Biodiversity, carbon sequestration and better food are not add-ons or trade-offs; they are part of the regenerative farming system which enables more profitable farming.
Where does farming stand in a post-Covid-19 world?
The current pandemic contains three arenas in which there are signs which support an acceleration in the scaling of regenerative agriculture:
1. Thinking the unthinkable. Doing the undoable. Moments in history, where things happen which were previously unimaginable open the door for change throughout society. The phrase ‘we will never…’ has less of a hold and the sense of new possibilities driven by both necessity and opportunity flow into every aspect of society. There are signs that indicate that Covid-19 may have opened a window for such a time.
2. Reappraising what matters. From a consumer perspective, while it is early days, there is evidence that we are changing our relationship to food. Now emerging are large-scale organic home delivery schemes as well as individual farmers selling direct-to-consumers through home deliveries and on- and off-site farm shops and markets. Time will tell if the explosion of vegetable gardens and our collective interest in home cooking with quality, locally sourced ingredients is sustained, but the portents are good. Participating in such activities creates a ratchet effect which leads to fundamental changes in attitudes which make it difficult for people to revert an masse to eating processed junk food. This impulse to make economic choices which create a meaning-filled life is a global trend.
3. The “benefits” of economic collapse. A long period of economic depression may still be a post-Covid-19 reality, notwithstanding the best efforts of governments around the world to prevent it. This may make farmland more affordable and agriculture a more attractive career option.
Imagine a world where all food is grown in a way that leaves the land better off than when the seed was planted.
We stand at the dawn of a new era in which a positive economic, ecological, and social dynamic can supersede our current industrial agricultural system. It will be a switch from an input-intensive and resource-intensive model, which can only produce food by dominating nature to one that is knowledge-intensive and works with nature.
Ecology and economy do not have to be trade-offs. Growing affordable, nutrient-dense food on regenerating soils at scale is literally a new foundation on which to build our societies.
We can grow affordable nutrient-dense food and high-quality fibre on regenerating soils. In fact, we may be able to grow more, not less food, and at a lower cost than conventional industrial farming systems. Farmer groups should encourage nature-friendly farming, offer rewards for regenerative farming and maybe in the future ways that are degenerative will not be allowed.