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How We Scale The Regenerative Farming Model

written by

Joe Wanda

posted on

March 17, 2024

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How We Scale The Regenerative Farming Model 

Thanks for following along with my recent blog articles focused on explaining regenerative farming and its future. 

The most recent article I wrote shared how industrial agriculture is producing food efficiently and cheaply for the consumer, but unfortunately in an unsustainable system that’s negatively impacting people's health, the environment, and family farms. Please read that blog here, if you missed it. 

Let’s continue our discussion about the future of regenerative farming. 

Can it be scaled and feed the world?

Many thought leaders have said things like “Yeah the idea of regenerative farming is nice and all, but that can’t feed the world” 

Hey, I get it. The number of farmers using this type of farming model is small and there’s a lot of skepticism of what it offers. I also had those initial thoughts when I first heard about it back in 2016. 

As a farmer who's been practicing regenerative agriculture for several years now, I firmly believe that it's not only scalable but also essential for the future of sustainable food production. When I look at my own journey and the transformations I've witnessed on my farm, I see immense potential for regenerative practices to be adopted on a larger scale.

Soil Health

One of the key reasons why I believe regenerative farming as a whole is scalable is its inherent focus on improving soil health. Healthy soil is the foundation of agriculture, and regenerative practices like minimal tillage, cover cropping, animal integration, and crop rotation work wonders in rejuvenating degraded soils. As more farmers embrace these techniques, we can collectively enhance soil fertility, water retention, and resilience to climate change across vast agricultural landscapes. The focus on soil health will create farms that are sustainable for years to come and as we’ve seen, more productive over time. 

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Scalable

In terms of scalability, regenerative farming offers flexibility and adaptability to various agricultural contexts. Whether you're farming on a small plot or managing a large-scale operation, the principles of regenerative agriculture can be tailored to fit your specific needs and circumstances. From arid regions to temperate climates, regenerative practices can be customized to optimize resource use and productivity while minimizing environmental impact.

While many may have this idea that scale means individual farms become larger in size, I’m referring to the regenerative farming movement scaling as a whole. There will be many farms that have the ingenuity and capacity to scale larger than others, but I don’t think these farms will scale to near the size of the CAFO factory farms today due to the key regenerative principles. One that comes to mind is diversity as this is an efficiency killer. 

While we are personally scaling our farm to a more sustainable size of economies of scale, so we have efficiency and profitability, we know the diversity on our farm has created its unique challenges. 

More farmers vs larger farms

All this said, I believe regenerative agriculture is the future and an opportunity for new and beginning farmers that want to enter the career. My hope is that we would see the regenerative farming scale with more producers vs larger operations. 

As new producers come onto the scene, we will hopefully see land that was thought to be unproductive land made into productive land again. We’ve seen evidence of desert lands becoming healthy, vibrant, new landscapes with these practices implemented over time as seen in the photo below. 

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The Challenge

Of course, scaling up regenerative farming isn't without its challenges. It’s going to require investments in education, infrastructure, and research, as well as supportive policies and incentives from governments and institutions vs the conventional ones in place right now. But with collaboration, innovation, and a shared commitment to sustainability, I truly believe that regenerative agriculture can be scaled up to feed the world while nourishing the planet.

I feel the better question to be asking is: “How do we get the regenerative farming principles implemented with the American farmer and educate farmers throughout the rest of world to use these practices?”

Education

Anyone with the thought process, “yeah, but regenerative farming can’t be scaled.”, doesn’t truly understand the principles of regenerative farming and their impact. They are viewing our current industrial food system in a tunnel vision. Not to blame them when the Big Ag’s messaging to all the farmers is….”we need to feed the world”. This messaging resonates with the mindset of more production/higher yield focus. 

However, the 1st thought that comes to mind when I hear this Big Ag slogan is the old saying. “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” 

It seems odd to me that the agricultural community wants to take responsibility for feeding the whole world themselves, vs having the mind of education and collaboration to enable all the farmers in the world to feed their own communities. 

I understand there’s an imbalance of populations throughout the world, and there will always be exporting/importing of foods to balance that. However, there is a lack of education to improve farming and productivity in many countries throughout the world. The focus on education would dramatically improve our world’s food productions in terms of volume and quality in many ways. 

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Your voice matters

As you read this as a consumer….you may have concerns about the price of this type of food and believe it’s too expensive. My hopes are as regenerative food becomes more mainstream/scales. We will see the price actually come down because of the increased volume in the marketplace and sustainable efficiencies are developed at many of these farms. However, if we want a true sustainable system (i.e. no government subsidies, fair wages to farmers, healthy food, etc), consumers need to be prepared to budget more towards this type of food vs the unsustainable industrial food system. It’s the old saying “you pay for what you get”. If you prioritize your body’s health, you will glady invest into the quality of the food you consume. This is a mindset change consumers will face about their food’s impact on their health. 

Consumers wield significant power in shaping the future of agriculture. By choosing products sourced from regenerative farms, consumers not only support sustainable practices but also drive market demand for these environmentally friendly alternatives. Through their purchasing decisions, consumers signal to farmers, policymakers, and businesses that regenerative farming is not only viable but also scalable. 

I do believe that your voice will make an impact on this growing movement. By embracing regenerative agriculture, consumers can actively contribute to a more resilient and sustainable food system, one that nourishes both people and the planet for generations to come.

Summary

The future of regenerative farming is scalable and I believe will be the future mainstream food production model because of its nutrient quality, sustainability, and positive environmental impact. 

Consumers are increasingly seeking out products that are not only nutritious but also produced in ways that prioritize environmental stewardship and animal welfare. One dream I have for the future is that by the end of my lifetime, we see half the midwest put back into grasslands and grazed by livestock. Therefore removing so many of the confinement livestock operations. 

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We have a big vision here at our farm to feed 10,000 families here in the midwest healthier food from our family farm and start to include neighboring farms that embrace regenerative farming into that mission as well. 

I’m optimistic about this type of farming becoming mainstream because of consumers like you reading this article and voting “yes” with your food dollars. 

Thank you for the support to our regenerative family farm. 

God bless, 

Joe

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He Arose

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