Industry Helps Regenerative Ag Gain Momentum
KANSAS CITY — Whole Foods Market identified regenerative agriculture as one of nine leading food and beverage trends in 2020. The supermarket, a division of Amazon.com, Inc., predicted consumers would be drawn to products that support regenerative practices. The forecast could be characterized as bold given the public’s lack of familiarity with the concept: 2019 data from the International Food Information Council Foundation indicate only 10% of consumers are familiar with and interested in regenerative agriculture.
What interest in regenerative agriculture has emerged is credited in part to a 2016 TEDx talk delivered in Grand Forks, N.D., by Gabe Brown, a grower whose farm is near Bismarck. Mr. Brown cited data showing soil depth in Walsh County, N.D., shrinking to 15 inches in 2014 from 34 inches in 1960. He blamed the soil degradation on tillage and monoculture, which he said leaves soil susceptible to erosion and diminishes its capacity to support beneficial microbes and absorb water.
Describing the status quo as unsustainable, Mr. Brown advocates the widespread adoption of five steps he believes are central to regenerative agriculture … minimizing mechanical disturbance of soil (no-till agriculture), applying armor to the soil in the form of cover crops, embracing crop diversity, leaving roots in the ground as long as possible and allowing animals to graze farmland.