Digging Deeper Into Regenerative Agriculture

Soil, dirt, ground, earth. Whatever you choose to call it, it is an essential part of our natural world where all things are connected—the microbes, the soil, the plant, the water, the animals, the farmer, and the food on your table. It is one of our most important natural resources, and too often, it’s overlooked. December 5th was World Soil Day, but at NRDC and Kiss the Ground, every day is a celebration of healthy soil. Let’s dig deeper into what “healthy soil” means and how we can make sure that this precious natural resource is taken care of.

Conventional agriculture is built on the concept of extraction. Farmers till to extract weeds, fertilize to extract more yield, and plant the same crops to extract more and more profit. This extractive mentality is destroying our soil—the foundation that grows the food we eat is mined for its resources and we aren’t doing enough to replenish it. We have constructed an attenuated and removed relationship with our soil and food system causing us to deplete our natural resources for human consumption and expecting nature to recover on its own.

Beyond Sustainable: Think Regeneratively

Kiss the Ground

In conventional agriculture, a common practice is to leave fields fallow between production times, which burdens our land with the expectation and responsibility to replenish on its own. This, along with designating entire fields to just one crop, applying toxic pesticides, and prioritizing maximal yields and profit, is not just extractive to our soil, water, and other natural resources, but also robs us of food sovereignty, security, and equitable long-term economic growth.

In contrast, a “sustainable” system aims to curb the damage done to depleted soil, but “sustainable agriculture” traps us into thinking that our soil’s health has been exhausted by our extractive history and its potential is capped. Humans are intimately connected with soil, which is why the regenerative agriculture movement—a movement that asks our farmers to revitalize and rebuild soil—is necessary.

“We’re destroying our resources too quickly and we had to try to figure out how do we “sustain” ourselves—how do we lessen the harm, how do we slow this, and how do we conserve the soil. So, we reached a reactionary “sustainability” mindset, which is beautiful and thoughtful, but is there a way that humans can have a beneficial impact on biodiversity, soil organic matter, and water holding capacity.”

Ryland Engelhart, Co-Founder of Kiss the Ground & Co-Owner of Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre

Mother Nature is resilient, adaptive, and regenerative. Regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that promotes working symbiotically with Mother Nature to:

  • Enrich soil
  • Increase biodiversity
  • Replenish watersheds
  • Capture carbon
  • Increase yields
  • Strengthen climate resilience
  • Improve the vitality of surrounding communities

Moving away from the conventional agricultural system, regenerative agriculture asks farmers and ranchers to look at their farms holistically and see that each component is connected to one another. As Lauren Tucker, Executive Director at Kiss the Ground, puts it, “At the most basic entry point, it’s about healthy soil and soil carbon. Then the next level looks at the plants and animals of the ecosystem and their welfare. At deeper levels, we’re looking at the farmer’s well-being and whether the communities that interact with the farm are taken care of.” Striking down the extractive agricultural model that prioritizes yield and profit, the regenerative model spurs rural economies and bridges the rural-urban divide by reinforcing the added value of a healthy ecosystem and how it supports a burgeoning social infrastructure. 

The soil enthusiasts over at Kiss the Ground are disrupting the extractive model of agriculture and providing the resources and tools for farmers, consumers, businesses, and teachers to proactively heal the planet. From developing clear messaging on the soil and carbon cycle and building a middle school soil health curriculum to creating a fellowship fund for farmers to learn more about regenerative agriculture, Kiss the Ground is leading the effort to educate the public, influence the discussion around agriculture and our environment, and reinvigorate the human connection to soil while engaging with the community.

Kiss the Ground and Safe Place for Youth's Community Garden in Venice, CA

One way Kiss the Ground has done this is by giving new life to the once chalky and lifeless dirt at the community social justice and art center in Venice, CA, Beyond Baroque and SPARC. What was once a dry and compacted plot of land has turned into garden full of earthworms, active microbes, and rows and rows of vegetables, fruit, and medicinal herbs. Kiss the Ground has worked closely with Safe Place for Youth to create a paid job-training internship for unhoused youth to learn about gardening and regenerative agriculture. The community garden was created to inspire and empower youth by growing their own food while dreaming big about how they can fix a broken food system in an equitable and regenerative way. It is a safe space that allows Venice’s unhoused neighbors to connect with nature and heal in alternative ways.

You truly are what you eat. When you feed your soil, you feed the microbes that help grow the food that you eat. Every time you take a bite of food, shop for groceries, or take a breath of fresh air, think of our soil hard at work producing our food and cleaning up our air and water. So, let’s show her some love!

  • Be a Voice for Soil: Love our soil by demanding proper stewardship of our land through regenerative agriculture. Kiss the Ground offers a Soil Advocate Training class so that you can spread the word.
  • Compost at Home: You can divert your household food waste from the landfill while closing the loop of our soil cycle and contributing to new life. Not to mention, Safe Place for Youth and Kiss the Ground offers Venice residents a place to drop off their food scraps to help supercharge their community garden over on Venice Blvd and Shell Ave.
  • Vote With Your Dollars: Know how your food is sourced and choose meat, dairy, and produce that is grown to help regenerate land. Ask your farmers about their soil health practices, find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, or opt for dining at restaurants like Café Gratitude and Gracias Madre where their ingredients are sourced from regenerative agriculture farmers. Kiss the Ground makes shopping regeneratively easy with their #Eat4Climate Purchasing Guide (It even goes beyond food!).
  • Grow Your Own Food: Start your own regenerative garden and feel empowered to grow your own fruits and vegetables that do their part in regenerating land.

Venice Community Compost Drop-Off

About the Authors

Ellen Lee

Program Assistant, Water Initiatives

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