, producing healthy, nutritious meats and plants while protecting and enhancing the environment. This vision of the future is not just a dream but a growing reality, as more farmers and consumers join the regenerative movement.
Where do you stand on this? Comment below, and let’s hear your side of the story.
How You Can Join the Regenerative Revolution
The regenerative farming revolution is underway, and everyone has a role to play. Whether as a farmer, consumer, educator, policymaker, or simply an Earth inhabitant, our collective actions can shape a sustainable and thriving future for ourselves and the planet. By embracing regenerative practices, we can ensure a healthy planet and a secure food system for generations to come. Here are some notable organizations to consider:
Regeneration International: An organization dedicated to promoting regenerative agriculture and land management practices to address climate change, soil health, food security, and public health. They work globally to connect and support individuals and groups engaged in similar missions.
Soil Health Institute: This organization focuses on safeguarding and enhancing the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advocacy. They aim to transform agriculture by making soil health the cornerstone of land use management decisions.
Kiss the Ground: A nonprofit that works to regenerate land and reverse climate change through regenerative agriculture. They offer educational programs, documentaries, and other resources to spread awareness and knowledge about regenerative practices.
Rodale Institute: A leading research institute for organic farming, Rodale Institute is also heavily involved in researching and promoting regenerative organic agriculture. They conduct groundbreaking research and provide farmer training and consumer education.
Regenerative Agriculture Foundation: RAF is an intermediary funder collaborating with various stakeholders, including foundations, investors, nonprofits, and community leaders, to advance regenerative agriculture and address global challenges such as climate change.
Ecdysis Foundation conduct scientific studies to understand how regenerative agriculture can improve soil health, increase biodiversity, and enhance overall ecosystem services. Additionally, the Ecdysis Foundation is involved in developing resources for farmers.
Each of these organizations plays a vital role in the promotion, research, and implementation of regenerative agriculture practices, contributing to a sustainable and healthier planet.
Join the movement and be a part of the solution – for our planet, and for our future.
Where do you stand on this? Comment below, and let’s hear your side of the story.