Yield stability and income stability — that’s what farmers earn when they invest in regenerative agriculture.
That message was heard often throughout the recent Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario (IFAO) annual conference in London, Ont. It’s a tune that more and more farmers are singing as they increase efforts to enhance soil health on their farms.
Nuffield Scholar Kaytlyn Creutzberg notes that regenerative agriculture is also becoming part of a broader conversation about managing climate change and its impacts, but it really is about what farmers can do to improve soil health and make it more resilient to extreme weather.
In this interview with RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin, Creutzberg explains that regenerative agriculture includes five core practices: minimizing soil disturbance, maximizing soil diversity, keeping soil covered, maintaining living roots year-round, and integrating livestock. (Story continues after the interview.)
The impacts these practices can have on soil are not only being appreciated by farmers, but they’ve also captured the attention of food corporations such as General Mills, notes Creutzberg, whose career path includes sheep farming and 15 years working to launch community agricultural programs.
Three years ago, General Mills launched an initiative to advance regenerative agriculture practices on one million acres of farmland by 2030. That includes a US$2 million commitment to the Nature Conservancy, Soil Health Institute and the Soil Health Partnership to support the development of tools and resources for farmers, landowners, and supply chain leaders to achieve widespread adoption of soil health practices. General Mills has also partnered with the National Wheat Foundation to support research and education outreach on soil health practices to benefit 125,000 wheat farmers across the U.S. Great Plains states.
Creutzberg does admit that corporations such as General Mills stand to benefit by aligning with farmers who can sequester carbon in soils and reduce the environmental footprint of food production. She stresses, however, that corporate support for soil health research, agronomic coaching and farmer collaboration is a win for all stakeholders.
“Soil health is becoming embedded in the way we think. That’s good for farmers and the consumer,” says Creutzberg.