Prairie Post (East Edition)
Canada’s soil is under threat, says this group of farmers in launching national initiative to protect it
Up-and-coming regenerative farming movement is emerging across the country, highlights newly-launched interactive map. Emerging field of regenerative farming is gaining ground across Canada in an effort to protect local food supply.
With planting season on the way, a group of farmers has launched a national initiative to tell Canadians that when it comes to ensuring the health and sustainability of our country’s food supply, there’s a better way: regenerative farming.
It’s an up-and-coming movement that's attracting the attention of a growing number of innovative Canadian farmers, with hundreds of farms across the country now putting it into practice in some form. A holistic approach rooted in Indigenous knowledge and backed by science, regenerative farming is focused on reviving soil – what the farmers call our country’s “foundation of life” which studies show is degrading, due in good part to industrial agriculture.
“This reality is something all Canadians should be concerned about, as soil is integral to our ecosystem and the source of most of our food,” said Gabrielle Bastien, Founder and Co-Director of Montreal-based non-profit Regeneration Canada, which is working to accelerate the movement across the country. She explained that degraded soils hold fewer nutrients, lose their ability to absorb water and grow plants, and lose their carbon content, which is emitted into the atmosphere as CO2, worsening climate change.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need for a reliable source of locally-grown food, and regenerating soil is a proven, natural way to ensure the health of our agricultural system,” emphasized Bastien, who developed a passion for soil regeneration during her Master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management at Harvard University, completed in 2016.
To support the growth and raise awareness of this farming trend, Regeneration Canada has unveiled a firstof-its-kind interactive map of regenerative farms across the country. Accessed free of charge, the map showcases farmers practicing regenerative agriculture in Canada and how the public can buy their products. The initiative also serves as a platform for peer-to-peer learning between farmers, Bastien said.
Regenerative farming practices, which mimic nature to foster ecosystem health, include agroforestry, perennial crops, no-till or reduced tillage, soil cover, biodiversity, integrating livestock and better water management. Benefits include the drawing down of atmospheric carbon into the soil (climate mitigation), restoring biodiversity, enhancing nutritional quality of crops, improving the water cycle, and increasing resilience to droughts, floods and extreme weather.
Indigenous communities have always farmed in harmony with nature, said Bastien, explaining that it's only more recently that larger-scale producers, food distributors and consumers have become aware of the integral role soil plays in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, the crux of regenerative agriculture.
For André Houle and his wife, Anik, owners of Curran, Ontario-based Houle Farm who adopted the regenerative approach in 2018, the practice has eliminated their farm’s dependence on chemicals and pesticides, resulting in more nutrient dense food and generating greater economic security. “Healthier soil leads to healthier plants, which leads to healthier animals and ecosystems, and ultimately, healthier people,” said Houle, whose practices include reduced tillage, cover crops and composting. An added bonus? “Regenerative agriculture has renewed my love for farming,” he said.
Becky Doherty, who runs Wildwood, Alberta-based livestock and produce Stonepost Farms with her husband, John, said that since adopting soil regeneration practices, her property has seen a return of wildlife such as birds and amphibians, as well as better agricultural growth and an abundance of grasses. “Everything on our farm revolves around soil, and the holistic approach to regenerative farming allows us to improve the quality of our land,” she said.
Regeneration Canada invites the public to learn more about soil regeneration by joining its upcoming Living Soils Symposium, which takes place virtually February 22 to 26. The event, sponsored by the Government of Quebec and Rogitex, features a range of speakers – from farmers and agronomists, to scientists and entrepreneurs – who will share their regenerative farming expertise and experiences.
More information can be found at https://regenerationcanada.org/.