Renewable Farming

Renewable Farming: a leader in “The No. 1. food trend of 2020”

An AgWeb e-mail service called the Scoop headlined yesterday: “Regenerative Ag: The No. 1 Food Trend of 2020.”

January 7, 2021  By Jerry Carlson  That confirmation has taken 30-plus years for the mainstream ag media to recognize. That “Regenerative Ag” label might have been “Renewable Farming” except that my wife Jill came up with that label in the late 1980s, and we’ve copyrighted it on our website.

We used the “Renewable Farming” label on seminars while I was an editor at Professional Farmers of America. Those seminars occurred mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. They encouraged renovating soil life, recycling carbon in crop residue, rebuilding minerals in soils and nutrient density in food.

Soil mycorhiza and beneficial bacteria multiply the
power of crop roots to dissolve and absorb soil nutrients
Photo credit: Seminis, maker of mycorrhizal inoculants for vegetable crops

At one of our earliest Renewable Farming seminars around 1987, I saw one farmer sitting in the back row, reading a newspaper — rustling the paper loudly to display his boredom. I invited him out into the hallway where he told me, “I wouldn’t have come if I’d known this Renewable Farming meeting was about soil biology.”  I refunded his registration money and we’ve never seen him again.

The AgWeb post says Regenerative Ag involves “farming and grazing practices that restore degraded soil, improve biodiversity and increase carbon capture to create long-lasting environmental benefits…” The article points out that major food processors and retailers like Whole Foods and Walmart are trending toward the “Regenerative” theme in every aspect from food sourcing, packaging and branding. As momentum grows in the food industry, this could lead to food-quality premiums: First for growers of fresh produce, then in a wide array of meat, milk, eggs and grains. 

We’re already seeing some millers and brewers demanding that growers stop desiccating small grains with glyphosate to avoid toxic residues. Here in Cedar Falls, our Natural Grocers store is filled with brands labeled organic and non-GMO. 

Another landmark development for biology-based farming: The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), for years the commercial fertilizer industry’s trade group, announced this week that it has formed a division called the “Biostimulant Council.” Staff members and industry spokespersons will “help provide regulatory frameworks that increase biostimulant market access and encourage research and innovation.”

In effect this is recognition that microbes, enzymes, humates and non-NPK nutrients are an integral part of crop fertility. Until the past few years, innovative microbiologists in small firms led the way in selecting natural organisms which enhanced crop performance. As the numbers of branded bugs-in-jugs multiplied, federal and state regulatory agencies have seen this as a new stream of commerce to license and control. 

Fertilizer Industry President & CEO Corey Rosenbusch says: “Biostimulants are an important and growing area of crop nutrition. The Biostimulant Coalition has achieved great success as the voice of an emerging industry, and we are excited about the potential to achieve even more with the additional resources of TFI fully behind the effort.”

Farmers are also recognizing benefits of “biological” management. AgriEnergy Solutions’ seminars are filling up at Ft. Wayne and Cedar Falls, pressing attendance limits imposed by their hotel venues. Check out the program offerings at this link.