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What is the “Dirt” on Regenerative Agriculture?

This may surprise you, but a big way to fight climate change lies in the dirt beneath our feet.

By supporting an innovative farming practice called regenerative agriculture, our lands can be restored and achieve a natural balance to improve water quality, reduce land use degradation, and become a powerful approach to mitigate climate change.

Haven’t heard of it yet? Regenerative agriculture captures carbon out of the air while also producing food that’s denser with nutrients and healthier. It’s said we could sequester more than 100% of current annual US carbon dioxide emissions with a switch to this new way of farming. Some farms right here in Washington County are leading the way.

The Bad News: Conventional farming is still the norm. It relies on large areas of land usually growing just one crop and heavy use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, tilling, and irrigation. The agricultural sector contributes 24% of the greenhouse gas causing climate change. This form of farming kills beneficial microorganisms in the earth, insects, pollinators, and the fungi that tie the underground ecosystem together. From livestock, fertilizer, and burning crop residues come the twin demons of methane and nitrous oxide, more potent than carbon. These status quo farming practices are the number one cause of deforestation and topsoil loss. Waterways get polluted and crops are nutrient depleted. Essentially entire landscapes are rendered lifeless.

The Good News: Many farmers are realizing these techniques are unsustainable and are beginning to see their role in restoring a balanced, functioning ecosystem. Healthy dirt stores not just carbon, but also water and makes the land less vulnerable to drought. Healthy soil teams with microbes and natural nutrients that are fueled by carbon-rich plant matter made from solar energy and water. Grass-fed livestock, rotated from pasture to pasture, rebuild soil. Regenerative farming increases yields, biodiversity, improves food security, farm profitability, and boosts rural community economics.

Farmers, food producers, policymakers, and many stakeholders in food supply chains are moving in the right direction. Corporations like General Mills, Cargill, Target, Hormel Foods, and restaurant establishments are investing support. Associated carbon credit markets are providing new revenues. All at a time when it’s greatly needed.

It is becoming clear we cannot go back to farming as it has been. Farmers can transition to these methods and consumers can support them with their purchasing power. Agricultural landscapes can be rejuvenated to create rich ecosystems once again productive and sustainable.

How can you help the cause? Patronize regenerative farmers. Find local farms at Sustainable Stillwater MN’s Green Business Directory at Watch the award-winning movie Kiss the Ground to learn more: Utilize the resource information that will be posted on If you are a farmer, participate in programs like Soil Health Academy | Grow Healthier Soil, Food and Profits and the Soil Carbon Initiative (SCI).

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