Farmers across the country and the next generation of farmers are finding that past practices of conventional farming are no longer cutting it. Low prices of common crops along with high production costs (fertilizers and expensive equipment) are making it difficult for farms to stay afloat. At the same time, conventional agriculture has moved toward systems dominated by fertilizing a few annual crops, typically corn and soybean, leaving the field bare between growing seasons. These practices have degraded core resources like soil and water, endangering the long-term viability of many farms.
It is the goal of the Regenerative Farmer to rebuild soil health, conserve water, improve water quality, and grow and raise nutrient dense food for the population. It is a complicated and sometimes costly practice but isn’t out of reach. Diversifying crops and animals, implementing more complex crop/animal rotations, and protecting soil year-round by using cover crops comes with both challenges and opportunities.
Regenerative practices on a farm can be great on many levels but aren’t always easy. Cover crops are good for soil but costs, market forces, and reduced yields can become a barrier. One way to make regenerative farming more manageable is to integrate livestock. When managed with the best practices, livestock can enable a more self-reliant farming system. Animals can eat the cover crops and grass that protect the soil. In turn, the animal’s manure can naturally nourish the soil and build the soil’s health. Adopting practices like planting cover crops, integrating livestock, and using livestock to fertilize fields, can substantially increase the soil’s organic matter. This greatly improves the long-term health of the farm and its sustainability.
The benefits to Regenerative Farming go far beyond the farm. By creating a farming system that includes cover crops and animal/crop rotation strategically, the farm contributes to better water quality downstream thus reducing water pollution. This is very important given that our farm is in such close proximity to the Delaware River. Planting cover crops and using the livestock to eat and then fertilize the soil increases the nutrients in the plants that the animals eat, giving us healthier food to eat.
It seems working with Mother Nature rather than against her has great benefits to our environment, resources, health, and community. Regenerative farming is the wave of the future and is changing the health of our land, one acre at a time.