Defining the principles of regenerative agriculture

Regeneration Canada is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to raise awareness and catalyze systems of change towards regenerative land stewardship in the country.

Through workshops, online education, and information materials available to the general public, farmers, ranchers, and land stewards, Regeneration Canada hopes to engage with all stakeholders involved in decision-making regarding land. But how is regenerative agriculture truly defined?

Antonious Petro, co-director at Regeneration Canada, recently joined Shaun Haney to discuss regenerative agriculture, how to define it, and what it would look like in parts of Canada.

Definitively, regenerative agriculture has been a bit of a buzzword lately, and Petro agrees that having the term defined is an important question, something that Regeneration Canada has been hearing a lot of voices asking for.

“I think it’s important that we all understand that regeneration is a journey and not a destination, so we can define it as a journey,” says Petro. The term regenerative, from the organization’s perspective, refers to a process that improves the state of the soil, the ecosystem overall, the climate, and human health.

“It’s really based on principles of land management which are to reverse the current trend of degradation in soil, water, and air quality, by enhancing the soil ecosystem and restoring its biology,” says Petro. “As a concept, it comes from ancestral, long-held principles, practiced by Indigenous communities around the world, but backed by modern science.”

Petro says that the principles —  including sequestering carbon in soil, using above-ground biomass, creating resiliency in an agro-ecosystem, improving animal welfare, and creating fairness for farmers — stay the same globally, but in each climatic region, the practices by which these goals are achieved are different.

It’s also less about prescribing or eliminating practices either. Not all organic producers practice regenerative agriculture, just as someone using GM crops could be.

Conceptually, regenerative agriculture can be considered the overarching umbrella of other concepts like conventional, organic, or sustainable agriculture, but as Petro states: “I think the difference truly is in the act to regenerate; how to not convert land because we need to increase food production, but how to work with what we have and try to work to bring it back to the state it was before, which is doable in certain scenarios.”

Hear the full conversation between Petro and Haney below:

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