Growing food and fiber through industrial methods has devastated our soil and climate. Forecasts have predicted that global topsoils will deplete in 60 years at our current rate, while studies have proven that conventional, industrial agriculture contributes up to 25% of the emissions driving the climate crisis.
But there is hope.
With regenerative organic agriculture, we can rehabilitate soil, respect animal welfare, and improve the lives of farmers. We can sequester carbon, build healthier communities, and reap more nutritious and abundant yields.
What we do to the soil, we do to ourselves.
Soil is the bedrock of our food system and, ultimately, our culture and civilization. The extraordinary diversity of microorganisms in the soil mirrors the diversity of ecosystems around the world and the diversity of organisms in the human microbiome. Depleted soils endanger the complex balance of such natural systems, threatening everything from the productivity of our cropland, to the availability of foods we eat and materials used for clothing, building, and more.
Regenerative organic agriculture is a collection of practices that focus on regenerating soil health and the full farm ecosystem.
In practice, regenerative organic agriculture can look like cover cropping, crop rotation, low- to no-till, compost, and zero use of persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Layered into these practices, depending on a farm’s needs, could be the addition of perennials, development of pollinator and wildlife habitats, incorporation of agroforestry systems, vegetative barriers, and other regenerative practices that are shown to contribute to the development of soil organic matter.
To be truly regenerative, a system must consider all players in the farm system — from the soil microbiome to the animals to the workers. After all, farmers are the stewards of our lands, and with the power of regenerative organic agriculture, can completely change the direction of our future.
Where does Regenerative Organic Agriculture come from?
Both the term “regenerative agriculture” and the practices that define it are not modern creations. As mentioned above, it is imperative to always note that regenerative agriculture practices draw from Indigenous wisdom and practices.
As Regenerative Organic Alliance Board Member A’dae Romero-Briones (Cochiti/Kiowa) puts it, “The indigenous universal connection is the idea that you absolutely need to be part of the natural cycles around you, whether they’re negative or positive. You need to adjust to them. You’re part of that system. You need to become embraced in that system in order to create not only a healthy food system, but also healthy people, a healthy environment, and a happy mental state.”
Watch this video of Bob Rodale describing the difference between sustainable and regenerative (start at 1:23) in an interview with the USDA in 1989. Source: Rodale Institute
The term regenerative agriculture was first introduced by Dr. George Washington Carver, and was popularized by Robert Rodale of the Rodale Institute, who coined the term “regenerative organic” to distinguish a kind of farming that goes beyond sustainable.
What is Regenerative Organic Certified®?
Regenerative Organic Certified® is a revolutionary new certification for food, fiber, and personal care ingredients that represents the highest standard for organic agriculture in the world, with stringent requirements for soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness.
Regenerative Organic Certified® uses the USDA Certified Organic standard as a baseline. From there, it adds important criteria and benchmarks that incorporate the three major pillars of regenerative organic agriculture into one certification.
Regenerative Organic Certified® is overseen by us, the nonprofit Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA). The ROA is a group of experts in farming, ranching, soil health, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness. Founded by the Rodale Institute, Dr. Bronner’s, and Patagonia, other members of the alliance include Compassion in World Farming, Fair World Project, and the Textile Exchange. The ROA was established to continuously review and update the ROC Framework.
What Our Founders Say About Regenerative Organic:
Everyone who eats food (that includes you!) can play a role in the movement for regenerative organic agriculture by choosing foods, fibers, and personal care products with the Regenerative Organic Certified® label. When you purchase Regenerative Organic Certified®, you know at-a-glance that your purchase makes a positive impact on the farm at every level: environmentally, ethically, and socially.