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Regenerative Farming: What you need to know

regenerative farming

What is regenerative farming and how can it be a supplement to a healthy and vibrant life? Here at Active Atoms, we strive to find science-based and clinically tested supplements and nutrition to better people’s lives and health. The body has a miraculous way of healing, and what could be better than using your own powerhouse to make you feel better and live a healthier and longer life. I was recently introduced to regenerative farming through listening to a podcast with my boyfriend on a road trip in Florida. It’s a term that I have heard tossed around here and there through social media and popular documentaries. But I have never really dived down to better understand what it means and how it can help me feel better and in turn make the earth a more healthy and sustainable place.

My research into regenerative farming started with what is it? What is the definition? Pretty basic, right? Well, it turns out to my surprise, that there is no official or legal definition.[MR1]  Regenerative Organic Certified™ is one of the leaders in certifying farms, educating, and promoting safe practices of regenerative farming all over the globe. They define their mission as “We envision a world free of poisonous chemicals, factory farming, exploitation, and income inequality, soil degradation, habitat destruction, pollution, short-term thinking, corporate bullies, greenwashing, and fake food.” After a few more searches the way I understand regenerative farming is that it is an alternative form of farming that uses soil-building, cover crops and planting a diverse variety of crops to heal a broken system of factory farming that wreaks havoc not only on our bodies but also degrades the soil of vital minerals and negatively impacts the health of the earth and oceans.

One of the biggest names in regenerative farming and the inspiration that lead me to write this article is Joel Salatin. Mr. Salatin is a co-owner of a regenerative farm in Virginia called Polyface Farm, a leader in grass farming, author of great books like “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal” and “Beyond Labels” as well as a highly regarded public figure for regenerative farming.

In a podcast interview with Joe Rogan, I was struck by his comment about how the amount of money people spend on medical costs vs food has become inverted since the creation of the food pyramid. The US population is spending more money on medicine than on food! This led me to think: Why shouldn’t food be your medicine? Should a fast-food burger really only cost 99 cents? And what does this type of produce and agriculture cost your body and the earth?

From my research into this comment, I found that indeed the US is spending more money on healthcare than any other nation, nearly twice as much to be exact. The US also has the highest chronic disease burden, highest obesity rate, and lowest life expectancy compared to other OECD nations. It’s not a surprising fact that more than a quarter of Americans report having diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease during their lifetime. In more recent studies, it was found that only about 12.2% of the American population are metabolically healthy. Obesity being a high-risk factor for these conditions is important to recognize as well as socioeconomic differences, our health care system, and less regulated food and agriculture between the studied countries. The amount of money the average American family budgets for food also proved Mr. Salatin’s statement. The data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013 showed the average household spent about 10% of their total budget on food as compared to families spending about 30% in the 1950s. No one wants to use their hard-earned money on costly medical care and spend their free time at a doctor’s office dealing with medical conditions that can be healed in the kitchen and not waiting in line at the pharmacy section. So how do you avoid being a part of these sad stats? Being healthy is a lifestyle and diet choice we make every day. I already feel like I am a healthy eater and yet is it enough? Should we go “beyond organic” as Joel Salatin would say?

So, why buy organic, and moreover why buy organic regenerative farm food? Does it give more bang for my buck? Because let's be real here, there are no Costco prices for this type of produce. Well, to start, there are numerous studies and literature published claiming that organic produce is indeed a healthier choice. Organic varieties have been clinically found to provide significantly greater levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than conventional products as well as typically provide greater levels of important antioxidant phytochemicals and are lower in dangerous nitrates and pesticides residues. Not only does organic produce give a more healthy punch, but organic grass-fed meat and organic dairy products also hail to be a better choice for us. Studies have found that grass-fed animal products have a higher content of protein, lower fat content, elevated precursors for vitamin A and E, as well as more cancer-fighting antioxidants. Not to mention quality produce has better flavor and texture packaged along with the boost of antioxidants that may encourage more vegetable consumption in the home.

Keep in mind that Regenerative farming is still a generally new term and method. One study in the PeerJ journal comparing 10 regenerative practicing farms results showed that crops produced under regenerative farming practices contained on average a higher nutritional content and more phytochemical compounds that reduce inflammation; as well as lower levels of unhealthy elements such as cadmium, nickel, and sodium. Beef and pork from a ranch-raised on regenerative feed were also found to have higher healthy omega-3 fat compared to animals fed with the conventional feedlot. The soil also proved to have twice the amount of carbon and significantly improved soil health. This is a preliminary and a small sample size study that requires further research but indicates that maybe our health epidemic can be combated with not just our diet, but how we grow it as well.

Studies performed in several countries have shown that the nutrient density of our food has fallen in the last 50 years. A study performed by Donald Davis of the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas looked at data comparing produce from the USDA in 1950 and 1999. This study showed that the content of nutrients declined by 9-38%. Significant evidence shows that conventional high-yield farming can be the cause of these reductions in nutrient density and unhealthy soil quality can be to blame.

Even if we are making the right dietary choices like eating fresh fruit and vegetables, we are not getting the same amount of health-promoting nutrition as the generations before us. This may lead to some nutrient deficiencies and a lowered immune system. Nutritionists claim that malnutrition can have many faces from an obese individual to even a health-conscious vegan or vegetarian.

In conclusion, a great first step to healthy eating is to start buying organic produce. It is definitely a healthier option that provides more nutrient-packed and pesticide-free nourishment. If you are already doing that, well done! The next step up would be to start eating organic regenerative farming produce. Regenerative farm food gives us an opportunity to invest in our health as well as the prosperity of our family and earth.