Beyond Organic: Buy Regenerative!
Better Nutrition|January 2021
Improving soil health is an overlooked key for nutrient-dense food and a healthier planet. We can support farming that has this focus through the products we purchase.
By Melissa Diane Smith

Q I was blown away when I saw the documentary Kiss the Ground, and learned how important regenerating the soil is to so many things, including growing nutrient-dense food that keeps us healthy, efficiently absorbing both carbon dioxide and water, and positively impacting weather extremes. What are the best ways I can take action as a consumer to support regenerative farming?

Most people don’t understand how critical healthy soil is for supporting a web of health and environmental matters they care about—everything from producing nutritious food and conserving water when growing crops to stabilizing Earth’s climate.

As Kiss the Ground (now on Netflix) explains, in many areas of the world where crops historically have been grown, a process called “desertification” is occurring: Land has turned, or is turning, into desert or bare ground. Chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and other farming practices have killed off living organisms in the soil. The result is that living, fertile soil becomes dirt. Because it is depleted in nutrients and important microorganisms, dirt doesn’t efficiently absorb and hold water. It floods easily, leads to toxic runoff, can’t withstand weather extremes, and produces poor-quality food—or no food at all.

The film presents feed-the-soil solutions, farms and regions that have adopted principles of regenerative agriculture, which is sometimes called “carbon farming.” It is a set of practices—including avoiding tilling, planting cover crops, applying compost, and managing grazing— that builds organic matter in the soil. This leads to the soil storing more water and drawing more carbon out of the atmosphere. Formerly barren land then transforms into fertile land filled with a diversity of vegetation.

Animals grazing and leaving their droppings is an especially critical step in adding organic matter to the soil to help it become alive with important microorganisms. That’s the system of improving the land that nature designed. This is in direct opposition to the unnatural system of animals raised in industrial feedlots, which destroys healthy soil and damages animals’ health and the environment.

Organic vs. Regenerative

Once you understand the importance of healthy soil and the ways it helps improve human, animal, and environmental health, you naturally may want to buy food produced using regenerative practices. But if you’re like most consumers, you may not know how to identify products produced using techniques that improve soil health.

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