Regenerative Organics – the deep dive into what it is and why its important

Regenerative Organics - what does this term mean?

Regenerative Organics - What does this mean? How is it different from organic?

All of us are familiar with the term, "organic" and most of us have spent at least some time at a WholeFoods or likeminded store because we want to consume foods that are "organic" or "natural". But you may not be familiar with the term "regenerative organic" or what goes into a farmer becoming regenerative.

Let's start with what the basics of "organic" farming. Simply put, organic farming requires the producer to refrain from using synthetic herbicides and pesticides. The CCOF states, "For land to be certified organic, it must be free of all prohibited materials including fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that are not specifically approved for organic production – for at least three years."

That stated, you should know, there are still many synthetic substances allowed under certain circumstances and strict guidance to be labeled organic. When the farmer has tried all other methods to abate an infestation or disease and simply needs something more effective, these synthetic amendments can be added.

If you're curious, here's the list - National List of Allowed & Prohibited Substances: LINK

Additionally, there are many other requirements and recommendations made for how the farm should be managed by the USDA for organic farmers, including guidance on water treatment, crop rotation, and utilizing cover crops.

Regenerative organics goes a bit further than your standard organic certification from the USDA/CCOF and gets farming back to the basics. Closer to what was practiced in the 1800 and early 1900's. There are several defined outlines for regenerative organics, but using Rodale's Regenerative Organic Alliance definition, not only does it require a farm to be organic, but it demands the farmer to commit to three main tenants. Broadly these include: Soil Health, Animal Welfare and Social Fairness.

Lets review a few of the steps farmers can make in each of these categories in order to receive certification as a regenerative farm. Additional information can be found at the Alliance's, Regenerative Organics Certification website here: LINK

Soil Health

Through a series of programs and processes, a regenerative farmer commits to building soil's organic matter. As organic matter in the soil increases, the health of the soil and the health of the foods coming from the soil increase along with it. Soil is not the same thing as dirt. Dirt is dead; soil is full of life. Soil has a diverse set of micro-organisms, nutrients and life constantly evolving in a state of growth and decay. And, all these living (and dying) things provide healthier, more nutrient rich foods. The system feeds itself and becomes truly sustainable. Another way a farmer can help nurture healthier soil is by limiting the amount of tilling used on the farm, as this leads to the degradation of soil health and increases the likelihood of erosion. One estimate is that due to erosion, the US has enough topsoil left for roughly 60 harvests. That's just 60 more years, with the amount of viable top soil left in our country to continue to grow crops sustainably. Another way farmers can help limit soil erosion and compaction is by using cover crops. Cover crops are grown between marketed crops and during off-season periods to protect and increase the organic matter in the soil. Further, rotating crops season to season and year to year, protects against a farmer from stripping specific nutrients from soil which can occur when only one crop is cultivated year after year. Promoting biodiversity throughout the farm is key. If you've ever visited regions of the country like, Napa, CA, you'll notice theres a bit of a "mono-culture" of wine grape varietals planted. Monocultures like this create regions where infection and disease can more easily find pathways and destroy regions of food. Additionally, more varieties of crops create more diversity in the soil and the biodiversity of animal and insect life in the region.

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Animal Welfare

This might seem counterintuitive to some as we're raising animals for eventual slaughter, but as much possible, farmers working regeneratively, work to ensure that while they are alive, animals are respected and cared for properly. You may already know that much of our farm raised animals are raised in what is referred to as CAFO's or "Concentrated Feeding Operations". From chickens to pigs, cattle to salmon - these large operations do nothing to support a natural life, but rather are there to create what is believed as efficiencies - raising animals quickly to get them to market as fast as possible, using as little expense necessary. Animals are packed tightly together in pens and forced to eat as much processed grain, as quickly as possible. There is nothing natural about these blighted areas strewn throughout the US. One can recognize them by their smell and their appearance, dark brown, desolate lots, marked with caged paddocks with sometimes 100's of thousands of animals milling about. A far cry from a quaint little farm. Nothing grows naturally here, because the earth is so trampled and the potential for disease and filth is so high. Regenerative organics flies in the face of these realities and commits to the, "Five Freedoms" for animal health and safety. Namely: freedom from discomfort, fear/distress, hunger, pain or injury and the ability to express normal behavior. Additionally, animals are to be grass-fed or pasture raised with limited transport and have suitable shelter.

Social Fairness

One of our main goals @Mercantile is to further promote regenerative organics on behalf of farmers and producers from around the world. Many of our producers include the above practices on their farms currently and we applaud their hard work and commitment. To us, it simply makes sense: Healthy soils create healthy plants and healthier people.

Read more here:

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All one, all love!

The Mercantile Team