In recent years, the agriculture sector has been seeking more sustainable roots. But there’s a problem with sustainability – current practices including constant tillage and over-fertilizing simply aren’t working. Sustaining a broken system doesn’t address massive-scale issues like climate change, suffering rural communities and a growing number of mouths to feed around the globe.
Now, farmers, suppliers and food brands are working together to turn over a new leaf — they’re looking to regeneration instead of just sustainability. The nomenclature is important. While sustainability focuses on maintaining natural resources by improving efficiencies and reducing harmful effects of current processes, regeneration fundamentally rethinks the whole system.
“We need transformative change, and that’s part of the reason why we need to talk about our goals differently,” says Steve Rosenzweig, PhD, a soil scientist at General Mills. “It’s not enough to sustain the current degraded state of our ecosystems; we really need to build resilience back into them.”
Regenerative agriculture (or “regenerative ag”) looks at modern farming through a holistic, long-term lens by treating farms as individual ecosystems that can be redesigned to work in sync with nature. At the same time, this method aims to dramatically cut the industry’s carbon footprint — land clearing and conventional farming is responsible for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions — while strengthening the food supply chain. In fact, regenerative ag takes it one step further, drawing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil, which can contribute to slowing down climate change.
To help farmers adopt regenerative ag and reap the benefits — including economic resilience — General Mills has committed to advancing six core principles, detailed below, on one million acres by 2030. The food company’s multi-year pilots with customized coaching and consulting for farmers are already underway.
“We’ve seen regenerative ag bring hope back,” says Rosenzweig. “Regenerative farmers feel like they have more control over their fate. They’re more optimistic and hopeful about the future. Combined with being more profitable and having a resilient system, these are the ingredients needed to stem the flow of people leaving these rural communities.”
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