The Connection Between Climate Change & Regenerative Agriculture
Oil and gas, electricity, and even transportation are hardly the only industries to blame for climate change and anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that methane emissions from agricultural livestock alone comprises over 14 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; some estimates are as high as 20 percent. In the United States alone, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that agriculture is responsible for approximately 10 percent of emissions. And predictions don’t look promising: global agricultural emissions may be as high as 30 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in just three decades from today.
While the agricultural industry may be one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, it also has an amazing capability that other industries lack: agriculture can be as effective a carbon sink as it is damaging a source of emissions. In fact, the role of agriculture in mitigating climate change is so promising that the Rodale Institute estimates that if all and pastures and cropland were to be converted into regenerative agriculture — a process that refers to building soil health for the purpose, in part, of sequestering carbon — more than 100 percent of current annual C02 emissions could be captured and stored.
Implementing regenerative agricultural practices may not be the only long-term solution that we need (carbon that is sequestered and stored in the soil will not remain there indefinitely, and will eventually enter earth’s atmosphere once again), but it could buy us much-needed time. As we cross more climate-tipping points that cannot be undone, acting quickly and considering all of our options are critical.
Let’s localize our food system together.
1. See your list of Local Farms & CSA’s to order from: List of Front Range Farm’s, CSA’s, and Availability.
2. Learn more about what regenerative agriculture means and how you can support it in your community!
3. Join the community and take action.
Why We Care About Regenerative Agriculture in a Local Food System
Our definition of Regenerative Agriculture is inclusive: a holistic practice stemming from indigenous knowledge and techniques that have been cultivated over many years. This encompasses agriculture, food, social, and business systems that increase biodiversity, enrich soil, improve food, air, and water quality, and increase carbon capture thereby reversing global carbon-based atmospheric accumulation.
A local food system includes:
- Farmers and gardeners
- Edible landscapers
- Sustainable foragers
- Land managers whose focus is on ecosystem regeneration & adaptation in a changing climate
- An informed public
We need a healthy ecosystem and local climate in which healthy food will grow well. Additionally, how we grow food can help regenerate local soil, carbon, water, and nutrient cycles.
Growing more of our food locally and without petro-chemical fertilizers & herbicides is healthier for our bodies, gentler on our planet, and builds a more resilient community to climate and fossil fuel price shocks along with relying on a fossil-fuelled food system.
Want to Dive Deeper? Explore the Many Topics of Regenerative Agriculture!
Click any of the below topics to explore more resources.
What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
First, what’s the difference between sustainable and regenerative food growing?
Sustainable food growing/land management is about sustaining the status quo. Unfortunately, in many/most cases, the status quo is pretty damaged. Regenerative food growing and land management seek to heal, to “go one better” by regenerating soil, land, food, community. Regeneration is an ongoing process, especially in a changing climate whose unexpected challenges are the new norm.
Regeneration International, run by one of the finest teams in the world, has one of the best introductions on the net. It’s possible to spend hours learning on this website.
Bio4Climate, the Biodiversity for a Livable Climate site focuses on “Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming.” Their compendium, videos, conferences are a one-stop-shop source in regenerative farming, eco-restoration, agroecology, rotational grazing, water, and carbon cycle restoration for land managers at every scale.
MESA: Agroecology: In their own words, “MESA cultivates a global grassroots network of food and farming leaders dedicated to reviving community food systems. Through experiential learning in agroecology and horizontal exchanges for food sovereignty, MESA links ancestral knowledge with innovation rooted in earth stewardship, equitable economies, and multicultural alliances worldwide…” Its paradigm is “people and earth-centric, rather than profit-driven.” MESA has a certificate course online in Applied Agroecology, another in Organic Seed Production, one in Building On-Farm Climate Resilience, as well as mentorship and internship programs.
Kiss the Ground: The organization Kiss the Ground turbo-charges the Soil Health Movement. They offer classes online every so often, empowering participants to become soil advocates. They work in advocacy, farmland, education, and media. Their videos are fun, riveting, and terrific learning.
ACRES USA: The national magazine ACRES USA (headquartered in Greeley), is for many of us what they say it is: “the voice of eco-agriculture.” They also have a Soil Health newsletter, the Eco-Farming Daily.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS): NRCS consults with landowners on soil health and regenerative/rotational grazing. There are offices in a number of locations around Colorado. Their national website has lots of soil health resources, including stuff for kids.
Holistic Management International (HMI): Soil health & land management with animal grazing. It’s even more than grazing. Holistic Management Principles apply to every aspect of work, life, and decision-making. That’s part of the recipe for its success. It’s based in NM, and they also have several training programs.
Water in Drought & Flood
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond: This site features the work of Arizonan Brad Lancaster, Water Harvester, who helped educate the CO State Congress a few years back on this topic. His books of the same name are essential manuals on catching rainwater in the soil to slow, spread, and sink it instead of letting it wastefully run down the storm drain. This is necessary in both drought and flooding situations. His blogs feature indigenous to modern techniques from all over the world. Brad leads neighborhood community organizations in planting and stewarding native food trees and shrubs as an integral part of water harvesting strategies. This is applicable to the home garden as well as larger growing operations. Rainwater harvesting is an essential foundation for a local food system.
Keyline Design is mostly used by farmers because of the equipment involved, but the concepts are applicable to every piece of land. Farmers in CO use it. Keyline strategies can be both a flood and drought mitigation strategy. Their website explains: “The central idea behind ‘Keyline’ water management is to consciously slow, sink and spread rainwater by… distributing excess water towards drier parts of the landscape…” Keyline Design has in-depth and clear information on this management strategy.
Saving our own seeds ensures that we will continue to have strong seed adapted to our area. Seed sovereignty ensures that each seed saver and the community has the power of food, not an industrial chemical corporation producing weak seeds which cannot stand on their own without the corporations’ other inputs (fertilizers and biocides).
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance: Founded by long-time seedsman and former director of Native Seeds/SEARCH Bill McDorman, RMSA offers a self-paced webinar Seed School course, Seed Schools in CO and elsewhere, in-person Seed Teacher training (often held in Denver), heritage grain trials from grains naturalized in CO, and much more information.
MASA Seed Foundation: Founded by Richard Pecoraro and local to the Colorado Bioregion, MASA has seeds that have been adapted to this local bioregion for over 25 years. MASA sells seeds, provides education to local farmers and is growing the local seed bank. Buy their seeds online to support this project.
Organic Seed Alliance: If you’re wanting to learn more about seed saving, this is the resource. National seed saving teaching organization for farmers and others. Lots of webinars. Excellent resource.
Indigenous Agro-Ecological Leadership for Climate Change
Indigenous land management is finally being recommended by the U.N. and Canada, sought after by land managers in the U.S. for practices and teaching on regenerating land, especially now in the context of a changing climate and resource scarcity. This has come in the wake of countless Indigenous nations fighting for sovereignty and the right to manage the lands they once stewarded. Long before the European incursion Indigenous people managed this land for its health and regeneration as well as for food, fiber, fuel, medicine, ritual items, crafts, clothing, and more for people. They are the leaders in this movement.
Sierra Seeds: This is Rowan White’s beautiful website with opportunities to soak in her world of indigenous seed saving and learn indigenous and current seed stewardship from her. “Take Care of the Seeds and They will take care of you.”
The Acequia Institute: Located in the San Luis Valley, TAI works for water democracy, resilient agriculture, and environmental justice through acequia, agroecology, indigenous permaculture, biodynamics, plant breeding, seed stewardship, maize networking, eco-restoration, and eco-justice.
Native Seeds/SEARCH (NS/S) is a nonprofit seed conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona. Their mission is to conserve and promote the arid-adapted crop diversity of the Southwest in support of sustainable farming and food security. “Our story began in 1983 [when] the co-founders…worked on food security… project to support the Tohono O’odham Nation in establishing gardens for their sustainable food needs.. tribal elders [told them…] ‘What we are really looking for are the seeds for the foods our grandparents used to grow.’ This sage remark inspired the formation of Native Seeds/SEARCH as a collector and preserver of endangered traditional seeds from communities in the Southwest.” A well-known organization vital to the Southwest.
Regionally Local Projects
Community Fruit Rescue: These neighborhood fruit harvests are organized collaboratively by 350BoCo, Boulder Food Rescue, FallingFruit.org, and Boulder Bear Coalition, with support from the City of Boulder. This program launched in the fall of 2014 and meets many goals at once. We’re building a stronger sense of community, promoting eating locally-grown food, reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with food miles traveled, protecting wildlife by reducing the temptations for bears to come into town, and delivering food that would otherwise be wasted to people who need it.
* Food Forests and Edible Landscaping in Parks and Public Spaces – What’s nicer than walking through your local park and picking some apples and raspberries along the way? We are working with city planners to integrate edible landscaping in the redesign of park areas and open space in Boulder. The vision includes planting fruit and nut trees and bushes, medicinal plants, and veggie gardens in parks especially when neighborhood groups or nonprofits are interested in maintaining them, and providing educational signage and interactive learning opportunities.
* Columbine’s Greenhouse to Garden to Table Program – We support school communities interested in installing and maintaining edible landscaping into their schoolyards. A current example project is Columbine Elementary, which has raised bed gardens, a 33′ geodesic dome greenhouse, and edible landscaping with programming for students provided by the Growe Foundation, Growing Gardens, and an after-school Greenhouse & Garden Club.
Want to learn more or get involved? Email Micah(at)350colorado.org if you would like to join the Edible Landscapes Working Group!
Want to Learn More?
Regenerative Ag’s Connection to Climate and Environment:
- What Is Regenerative Ag & Why Is it Important for Climate Change Mitigation?
- Fighting Climate Change With Your Fork – a blog post from one of our 350 Colorado supporters.
- Why How Your Food Is Grown Matters – Eco-dietitian and past webinar guest speaker Mary Purdy’s podcast about nutrition and planetary health.
Supporting Local & Buying Bulk:
- View this List of Local Farms Selling to the Public on the Front Range
- Buying Food in Bulk Direct from the Farm: Why it Matters for Climate Change Mitigation and How to Start
- Why Buying Food in Bulk from Local, Regenerative Farms Matters Now More than Ever and How to Start Connecting with a Producer
- Preserving and Storing Food in Bulk: The Basics
- 5 Tips for Staying Safe at the Farmers’ Market During COVID-19
- Certifications for Regenerative Ag
- Gardening 101: Choosing the Right Plants for Your Zone – learn general gardening tips, and how to choose plants that will thrive in your specific climate and region.
View one of our webinars — and more to come!
October 2020: Land regeneration through holistic management