On Saturday, July 16, individuals gathered at Cedar Circle Farm and Education Center in East Thetford, VT for a farm tour of their climate-friendly farming practices. Familiarize yourself with regenerative agriculture practices that Cedar Circle Farm and many others in our region are adopting.
Across the Upper Valley, farmers are implementing climate-friendly, sustainable practices that improve the health of the soil, bolster their farms against the effects of climate change, and foster community resilience and local food security. They use a number of agricultural practices that give back to the land and soil, in stark contrast to the extractive nature of industrial agriculture.
Large scale commercial farms and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) were born from a philosophy that sought dominion over the land and profit no matter the cost. Much of this can be credited to Earl Butz, the Secretary of Agriculture in the early 1970s. He pressured farmers to “get big or get out” and focus on planting commodity crops like corn “fencerow to fencerow”. These policies helped facilitate the rise of agribusiness corporations and the further decline of the small family farmer.
Large scale commercial farms can be defined by their use of petroleum based fertilizers, harsh pesticides, genetically engineered crops, lack of natural access for livestock, and massive equipment.
In recent years a new buzzword has surfaced as a rejection of this philosophy and a movement has been born to define the opposite of these practices. Regenerative agriculture is defined by Regeneration international as “a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.” Regenerative Agriculture seeks to give back to the earth, cycling nutrients, restoring degraded soils, and protecting water. Informed by indigenous farming, organic practices, and research into soil health, regenerative farmers incorporate practices that build soil, preserve water, and increase biodiversity while decreasing carbon emissions.
Familiarize yourself with some regenerative agriculture practices:
No-Till or Low-Till: Tilling the soil increases erosion, disrupts microbe communities, and accelerates the breakdown of organic matter. No-Till or Low-Till farming seeks to grow crops with no or very minimal disturbance to the soil.
Cover Cropping: Cover crops are plants that are grown during the off-season or when a field is resting to reduce erosion, and add nutrients to the soil.
Agroforestry: The intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic, and social benefits.
Rotational Grazing: A practice that keeps animals moving through a pasture in small sections, recreating the way wild herds used to graze. It keeps pasture from becoming over-grazed and depleted.
To learn more about the important role farms that use regenerative and organic practices play in climate action, visit Be a Climate Hero | NOFA Vermont.