Regenerative Agriculture

and Compton Family Farm

Regenerative Agriculture compared to Conventional and Organic – Compton Family Wines

Regenerative Agriculture is:

“Farming and ranching in synchrony with nature to repair, rebuild, revitalize and restore ecosystem function starting with all life in the soil and moving to all life above the soil.” website ref

Compton Family Farm and Vineyard practices REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE IN THE FOLLOWING WAYS

Building soil and the microbiome
Cover crops
No till
No synthetic inputs (fertilizers, pesticide, etc.)
Dry Farming – conserving water resources
Supporting ecosystem diversity
Adaptive grazing of livestock for fertilizing and weed/pest control
Livestock Guardian dogs for Non-Lethal Predator Control
Byproducts from grape processing are brought back to the farm to compost
Farm to table lifestyle – The Compton family eats what we grow, and we use everything!
Whenever possible we use local vendors and services to keep money in our community
We reduce fuel use and pollution by keeping our grapes local (within 25 miles of the winery)

  • Conventional farming 
      1. Tillage a couple times a year disrupts microbiome and availability of nutrients in the soil for plant uptake
      2. Lots of inputs – pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and synthetic fertilizers are allowed
      3. Use of synthetic fertilizers and other inputs has steadily increased because soil nutrients are never replenished
      4. Heavy use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
      5. Subsidized by our tax dollars through the Farm Bill
  • Certified Organic 
      1. Now regulated by USDA, used to be stricter under regional farming associations
      2. Tilling double that of conventional farming disrupts microbiome and availability of nutrients in the soil for plant uptake
      3. Can legally use any animal manure as fertilizer – animals do not have to be raised according to organic certification standards
      4. Can use organic pesticides (copper, boric acid, peracetic acid, oils, etc)
  • Regenerative Agriculture Concepts
    1. “Farming and ranching in synchrony with nature to repair, rebuild, revitalize, and restore ecosystem function starting with all life in the soil and moving to all life above the soil”
    2. Using: Six Principles of Soil Health, the Three Rules of Adaptive Stewardship and the Four Ecosystem Processes
    3. Six Principles of Soil Health are
      1. Know your context
      2. Cover the Soil
      3. Minimize Soil Disturbance
      4. Increase Diversity
      5. Maintain Continuous Living Plants/Roots
      6. Integrate Livestock
    4. Three Rules of Adaptive Stewardship are:
      1. Rule of Compounding – There are no singular effects. Everything we do creates and fosters compounding and cascading effects, either positive or negative. Once we understand this, we can make better decisions.
      2. Rule of Diversity – Nature never creates or facilitates monocultures of any kind, whether in plants, animals, birds, soil microbial life, insects, etc. Neither should we. The greater the diversity of all forms of life on our farms, the better our farms will function.
      3. Rule of Disruption – Nothing ever stays the same in nature. Nothing is static. Nature is consistently introducing disruptions that build strength and resiliency into the system. Likewise, we can introduce planned, purposeful disruptions that create strength and resiliency in our farms. This starts with realizing that prescriptions, formulas, and recipes do not work long term. They will always fail at some point. We must be flexible and adaptable to keep making progress and profits.
    5. The four ecosystem processes are
      1. Water Cycle – When rain or snow falls on our land, we are responsible for its fate from that point forward. Will it infiltrate and be retained? Will it pond and pool and evaporate or run off? Will it cause erosion and harmful runoff to others? Can we keep it, or do we lose it?
      2. Energy Cycle – Energy flow is all about solar energy or photosynthesis. Unlike the water cycle and mineral cycle, solar energy does not cycle. It flows from the sun to the earth. It is necessary for everything on the planet to survive. Leaving enough plant material behind for this process to occur is crucial to all life.
      3. Mineral Cycle – There are three phases of an effective mineral cycle. They include: Moving minerals from beneath the soil surface to above the soil surface; placing those minerals back down on the soil surface; and moving the minerals from above the soil surface back down into the soil. The mineral cycle is a crucial part of the larger carbon cycle. A highly functioning water cycle facilitates a highly functioning mineral cycle. Grazing, foraging and browsing animals are an important part of this process.
      4. Community Dynamics – This is also sometimes called biological succession. It involves the changes in and the development of all living things. There is a fundamental rule of succession that is defined by a statement from the Bruce Ward Legacy Trust, “A species will move into an environment when the conditions are suitable for its establishment and will move out of that environment when conditions become unsuitable for its reproduction.”

Regenerative Agriculture is creating healthier soils and a more diverse vibrant ecosystem, starting with life beneath the soil and expanding to life above.

  1. Reduce external inputs over time so you are more resilient by building soils to grow nutrient dense foods.
  2. Rotate plantings with diverse cover crops to repair and rebuild the soil.
  3. Improve water retention in the soil
  4. Incorporating livestock through adaptive grazing and applying natural manure directly from the animals to the cover crops.
    1. Manure directly from grazing animals has diverse and healthy microbes compared to manure coming from a conventional farming operation with managed grain rations
    2. Natural waste has been used for 100’s of years to fertilize and build the fertility on the farm. Purchased and applied manures do not add the diversity to the soil.

Differences:

Input intensive versus building resilient natural systems. Conventional and Organic are highly input intensive ways to farm.  Regenerative is all about reducing our reliance on external inputs and mechanical action. Regenerative farming uses 3% to 5% less fuel. Nitrogen is one example of this difference in approach. Conventional farming adds synthetic nitrogen every year. The plants take up the nitrogen and then it must be reapplied on the fields again. Regenerative farming utilizes the natural interactions of microorganisms in the soil and animal manure from grazing to naturally give off nitrogen just when the plants need it. With regenerative farming we are growing diverse natural systems and increasing the health and resiliency of the land.

Most soils around America are degraded do to our conventional and organic agricultural activity. Tilling degrades the soils by disrupting and destroying soil biology and thereby reduces the availability of elements (nutrients) for plant uptake. To have nutrient rich food for humans to eat, the plants must have available nutrients from healthy soil.

Mycorrhiza fungi
Mycorrhiza, which means “fungus-root,” is defined as a beneficial, or symbiotic relationship between a fungus and the roots of its host plant. This relationship is a natural infection of a plant’s root system in which the plant supplies the fungus with sugars and carbon and receives water and/or nutrients in return. This type of relationship has been around since plants began growing on land about 400 to 500 million years ago. There are several thousand different species of mycorrhiza fungi. Mycorrhiza fungi is the species lacking in the vast majority of agricultural soils in the U.S.A.. Without Mycorrhiza fungi, soils are not able to dissolve or solubilize elements and make them available for plant uptake. The application of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides impairs the mycorrhiza fungi as does the application of pesticide. By implementing farming practices that can repair and rebuild the Mycorrhiza fungi population we can grow more nutrient dense crops.

  1. “Cheap Food” is not actually cheap – hidden costs
    1. Subsidized by the government in the farm bill. We are paying for it with our taxes before we even buy it
    2. Less nutritious for humans
    3. Farming and ranching practices for “cheap food” deplete natural resources
    4. Fuel and transport costs

REFERENCES:

Adaptive Stewardship 

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ecosystem-processes