What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Produced by our good friend and advocate, John Roulac, Kiss the Ground is a full-length documentary narrated by Woody Harrelson that sheds light on an alternative approach to farming called “regenerative agriculture” that has the potential to balance our climate, replenish our vast water supplies, and feed the world.
Click here to watch Kiss the Ground on Netflix.
Regenerative agriculture is simpler than it sounds. Put plainly, regenerative farms utilize photosynthesis and healthy soil microbiology to draw down greenhouse gasses and capture them in the soil. This has the potential to reverse global warming and create healthier food and a healthier planet, while also feeding a growing population. At Cooks Venture, we utilize four critical components of regenerative food systems – ruminants, monogastrics, feed crops, and vegetables – to do exactly that. We build better communities through farming, and grow tastier food by applying sound science and lots of practice. Vote with your dollar: buy regeneratively grown food to build a food system that will save the planet.
How we do it at Cooks Venture
We work with scientists who measure soil carbon, nutrition, and other biological factors on our own 800-acre farm, and on the farms that grow feed for our livestock. We track year-over-year metrics to determine how our farming practices are impacting soil health, biodiversity, and pest populations, and make adjustments accordingly. Leading climate scientists agree that if this process was followed by all farmers globally, climate change could be reversed.
Our logo represents the four critical components of the food system that Cooks Venture addresses. It is more than a logo to us: it is a vision for a healthier food system that has the power to change the planet for the better. Each of these plants and animals, when managed properly, has the potential to feed us as we grow in numbers, while also reversing climate change. This isn’t just a claim. Our methods are backed by decades of science and research with the top thinkers in the world on global climate systems and agriculture. See the articles at the bottom of the page that discuss the potential of this powerful system.
Ruminant animals – including cattle, sheep, deer, antelopes, giraffes, and their relatives – are critical for healthy land. They ferment grass and cellulosic material into simple sugars in one of their four stomach compartments, called the rumen, and convert it into muscle. Cattle are misunderstood as major greenhouse gas contributors: the problem is not the number of cattle we raise, but how we raise them. In contrast to pre-colonial times, when wild ruminants roamed the prairies feeding on grasses, most of today’s cattle are fattened on grains at feed lots, where their waste is concentrated in toxic quantities rather than digested by soil microorganisms. When cattle are properly managed, and fed and finished on grass alone, they contribute to a healthy ecosystem and manage land with minimal human intervention. In other words, healthy cattle managed on permanent pasture can be restorative, as opposed to detrimental. For more on this, we recommend Nicolette Hahn Niman’s book, Defending Beef, and this TED Talk by The Savory Institute founder, Allan Savory.
Monogastric animals have one stomach compartment and require carbohydrates and balanced nutrition to survive. These include chickens, pigs, rabbits, and humans! While our friends the ruminants can live on cellulose material from plants alone, monogastric animals require us to grow feed crops. When feed crops are well managed, with healthy crop rotations, in organic systems, we can feed monogastric farm animals and humans while reversing the effects of carbon emissions. When these crops are poorly managed, millions of acres of land can be negatively impacted just to grow a relatively small amount of feed for monogastric animals. This is a major contributor to global warming, and perhaps the biggest threat to our ecosystem. Put simply: Monogastrics can be a huge part of the problem or a key piece of the solution – that’s why we started by fixing biggest problem in the food system: chicken.
The majority of farming in the world is dedicated to feed crops. 97% of American agriculture, outside of pasture, are crops like corn, wheat and soy – not vegetables, as we are often led to believe. Furthermore, the majority of American crops are grown in conventional systems that are subsidized with tax dollars. The largest crop in America is corn, engulfing over 400 million acres. About a third of American corn is used for ethanol, a fuel produced at an energy loss and paid for with your taxes. About 9% of domestic corn is used for poultry production, and 15% of corn is used for dairy and beef production (even though ruminants are biologically designed to eat grass, not corn!). If we stopped growing conventional corn for ethanol and cattle and focused on growing other diversified crops that contribute to the replacement of soil nutrition, we could double American food production while also reversing the effects of climate change. Our soil is our greatest natural resource; we have more top soil than any other nation in the world. That will not be the case for long unless we protect it through regenerative agriculture. Corn is not the enemy, but the way we manage land through its production is the biggest single problem in the modern food world.
Despite the popular perception that most farmers grow vegetables, diversified crops represent less than 3% of American agriculture, including all fruits and nuts. However, they are essential for human health and a healthy environment. We must create better rotational systems that work synergistically with nature and animals to require fewer inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) and less soil disruption.
How this works together
By building a holistic system, symbolized by our blazon representations of these plants and animals, we can effect positive change on millions of acres of land, taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into the soil. This system requires both plants and animals, working together, as they have for millions of years. Such a system regenerates itself, improving with time, feeding us today and into the future.