Ecosystem re-creation. Simply put, regenerative agriculture is a way of raising animals on the land which seeks to mostly closely mimic the way that ruminants have lived on the grasslands of this planet for millions of years. By utilizing rotational grazing practices, carbon is sequestered into the soil creating a healthier ecosystem.
As recently as 400 years ago, estimates suggest that there were over 250 million ruminant animals in the territory now considered to be the United States. This includes millions of Bison, Deer, Elk, Pronghorn and Sheep that grazed throughout the grasslands from sea to sea. When these animals live freely, they exist as part of an elegantly orchestrated ecosystem within nature’s web of life. Bison, Elk, Deer and other ruminants partially eat grasses in a particular area and then migrate to another location before returning to their original grazing lands. This rotational grazing pattern allows plants to regrow in soils now fertilized by animal urine and manure so that when these animals return, the land can again provide food and soils remain healthy.
“Soil is the only place in the universe where death is converted to life. ” — Anonymous
A closer look at regenerative agriculture
Regenerative agriculture is about interconnection between species within an ecosystem. On farms raising animals in this way, humans, cows, sheep, birds, bees and other pollinators, insects, plants, earthworms, soil bacteria and mycorrhizal networks are all interconnected with each organism playing a critical role in this web of life.
In order for ecosystems in nature to thrive, all of the components of such an interconnected system must be present. When cows, sheep and other ruminant animals are raised in a regenerative fashion, they consume grasses grown from healthy, carbon rich soils and in the process of grazing contribute to the health of this soil contributing nutrients and bacteria in their urine and manure. Without animals to naturally fertilize the land, the soil weakens and eventually becomes unable to support life.
In contrast to the badly myopic perspective that ruminants are destroying the earth, when we examine regenerative agriculture practices it quickly becomes clear that nothing could be further from the truth. In order for the soil to remain healthy, properly raised animals MUST be a part of the ecosystem.
Modern monocrop agriculture and animal feedlot systems have forgotten this. These ways of raising plants and animals disrupt ecosystems by decreasing species diversity and deplete the soil of crucial nutrients.
Life from the sun is converted to energy by plants through the process of photosynthesis and stored as carbohydrates.
With healthier soils, significantly more rainwater is retained in the ground leading to less runoff and erosion.
Regenerative practices mimic the rotational grazing of wild ruminants and in this way seek to recreate grassland ecosystems in the most natural ways possible.
Grazing ruminants play a key role in the health of grassland ecosystems by enriching the soil with their urine and manure.
Because regenerative agriculture mimics natural grassland ecosystems, all of the species within this web of life are able to thrive, creating a much higher biodiversity.
These are the results of balanced interactions between animals and plants. Regenerative agriculture is the best way to create this balance naturally.
When soils are healthier because of regenerative agriculture practices, the plants within these are more able to thrive, leading to robust root systems and fixation of carbon into the soil.
Healthy soils are rich in carbon with levels greater than 5% on many regenerative farms as a result of the healthy ecosystems that this type of agriculture creates.
Healthier soils have robust mycorrhizal networks with thriving symbiotic relationships between fungi and plant roots allowing plants to obtain more nutrients from the ground.
Ruminant animals naturally turn the topsoil, increasing the diversity of grasses by dispersing seeds with their hooves and breaking up the crust to stimulate plant growth.
Waste products from ruminant animals return natural vital nutrients to the soil and act as the ideal natural fertilizer leading to healthy soil that sequesters more carbon and plant growth.
Regenerative farms we source from
At Heart & Soil we source from farms that treat both animals and the land with the utmost care.
Recommended Reading: Nose to Tail Nourishment: Getting the Most Out of Animal Organs
Subscribe to future articles like this: