Agriculture is considered to be one of the biggest contributors to climate change. With the rise of regenerative agriculture, however, some of the effects of destructive farming practices can be mitigated.
This week, Andrew Ardington, the founder of the Regenerative Agricultural Association of South Africa, is our expert guest on the Farmer’s Inside Track Weekend podcast. He says that the term “sustainable industrial farming” is a contradiction. Also, he explains that industrial farming requires too many external inputs to be considered sustainable.
“By definition, industrial farming practices are not sustainable without significant fossil fuel inputs, and with fertiliser and chemicals carrying massive externalities, externalities being the costs that the environment carries rather than the farmer and the consumer…. Like with a bank account that you keep drawing money out of and not putting money into, you will go bankrupt.”
For farming to be sustainable, Ardington says, it needs to depend less on non-renewable resources. He cites this as the reason to move to regenerative farming. He defines regenerative farming as a wide field that takes into consideration all aspects of farming and farming life.
5 simple principles
“[Regenerative agriculture] comes down to just five principles. All five of these principles deal with soil health, which lies at the core of any regenerative practice.”
Ardington explains that, by looking after the soil, destruction of the environment is much less likely. “The benefits of regenerative agriculture are numerous. Probably the major one is that it is truly sustainable. You can produce a crop and regenerate your soil at the same time rather than depleted. What that means is that you can continue to farm your land for generations to come.”
Some of the other benefits Ardington underscores are how regenerative agriculture ends up being more profitable and how it improves the farmer’s work environment.
“Ultimately, your farm will be more profitable with reduced annual input costs. You can escape living in debt and move to a more resilient financial situation. In a study done in the Midwestern United States, the regenerative farms in the area produced 20% less than the industrial farms but they were 78% more profitable. It is difficult to say how long it takes to get to this situation, as each farm and each situation is different and has its own context.”
For Ardington, practicing regenerative agriculture is ultimately about nourishing life instead of causing destruction.
“I used to wake up in the morning and ask myself, ‘what I was going to kill today?’. Weed, a fungus, whatever, I was going to kill something. Now I wake up and ask myself, ‘how can I make more life on my farm today?’”
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