Regenerative farming is making a comeback. While more colonial farmers are embracing regenerative agriculture to revitalize and repair the damage done by the farming industry, it's nothing new to the Native American community. We've held the secrets for thousands of years and have been doing it all along.
What is Regenerative Farming?
Regenerative farming is a holistic approach to farming with the land instead of against it. Certain farming practices make the land more healthy, productive, and sustainable. Native Americans knew that being respectful of the land they farmed would provide healthier soil which was the secret to better and more food to feed their families.
Today Native American farmers have the scientific knowledge to back up what we've always known. Healthy soil matters. It helps reduce the erosion of valuable topsoil, improves crop yields, reduces water waste, helps biodiversity, and so much more. It's also better for the environment.
How people practice the specifics of regenerative agriculture depends on their locations and land usage. If they are farming in a city park versus somewhere in the Rocky Mountains or the Sonoran desert, techniques will be a little different. You have to be willing to learn and apply those differences.
No matter where you're farming, there are 6 components that should be considered:
- Context-Look at farming structure, economic, personal, community, climate, etc.
- Minimize Disturbance-This refers to the pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and how the land is tilled.
- "Living Root"- Having a plant photosynthesize for as long as possible throughout the year is essential. Think perennials. They're great for that.
- Cover Cropping-It's important to always protect the soil by covering it with living or dead materials.
- Grazing-Using one or more types of animals to graze the land is very beneficial.
- Biodiversity-Adding biodiversity is crucial-bats, bees, owl boxes, hedges, etc.
The more of these you can use in combination together, the better.
Why Is Regenerative Farming Important
If more farmers understood why regenerative agriculture was important, they might get on board. Factory farmers don't always see it as lucrative, but it helps them in the long run.
The average loss of topsoil is 5.8 tons per acre per year. Most farmers believe this number to be much less, so they continue unhealthy farming practices aiming for higher profits. They don't realize that regenerative farming practices protect their valuable resources and save them money. Better soil means higher yields, less water usage, and less money can be spent on costly fertilizers.
Helps the Environment
Regenerative farming helps the environment in a variety of ways. It conserves water, reduces flooding, and helps refill underground aquifers. And it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Regenerative agriculture isn't just about growing fruits and vegetables. It includes raising animals, which factory cattle ranches are one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.
Cattle aren’t meant to be housed in close confines and fed massive amounts of modified corn and soybeans as they are by colonial cattle ranchers. This way of farming causes the cows' stomachs to become upset, making them very gassy. Think about it, hundreds of thousands of cows all across the country sitting around burping and farting all day. That's a lot of methane gas being unleashed into the world.
It's Always Been the Way
For Indigenous People, regenerative farming has always been the way. Because there were no draft animals before European colonization, there was no tilling of the land to farm. No tilling helps keep the topsoil intact, increasing organic matter and creating a better environment for plants to thrive. Knowing this, little to no-tilling is still largely practiced today.
Native Americans practice polyculture regarding regenerative agriculture. The "Three Sisters" are crops planted in shared space and are staples of the Indigenous diets-maize, beans, and squash. Not only do they provide sustenance, but they protect and nourish each other as well.
Plants release carbohydrates through their root systems which various microbes feed off. They then give back lots of healthy nutrients to the soil. It's important to know what plants release which carbohydrates and how to use those together when planting crops to create the perfect biome.
Today this practice is called polyculture, but it's closely aligned with its Native American beginnings.
Preserves Heirloom Seeds
The Native American community has long been preservers of original foods, and curators of seeds. They help keep heirloom and landrace varieties alive, many of which would be lost due to natural hybridization and forced lab GMO variations.
Many Native American tribes farmed in a way that conserved water, knowing it was always a precious resource. The Hohokam tribe in Arizona would dig canals, creating an irrigation system to make the most of their arid conditions. Communities in more humid climates would plant the Three Sisters on mounds which would drain excess water. Such practices continue today because they are time-tested and proven to work.
How Tocabe Marketplace is Helping
At Tocabe Marketplace, we make it our mission to partner with those who grow original foods. Many of these producers practice regenerative farming learning these methods from generations who came before them.
To lend your support, you can place your order now. Each order you place not only delivers delicious traditional food to your door but provides wholesome, nutritious food to an Indigenous community as well.
About theTocabe Marketplace
Our philosophy is Native first, local second. We source the right products from the right people. To us, ingredients don’t just make the food, they tell the story behind it.
Accessibility to high-quality, healthy Native and Indigenous ingredients is extremely limited based on location. Tocabe’s Indigenous Marketplace is simplifying the supply chain and making regional cuisine locally accessible by connecting you to Native and Indigenous ingredients with just the click of a button.
By shopping at our Indigenous Marketplace, you’re participating in food sovereignty and supporting Indigenous farmers, ranchers, and caretakers across the nation, making an impact in our communities. So, shop our marketplace today. And in the meantime, learn how to create Tocabe’s pancake recipe with Native-produced, wholesome ingredients that also make a difference.