Agriculture Plants the Seeds of Regeneration

The need to radically reform our agricultural sector in the name of sustainability has been talked about for decades. And while small, incremental changes have inched the ag sector forward, it remains hopelessly unsustainable for people and the planet.

Consider: Organic agriculture, which became mainstream starting in the 1990s, still represents only a small fraction of farmland in the developed world. In the United States, for example, just over 2 percent of the roughly 234 million acres of farmed land is certified organic under the federal government’s definition. Organic food sales are double that — about 4 percent of total U.S. food sales in 2014, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Organic, of course, is just one slice of the pie. Indeed, the alt-ag movement has sowed a cornucopia of methodologies, including, alphabetically: agroecology, aquaponics, biodynamic farming, biological farming, conservation tillage, controlled environment agriculture, good agricultural practices (or GAP), holistic management, integrated pest management (and its offshoot, biointensive IPM), low-input agriculture, natural (or nature) farming, permaculture, sustainable agriculture and whole-farm planning.

Each offers an approach that counters industrial ag’s relative blunt-force use of fertilizers, pesticides and water in favor of limited inputs used with precision in harmony with natural cycles and conditions.