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Published on September 19th, 2013 | by Tara O'Brien


Regenerative Agriculture and Our Food Crisis

Rather than being inspired to change our nasty, greedy habits after watching films like Super Size Me and Food Inc., it seems as if many Americans have simply rolled over and given up. After watching these films I too sunk into a “this is all too grand for me to make a difference” depression. My funk lasted until I saw the movie Dirt, which offers a similar message to these other films, but in a more uplifting way. Dirt spends a good amount of time talking about the depletion of life in our soils, but then also a fair amount of time on the people working to change it. So, in this post, I wanted to discuss the people helping the situation and what you can do to support them.

In case you missed watching the documentaries listed above, let me give you a short synopsis down. Our planet is currently undergoing a war with industrial agriculture and overpopulation. Due to the fact that the population started to exponentially increase a group of our grandparents decided that the biggest threat to the human species was a lack of food. They started doing some science and found that food will grow faster and larger without weeds or pests around. So, they did some more science made some sprays that would kill bugs and weeds then made some plants that wouldn’t die from the sprays (and the plants even killed the bugs if they tried to eat it!). This was supposed to mean more food for everyone. But this science has begun to make us sicker, and is destroying the life in the soil as well. The chemicals killed off the microorganisms in the soil that create healthy structure and we now experience landslides, floods, and erosion on a rapid basis. Not to mention the food is also killing our intestinal flora and leading to the occurrence of chronic diseases such as celiac, crones, and irritable bowel syndrome more than has ever been seen before. All in all, this current system of agriculture is not working out. Not for humans, not for the land.


Truly regenerative agriculture is based on a holistic view of earthly care. Darren Doherty, of Heenan Doherty, is doing just that. His business focuses on holistic grazing management, created by Allan Savory, as well as the implementation of Keyline design and plowing. In order to supply the masses with enough meat our cattle farmers have begun raising more cattle. As the cattle graze they eat away at the grass so much so that the roots sometimes completely die out. In order to stop this from happening Allan Savory came up with holistic grazing management. Managing your cows feeding in this way can actually build up to 8 inches or more of topsoil in a year. This topsoil is where the microorganisms thrive and plants get most of their nutrients from. More topsoil means larger and healthier plants.

The keyline design comes into play when your land has become so compacted from over grazing that it needs to be tilled and have biology added into it to start the healing process. The keyline plow injects compost tea, a concentration of beneficial microorganisms, deep into the soil right where the compaction layer of the soil starts. The microorganisms break up the compacted soil and allow plant roots to go down into the ground and contribute to a healthy, aerated soil structure.

My company Red Clover Consulting consults with various farms and to help set up composting systems to make farms more sustainable. Compost helps add back into the soil the microorganisms that are lost through the compaction of tilling, shoveling, harvesting, and walking on the farmed land. By applying compost and tea to the land we are able to improve the harvest, free up nutrients for plants and aide in the healing of some of the most stressed land on earth.

And aside from people offering up services to help the earth some people are just taking the bull by the horns and starting research right on their very own land. Jacob and Shaina Krieger of Fairfield Iowa have started a project, Abundant Biology, in which they are “applying keyline pattern subsoil plowing with compost extract root injection to reduce compaction, create rapid soil formation, restore water holding capacity, enhance plant nutrient content, and rebuild biodiversity. This all directly increases yields while the environmental benefits spread and are shared by everyone.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. They have a space where you can sponsor land on their farm to aid their research. Should your heart feel so full of hope for the future of the earth that you would like to put some money into it, the donation would surly be appreciated.

There are many other projects going on and many other people who provide amazing services toward land regeneration. I barely even scratched the surface. There is much more going on with urban initiatives which may hit closer to home for many people. I just wanted to focus on large industry farming and cattle due to the heat it has been getting in the media. There is a smart way to farm on a large scale, we just have to chose to transition and vote with our dollars.


Grass earth image from Shutterstock

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