Becoming more regenerative is a journey we're on as we learn more about our craft and our land. It's taking what we've learned from previous generations of our family's farmers and striving to do it better. By connecting the dots between past and present, we're able to take knowledge gained and turn it into wisdom.
We want our end goal of soil health and nutrient density to inform our farming practices. By doing this, we believe we will truly bring a better product to the market and our customers without farming a certain "way".
Regenerative Agriculture is more than just implementing no-till practices, it is farming in an ecological context. For us to truly be sustainable, we need to understand how the natural system works - the energy, nutrient and water cycles - and to farm in a way to support the natural biology for everyone to flourish.
There are 6 guiding principles that help define regenerative agriculture. By sharing these, we can share where we're at on our journey.
The 6 Principles of Regenerative Agriculture:
Context - No two farms are alike - heck, no two fields are alike!
Climate, location, soil types, slope of the land, financial resources and where you're at in your journey all play a role in the reality of farming. All of these factors have a direct impact on how we execute and implement the following 5 principles.
Soil Armor - The soil must remain covered - period. It can be living plants, crop residue, wood chips, or mulch. Without coverage, you're looking at unfit soil temperatures and erosion. Cover controls erosion and the impact of raindrops and keeps the soil temperature cool. Instead of bare soil baking in the sun, it keeps it shaded to retain moisture. The microbes want a roof over their head, just like us! We are planting a cover crop between every grain crop to keep the soil covered 365 days a year.
- Living Roots - We're not only farming grains, we're also harvesting sunshine through photosynthesis and pulling carbon from the atmosphere through plants and into the soil to fuel our underground herd of microbes and earthworms! These microbes are key to unlocking the nutrients in the soil and making them available in the final crops. The living roots create pores in the soil for moisture to soak in, like a sponge - and in turn, lets the soil breathe. Soil is alive!
Increased Biodiversity - Our variety of grains facilitate longer crop rotations, naturally breaking up pest and disease cycles. The greater crop diversity allows us more opportunities to grow cover crops to improve the functionality and resilience of the ecosystem in our fields. When wheat comes off mid-summer, we can begin a new cover crop to grow more biomass to feed the system. We plant a multispecies mix of cover crops to support diversity in the soil. Diversity above ground fosters diversity below ground in the microbial community.
Least Disturbance - Simply put, disturbance ruins the physical and biological soil structure we're working hard to create and releases carbon. We practice no-till and "plant green" where we can, meaning we're planting our crop right into the cover crop growing eliminating extra passes in the field and letting the root systems do their thing. Generally speaking, pesticides are used to control or eliminate weeds, pests, and diseases. These products may be used as a management tool, and do so judiciously, only if necessary, to ensure a healthy crop.
- Animal Integration - The only livestock we currently have are our herd of earthworms! We're not integrating animals into our system just yet, but we do know where to find some manure from local livestock farms. Just as we shared the importance of context, we're not set up for grazing animals on our land yet but understand the value of livestock to recycle nutrients that they contribute to the system. In the meantime, we're focused on feeding the underground herd of earthworms and microbes to support life in the soil!