16 years ago, when we started our company, climate change still felt like a distant threat. Not today. When critical ecosystems are collapsing all around the globe, “sustainability” feels too little, too late. We need to rebuild what has been lost and do our best to help the world turn around global warming.
When agriculture is practiced with care and knowledge, it can become one of the most powerful solutions. There is a vast collection of interconnected growing practices that can maximize a farm’s potential to draw carbon down into the soil, where it enriches soil life, improves resilience and increases yields. Built on a complex understanding of farming and a respect for nature, these techniques also increase biodiversity and overall ecosystem health. Together, they are commonly referred to as regenerative agriculture.
The concrete methodology differs from one geographic context to the other, but it always relies on the same principles.
While the word “regeneration” is relatively new to the fresh fruit sector, many of its methods are less so. They often take inspiration from traditional, region-specific techniques, while other key practices have been developed by various strains of the organic movement.
One of the characteristic regenerative practices is intercropping plants that hold water or fix nutrients for each other, or that protect one another from pests or the weather. Another is using cover crops or mulch to guard against weeds while keeping the captured carbon undisturbed in the ground in the form of an enriched soil life. In each case, methods are chosen with an eye toward how they influence the natural processes in the broader area. Regenerative agriculture always requires an ecological awareness, a deep knowledge of the interactions between the plants, the climate and the soils that define a specific locale.
Banana plantation using regenerative soil cover at one of our biodynamic growers in Ecuador
There are standardized, holistic systems with long traditions whose methodologies are in perfect alignment with the ideals of regeneration. For instance, we recognize the biodynamic Demeter farms that we work with as practicing a highly complex form of regenerative agriculture. Many expert growers who do not have additional certifications, but who started to practice organic agriculture out of a deep conviction also achieve regenerative outcomes.
Indeed, measuring the success of regenerative agriculture is based primarily on outcomes. Since practices can and must be varied, when experts seek to determine whether a farm is regenerative, they first look not at methods, but at changes in soil organic matter and biodiversity.
In our next article, we will go into the details about what a successfully implemented regenerative system can achieve for climate resilience, long-term food security, local ecosystem and indeed, the biosphere — and why tropical, perennial agriculture has a pivotal role to play.
(Copyright © Fairtrasa, 2021)