Importance of Regenerative Agriculture

by Catherine Haug, Thanksgiving, 2015

I first learned of ‘Regenerative Agriculture’ last spring when I watched a PBS documentary (1) on the subject. That 26 minute video is still available to watch online (1).

Our modern farming methods treat soil like dirt, instead of giving it the love and respect it deserves. We don’t understand how important microbes are to the soil, that they convert nutrients in the soil to a form the plants can utilize. To flourish, they need carbon (and oxygen) in the soil, but we let the carbon escape into the atmosphere, warming the earth and leading to climate change.

Regenerative agriculture is about giving back to the soil with rich compost, humus, and biochar, to return carbon to the soil and provide microbes that connect the plants to the nutrients in the soil.

Save our Soil

The PBS documentary, ‘Food Forward. SOS: Save our Soil‘ (1) discusses the following topics. For more on each of the topics, please see the numbered references.

  • Grasslands and grass banks: Rich soil of rangeland (home and food to livestock) (6, 10);
  • Microbes in the soil (8, 11);
  • Compost, humanure and humus instead of chemical fertilizers (11, 12, 13);
  • No-till (3, 7);
  • Poultry litter and bio-char (5, 9).

Matador Ranch: Grass Bank in Montana

Grassland is an amazing carbon sink, when it is allowed to grow and mature as nature intended. Native grasses have deep roots that give access to needed moisture so they can thrive and give back to the soil. Cattle and other range animals that feed upon the grass also give back to the soil with their manure, provided they only graze in the same area for a limited time before moving on, must as the buffalo herds once grazed.

Nature Conservancy has a 60,000 acre grass bank in eastern Montana, on the Matador Ranch, that has been very successful. From their website (9):

“Under the program, local ranchers pay discounted fees to graze their cattle on the Matador in exchange for wildlife-friendly practices on their own operations. The minimum requirement for membership in the grassbank is a committment to control noxious weeds  and not break any new ground (sodbusting). After that, the lease price drops for additional conservation measures. For example, protecting prairie dog habitat earns a discount, securing Sage-grouse leks earns another, modifying fences, that’s right, more money off the lease price.”

How you can apply regenerative practices in your garden:

  1. Stop or minimize tillage. Tilling the soil releases the carbon into the atmosphere and weakens/destroys the microbes and microryzae (fungi) essential to living soil. In the soil, carbon promotes soil health and healthy plant growth. Once in the air, it only contributes to atmospheric CO2 levels, which has an adverse effect on the environment.
  2. Stop or minimize use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Opt for organic fertilizers like compost, composted manure, humus and bio-char.
  3. Keep your soil covered with a deep ground cover or mulch.

Related articles on The EssentiaList:


  1. PBS Video: ‘Food Forward. SOS: Save our Soil’; also for more about the video
  2. Mercola:
  4. Mercola:
  5. Mercola:
  6. The EssentiaList: The importance of grassland (info-graphic)
  7. The EssentiaList: Film: Symphony of the Soil
  8. The EssentiaList: Biodynamic farming and a documentary film
  9. Bio-char International: and
  10. Matador Ranch Grass Bank: and
  11. Mother Earth News: How to Grow your Soil with Mycorrhizae and Beneficial Bacteria (video and article):
  12. Humus vs Compost video:
  13. Using Humus to Improve your Soil Organically:
  14. The EssentiaList: Biodynamic farming and a documentary film

Comments are closed.