MegaFood | May 2022
“Regenerative agriculture is a way of thinking about agriculture where the goal is the health of the soil and the health of the ecosystem,” explains MegaFood Director of Social Impact, Advocacy, and Government Relations Bethany Davis. Because humans are part of that ecosystem, we’re directly impacted by regenerative agriculture efforts to boost soil health. With traditional Western farming practices causing a depletion of soil health — and, as a result, impacting the quality of our produce — regenerative agriculture can play an important part in our health and diet. The role of organic farming for reviving sustainability and our own health is worth exploring.
Up ahead, find out how regenerative agriculture can improve soil health and your health, and how it plays an important role in the efficacy of produce.
How Can Regenerative Agriculture Improve Your Health?
You are what you eat — but that doesn’t mean eating broccoli you will magically turn you into broccoli. Rather, it means the food you consume has an impact on your overall health and well-being. Eating fruits and vegetables is a necessary aspect of a healthy diet, but there are ways to get even more nutrients from your diet by being more mindful of where and how the food on your plate was grown.
How Soil Quality Increases Nutrient Density in Foods
“About 50% of our food is 50% less nutritious than it was 20 to 30 years ago,” Davis says. “The reason for this is because a lot of traditional agricultural methods like our current industrial agriculture methods are focused on things like yields of crops.” However, there are major consequences to that system. As Davis explains, one of those consequences is the nutrients — or lack thereof — in fruits and vegetables as the majority of current agriculture practices are heavily focused on the use of chemicals through herbicide and pesticide use which “yields less nutritious foods'' as these chemicals are “bad for the ecology of the fungus and bacteria in soil.”
Regenerative agriculture is focused on regenerating that soil through more holistic and indigenous practices that can restore the health of the soil. This creates an environment where crops yield more nutrient-dense foods. The idea is that by restoring the health of the soil and growing more nutrient-dense foods, those who consume the foods have access to more nutrients on their plate that can benefit their health.
How Does Regenerative Agriculture Improve Soil?
Regenerative agriculture works to revive the soil and restore its healthy bacteria so that the soil can yield more nutritious foods. Like a human’s gut microbiome, soil thrives with an adequate amount of healthy bacteria and fungus. The majority of current practices used “disrupt the soil microbiome primarily with chemicals or different herbicides and pesticides but also with a process called tilling which is basically digging up the soil in order to plant seeds more easily and remove weeds,” says Davis. In theory, this process makes sense, but it can actually cause some problems for soil health. “Unfortunately, when you’re tilling, you’re cutting into the natural health of the soil and releasing carbon into the atmosphere,” says Davis, explaining how this can cause the soil to dry out. “So, you’re disrupting the fungus and bacteria that are essential for healthy soil and damaging it. When you do that, the soil dries out and turns to dirt.”
By adopting regenerative agriculture practices, farmers help repair the damage done to the soil and use more sustainable farming techniques that ensure the soil — and all of the good bacteria within it — thrives. This helps the seeds that get planted, and helps the food that grows from within the soil thrive and yield more nutrient-dense food. Regenerative agriculture is a way of working with nature to support the soil’s ecosystem and yield more nutritious foods. Explains Davis, “Regenerative agriculture isn’t really new. It's really like getting back to our roots.”
How Does Regenerative Agriculture Work?
Proponents of Regenerative Agriculture and soil health believe that healthy soil is the key to healthy, nutrient rich food. An apple today is very different from an apple 50 years ago due to industrial and agricultural practices. The idea behind regenerative agriculture is that we can get back to those healthier nutrient-packed foods by making sure we honor the soil that yields our crops.
The regenerative agriculture and soil health movement is a budding, growing and inspiring movement that aims to create a healthier world. Regenerative agriculture practices have the ability to offer the one-two punch of being better for the climate and environment, while also being good for our health.