Written by Amy Kitchen
On January 24th I drove down to the EFAO workshop in Guelph where Gillian Flies from The New Farm delivered the workshop ‘Talking about Regenerative Agriculture to Grow a Movement’. Gil started the workshop by asking “Why this topic is important to us?” Now, I am not sure if it was the double dose of coffee I had on the drive down or what, but by the time I got around to telling the group my “why” I teared up and blubbered a bit about how overwhelmed I feel about the climate change emergency and how nothing seems to be changing. I know deep down my teary-ness comes from a fear that have brought our two kids into a world that is teetering on the edge.
I digress. My real interest in the workshop was my desire to be a better communicator about regenerative agriculture to our customers and peers as I feel it is our responsibility as ecological farmers to get involved in the movement (read let’s do this farmers)! Despite having an educational background in agroecology and 12 years of farming under my belt I still felt ill prepared to jump into the conversation about Regenerative Agriculture in a meaningful way and also in a way that doesn’t alienate folks or come off as too doom and gloom… so I was looking for some help there.
Gil packed a lot of information and inspiration into the morning session. She also shared tidbits of information about the practices they have integrated into their production of salad green crops at The New Farm.
Much of the slide deck and key talking points in the workshop were shared from the organization Kiss the Ground (https://kisstheground.com/) who has a handy online course to teach folks how to become advocates of regenerative agriculture. Gil also did a couple of demonstrations that helped to show the difference between regenerative and non-regenerative farming practices. One demo involved a few of slices of bread, a bag of flour and simulated rainfall to show the difference between water infiltration in soil with healthy structure versus a compacted soil. The other involved a comparison of aggregate stability between the soil at The New Farm and soil taken from their conventional potato farming neighbours. It was noted that these demos could be done easily at the farmers’ market to help customers understand some of the concepts that make agriculture regenerative.
A key theme throughout the workshop was one of hope. Gil taught us how to communicate that Regenerative Agriculture provides a clear solution to the climate change emergency and that change can be achieved in a relatively short timeframe. Our challenge is to get the word out and inspire our customers to choose food that has been farmed regeneratively in order to drive the movement.
I left the workshop inspired to join in where I can. We are practicing some Regenerative Agriculture methods on our farm already and this year we are converting our hoophouses and flower field to no-till. I am excited to start sharing more about what our farm is doing and the role that Regenerative Agriculture plays in helping to mitigate climate change in our CSA newsletters, on our social media and in our conversations with our customers and peers. I know they too will be excited, supportive and hopeful for the future of agriculture when they catch wind of the Regenerative Agriculture movement.