Just like in any other field of work, farmers use lingo that may or may not be clear to non-farmers. To help, Bob Jones, Jr. offers clarity on a few key terms.
A question often asked focuses on whether “regenerative farming” and “organic farming” are the same activity—and the answer is “no.” Regenerative farming—which is what we practice at The Chef’s Garden—focuses on building up the health of the soil and contributes significantly to a healthier planet. We grow nutrient dense vegetables in our rich soil that fit into a healthy diet.
Organic, meanwhile, is a label that designates if a particular food has been produced and handled within federal government standards: under the requirements of the USDA’s NOP (National Organic Program), which lists what crop protection products and fertilizers can be used by farmers during the growing process. To identify organically grown crops, you can look for foods with a green and white USDA organic seal.
So, the organic label provides a consumer with information about what amendments were utilized but not specifically how the food was grown. Unfortunately, the NOP does not include any insights into whether or not the soil health is improving. Here’s information about both aspects realized when following the tenants of regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative Farming: Soil is the Most Important Crop
We began growing in regenerative ways for the maximum of flavor and nutrition almost twenty years ago now and have been providing people with delicious and nutritious fresh vegetables, microgreens, herbs, and edible flowers utilizing those techniques. Although the health of the planet was not an initial goal of ours when we first regeneratively farmed, it’s a positive consequence that we fully embrace and better understand the importance of today than when we first began employing those methods.
Regenerative agriculture contributes to a process of Mother Nature’s called carbon sequestration, one that produces powerful effects: both in a micro sense as we focus on healthy soil at our farm and at a macro level with the Earth’s climate.
By taking a look at a role that trees play in helping the climate, it may be easier to see how regenerative farming contributes to positively impacting the climate. According to Bob Jones, Jr., old wisdom taught that mature forests would most effectively sequester carbon. They’d been around longer, so that seemed to make sense. “A young, growing forest, though,” he shares, “sequesters about twice as much carbon and, when managed properly, even more.”
Why? Well, a tree partially sequesters carbon in the soil and partly within its own wood. Then, when a mature tree dies or is blown over in a windstorm, it decays on the ground, returning that carbon into the atmosphere. Younger forests, again properly managed, will sequester additional carbon until harvested. If the forest is unmanaged or left to mature in a natural way, it too will release stored carbon over time. The two important factors to consider here are the rate of the plants growth: in this case, trees and what happens when the plant’s life is over.
Now, take a look at the multi-species cover crops process that we use at The Chef’s Garden to enrich our soil. They grow much more quickly than well managed forests. As they emerge from the soil, their blades and leaves work like tiny solar panels to collect sunlight. The plant then transforms the light energy into a chemical form that the plant can use as food; we know this process as photosynthesis.
Excess energy, not necessary for the new growth of the cover crop, is extruded through the root system, sending energy from the sun in the form of sugars into the rhizosphere of the plant roots, converting legacy minerals in the soil into a form usable by the plants. Those sugars from the plant feed the bacteria and fungi in the soil and, in turn, send energy in the correct form back to the plant, creating a true symbiotic relationship between the plant and the soil. Regenerative agriculture accentuates these natural processes, creating healthy soil for healthy crops for healthy people—and, as the carbon is sent deeper into the soil, for a healthy planet.
“So,” Bob concludes, “although contributing to a positive impact on climate changes wasn’t our initial target, it’s a great consequence.”
Experience the Difference
Taste the flavor and benefit from the nutrition while celebrating how regenerative farming contributes to your health plus that of your family and the planet: choose your fresh vegetable box today!