Soil degradation, in both quantity and quality, is a global problem, and the implications are pretty massive: the balance of our climate, ecosystems, food security, economy, and health are all on the line.
That’s because soil is so much more than dirt. In fact, soil in itself is a living system, a world of organisms with symbiotic relationships that support the growth of plants to feed us, recycle nutrients from decomposing plants, provide structure and water holding capacity to our land, control diseases and pests, and sequester carbon.
That is a pretty important job description and it’s up to us to ensure soil across the world can stay up to the task.
That’s where regenerative agriculture comes in. This approach to farming and grazing practices helps rebuild organic soil matter, restore soil biodiversity, enhance carbon drawdown, and improve the water cycle by leveraging the power of photosynthesis and ecological harmony below and above ground.
One of my favorite (and most visually stunning) examples of the power of regenerative agriculture at work can be seen in the new documentary The Biggest Little Farm, where a couple takes on a barren piece of land and creates a balanced abundance of life.
While there is often debate over the role of agricultural animals in climate change, they are in fact an essential piece to a productive and successful regenerative farm. When cattle are raised outdoors, grazing on pasture for the right amount of time (not overgrazing, which is another problem) they actually force the plants to draw more carbon into the soil as they regrow; as the cattle move to new pastures the process continues. These practices have been found to hold major potential for turning agriculture into a climate solution rather than a key source of the problem.
Last week I was excited to dig into this topic further, with my friend Tom Newmark who joined me on The Doctor’s Farmacy. Since leaving his position as CEO of New Chapter, a whole-food supplements company, Tom has focused on environmental activism with specific attention on regenerative agriculture.
He is the co-owner of Finca Luna Nueva Lodge, an organic and biodynamic farm and ecolodge in the mountainous rainforest of Costa Rica that teaches regenerative agriculture, and is also the co-founder and board chair of The Carbon Underground and co-founder of the Soil Carbon Initiative. Throughout our talk, Tom shares why regenerative agriculture is imperative for healing our soils and how well-managed livestock can play an essential role in that system.
If you’re interested in learning more about saving our soils through the power of regenerative agriculture I urge you to tune in to this fascinating episode.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD