OUR DEFINITION

Regenerative Agriculture:

A systems and place-based approach that restores ecosystems, communities, and economies.

Regenerative Agriculture builds healthy soils, reduces air and water pollution, maximizes efficiencies, and increases biodiversity while promoting equity and public health. And by simultaneously storing carbon, building resilience to extreme weather, and eliminating chemical inputs, regenerative agriculture also empowers farmers and ranchers to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Regenerative Agriculture Farming Methods

Many Paths of Continuous Improvement

While certifications are vitally important, as well as the practices and spirit they represent, REGEN1 focuses on outcomes instead of practices. As a result, it recognizes that some farmers and ranchers may follow different roads to reach their desired objectives. REGEN1’s tiered approach helps reward producers—regardless of their operation—for embarking on a path of continuous improvement, one that encourages the adoption and refinement of regenerative practices that lead to the ecosystem benefits that the REGEN1 community actively supports.

 

 REGEN1 encourages farmers to start their transition journey by instituting their first practice, then provides a roadmap that encourages these producers to stay on a path of continuous improvement. Finally, it acknowledges and rewards regenerative producers, especially those with organic certifications, for their years of hard work by placing them on the highest tier.

The Journey to Regenerative

Transitioning to regenerative is less about arriving at a destination and more about embarking on a path of continual improvement. Farmers can start with low hanging fruit like applying compost or keeping more roots in the ground. As they begin to generate ecosystem benefits, farmers can add more diversity, employ new practices to minimize soil disturbance, and start reducing their reliance on external inputs like synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Measuring Regenerative Agriculture

REGEN1 is place-based. By reducing or eliminating chemical inputs and building resilience to extreme weather, regenerative agriculture simultaneously offers a solution for sequestering carbon while empowering farmers and ranchers with tools to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This whole system approach to people and place is designed to spotlight issues of inequity across the value chain and deliver approaches to improve livelihoods for people and benefits for the environment.

REGEN1 asks producers to list their certifications and uses that information to simplify the onboarding process for new producers, while rewarding them for implementing certified standards. Certification adds a layer of verification for the marketplace. It can tell you a lot, but not everything, about a grower and their operation. 

Getting certified can be challenging for many reasons, so REGEN1 offers pathways for reporting and verifying practices that may not be certified, opening regenerative to a greater diversity of farmers and ranchers. 

*The history of organic certification began nearly 35 years ago with Harry McCormack and Bob Copperrider’s work on Oregon Tilth and Seattle Tilth. They took the principles of Lady Balfour (who founded the Soil Association in the UK) and JI Rodale (Pay Dirt, Rodale Institute) and created the first organic standards. In the beginning, farmers took a single piece of paper—printed on two sides—and took the organic rules written on them to certify each other. Within a few years, this farmer-to-farmer certification spawned a national movement and organic agriculture was born. The same peer-to-peer, farmer-led definition of regenerative agriculture standards has been developed by REGEN1, but instead of a practices-based certification, we are exploring the development of a place-centered, outcome-based model similar to the appellation model used in the wine industry.

By concentrating on what makes each region unique, REGEN1 integrates a mix of qualitative and quantitative measurements with farmers to co-create good outcomes. 

You don’t need to be a scientist to learn to listen to the land. The REGEN1 measurement modules go beyond soil samples to help people to see connections between sensory observations and natural processes. Together, empirical scientific measurement and observational approaches can generate a more holistic account of on-farm outcomes.

Agricultural systems managed without synthetic inputs can find a healthy and productive equilibrium, but this takes time, practice, and experimentation by farmers and ranchers to find what works best for where they are. Reducing chemical inputs is not just about substituting one additive for another. A regenerative system recognizes the value of holistic management.

Because regenerative agriculture is a place-based process, practices can lead to different outcomes farm to farm, even field to field, and year to year. REGEN1 focuses on outcomes, not just practices. This promotes creativity, autonomy, and observation-based management in farmer/rancher decision making. These outcomes include improved soil health, water quality and quantity, reduced air pollution, increased biodiversity, and promoting equity.

Building soil health is a universal pillar of regenerative agriculture, but cultivating healthy soils leads to many more ecosystem benefits, including improved water infiltration, increased biological diversity, reduced air pollution, and more. Farmers and ranchers should be recognized and rewarded for the benefits they provide to all of us. 

Carbon sequestration—removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in soil and plant matter—is important not just for climate change mitigation, but also for building soil health and resilience. Estimating the amount of carbon sequestered on-farm could quantify this valuable outcome so that farmers and ranchers may be rewarded for drawing down carbon by choosing to implement regenerative agricultural practices.

Budding soil carbon offset markets are designing programs to pay producers for the carbon they capture and store. Several practices promote carbon sequestration, such as responsibly adding nutrients using compost or manure, incorporating trees into fields, adding cover crops, and leaving roots in the soil system. Reducing soil disturbance by reducing tillage will help not only reduce erosion but also carbon loss in soils.