One of our mentors in Regenerative Agriculture, Gabe Brown, has a quote we live by: “If you want to make small changes, change the way you do things. If you want to make BIG changes, change the way you see things.”
Gabe Brown continues this thought with ideas that are familiar to conventional farm families, my childhood farm included: "We got up every morning and started looking for what we needed to kill that day. Weeds, fungus on the crops, insects..... you know, whatever might be damaging to the crops."
The word root ‘CIDE’ means killing or destruction. When you think about it, modern agriculture is built around this concept. Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides are all big business. Even tillage is a part of killing, as turning over the soil by plowing kills the microbiome of the soil.
So, what is the alternative? Regenerative farmers get up in the morning with a plan to nurture something. In farming you can either ‘support the good’ or ‘fight the bad’, and what we have learned is that in the long run, regenerative farming pays off. By applying this idea to the real world over time, little "Easter eggs" of wisdom start to present themselves like seeds developing into delicious fruit.
When you build soil and encourage diversity, much of the problems we used to have start to go away. For example, our pastures are rotationally grazed. They are grazed by a variety of species of livestock, and the pastures host more than 2 dozen species of grass, legumes and forbes. There is no tillage, so we never give a foothold to invasive weeds that emerge from bare dirt. As a result of farming in nature's image, we do not need synthetic fertilizers or weed killers.
We have probably all heard of what is commonly called a negative feedback loop. In the negative, we see the farther we go down a destructive path, the worse things get and the harder it is to extract ourselves from it. Regenerative farming proves the opposite is also true. The longer we engage in a certain practice (in this example, Holistic Planned Grazing), the more carbon we sequester. The cascading effect is that the soil becomes higher the soil organic matter. That in turn makes the soil more “spongy” so more water percolates into the ground to be stored until we need it. This in turn makes droughts and flooding events less intense.
The side effects of this positive feedback loop are dramatic, exciting and beautiful. The creeks leaving our farm run clear. Erosion has come almost to a complete stop. The number of grassland birds has gone through the roof and the wildlife populations are thriving. The livestock are happy, moving every week onto new, clean, interesting meadows and woodlands. All of this happened because we chose to change our perception of what is possible.