The concept of ‘regenerative agriculture’ is not new--Medard Gabel coined the term in 1979. But the idea of living with a concerted focus on sustaining the health of the planet in mind has much deeper roots.
The notion of regenerative living can be traced back to the Native American people known as the Iroquois. The Iroquois valued stewardship tremendously and lived by what is known as ‘Seven Generation Stewardship.’
As the name suggests, this concept holds that humans should live and work in a manner that will benefit the seventh generation into the future.
As one chief writes: "We are looking ahead, as is one of the first mandates given us as chiefs, to make sure and to make every decision that we make relate to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come... What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?"
Concern for the well being of the earth that would be handed to future generations impacted every aspect of life for the Iroquois, including their food production systems. Unfortunately, this sense of responsibility did not catch on for the Europeans who colonized North America.
The mindset of the newcomers favored the present over the future. Rather than living harmoniously with the environment and ensuring the healthy functioning of resources, the settlers chopped down trees, destroyed wildlife habitats, and contaminated waterways to grow crops. And all of this was done with no regard for generations to follow.
Sadly, this destructive food production system known as degenerative agriculture has persisted to this day, and they have wreaked havoc on the earth.
Degenerative agriculture practices are toxic chemical-intensive, monoculture based, and have been shown to degrade soil, water, biodiversity and the health of ecosystems.
The damage caused by degenerative farming practices can be easily seen by a casual observer and has been proven by scientists for decades. And as the extent of the damage has become more and more apparent, a growing number of activists have made efforts to ignite change. At first, these activists promoted a turn to sustainable agriculture.
Sure, sustainable agriculture sounds good, but what does it really mean?
We like the description given by Peter Byck, the film producer behind Carbon Nation and Soil Carbon Cowboys: “Sustainable farming just means maintaining status quo. Why would we want to do that? It makes no sense to maintain an already degraded resource.”
It’s a fair point: what good is it to maintain a system that is clearly broken?
As Terra Genesis supply chain designer Ethan Roland Soloviev says, “The question of ‘how do we make the things we need without doing too much harm’ is the wrong question. That’s coming from a paradigm of ‘do less harm.’” The question that we should be asking is: “How can we help heal, restore, and regenerate the planet while also producing the food needed to feed us.”
So, sustainable agriculture isn’t the answer. But then what is? It was from this question that regenerative agriculture emerged.
The nuances of regenerative agriculture are complex and can be tough to explain. But we found a definition of regenerative agriculture from ecological designer and Terra Genesis staff member, Luke Smith, that we think sums it up well:
“Regenerative Agriculture can be considered to be a system of farming principles, patterns, processes and practices that actively enriches soils, biodiversity, ecosystems and watersheds while effectively producing a variety of ecosystem functions and agricultural yields.”
In super simple terms, it means agricultural practices that regenerate ecosystems rather than degenerate ecosystems.
Let that sink in for a moment.
We could be using agricultural practices that actually improve the planet rather than destroy it.
While regenerative living was a no brainer for the Iroquois, it is a fairly novel concept for most North Americans today, and especially so for big businesses.
With their focus on the bottom line, businesses take the disregard for future generations to a new level. Traditionally the bottom line has meant one thing: profit. Profit meant performance and was the single most important indicator of a thriving business.
Fortunately, in the past decade some businesses have been re-evaluating their performance in terms beyond just profit alone. These businesses have adopted what is called “The Triple Bottom Line”.
The Triple Bottom Line takes into account three things when evaluating performance:
Including concern about the environmental and social impacts of a business into the mix is a huge shift. It is a break from the ‘profits over planet’ mindset that has plagued business for so long and led us down an increasingly destructive path. It is a move towards a way of living that is more in line with the future-oriented Iroquois.
Regenerative businesses have found a number of creative ways to implement the Triple Bottom Line. Here at CACOCO, we take a multi-pronged approach:
We envision a planet where natural ecosystems are managed intelligently, resources are used respectfully, and people are treated well at each step of the process.
We are proud to be part of a growing community of businesses who share our passion for rejuvenating the planet rather than degrading it. We invite you to join us on our journey to heal our beautiful earth and fix a broken production system.
See below for a list of some of our favorite regenerative friends.