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Regenerative agriculture mindset shift.

Mindset… A Key Component of Regenerative Agriculture

The biggest change in moving from conventional agriculture to regenerative agriculture is a shift in the understanding the farmer’s role in relation to nature. Regenerative agriculture seeks to work with nature, for example, in terms of supply of nutrients and suppression of pests and diseases. Regenerative agriculture involves the farmer taking their hands off the production system and trusting ecological processes to sustain that productivity. At its most fundamental level – before we even consider all of the detailed practices involved in regenerative agriculture – regenerative agriculture is a psychological shift that views the production process and the natural system as working in collaboration with each other, as opposed to being at odds with one another. The mindset of regenerative agriculture seeks to unlock that collaboration. Therefore, it is important to consider what this mindset shift entails. This post will describe the type of mindset shift that is required, as well as discuss mechanisms to facilitate this shift.

The type of change that is required to move to regenerative agriculture is a deeply personal one: it’s about convictions and beliefs. Before we look at the change that is required, we have to acknowledge how deeply held the current paradigm of agriculture is. Over many years, there have been massive investments made in technologies and research, which have contributed to what in many ways is an incredibly successful paradigm of production. This mainstream paradigm of production is deeply embedded and it is very difficult to expect people to move out of it voluntarily. In reality, voluntary engagement in shifting to regenerative agriculture practices comes from farmers reaching a kind of ‘Demascus road’ and having a revelation that draws them towards a more holistic approach to agriculture.

This requires farmers to embrace a new paradigm of science: that of ecological literacy. It comes down to a very personal decision. These kinds of shifts will become more prevalent as the body of evidence of the successes of regenerative agriculture grows and as more and more people see the benefits and move into this ecologically literate and sensitive way of farming. It’s not only at farm level that these paradigm boundaries are challenged; it’s in the marketplace too. The whole concept of regenerative agriculture is taking hold and some major food industry players are starting to embrace it.

The shift to regenerative agriculture is a delicate process that is not going to unfold through top-down forcing, because one has to allow that personal shift to happen. However, there are structures and mechanisms that can help facilitate this change:

  • Encouraging farmers to be in locally relevant networks

This creates a community of people who are grappling with similar issues, where local solutions and knowledge can be developed and shared. Each farm faces a unique set of circumstances inherent in its geographic location, so connecting farms within similar regions allows for collaboration and, ultimately, the emergence of unique, tailored and location-appropriate solutions.

  • Establishing and supporting farmer study groups

Farmer study groups are well-established structures in which this kind of shared learning and collaboration can occur. Where these structures are not in place, there is a need to help establish and facilitate them.

  • Addressing the agenda of farmer study groups

Beyond establishing farmer study groups, attention must be given to the content within these groups. Space needs to be created on the agenda to start to explore the subjects that challenge the mainstream paradigm. This is easier said than done; often these structures have vested interests in the existing paradigm and may have sponsors that keep those structures going. Be that as it may, it would be bringing speakers into study groups to talk about natural methods of pests and disease suppression, ecological processes that are fundamental to healthy farming and healthy landscapes, and for those ideas to find their own landing point in the minds of different individuals. Furthermore, the agenda should allow for those who have started moving on the regenerative journey to share challenges and successes, as means to give momentum to the shift.

  • Harnessing the power of practical demonstration

There is huge value in experiments that reveal the difference between industrially farmed soil and regenerative soil. These experiments demonstrate how industrial soil has lost its aggregate structures and its organic matter, while regenerative soil has good soil aggregates, high soil organic carbon high, and a lot of biodiversity and life activity within the soil. These demonstrations have an important role to play in speaking very practically and pertinently to farmers about the cruciality of soil health.

These steps to support farmers are an essential part of building healthy networks of learning that will facilitate the shift to regenerative agriculture. Ultimately, there are three interconnected characteristics that make up the core of the “regenerative mindset”: humility; an affinity towards holistic thinking; and a love and appreciation for the way nature works. We at Blue North are encouraged by the shift we are seeing around us and strive to serve in maintaining and building the momentum.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Sustainable Fish – 5 Things You Should Know Before Buying

Where does our fish come from? Why does it matter? How does this knowledge translate to action?

The vast majority of consumers are out of touch with the origin of the fish they eat, how it was caught and whether it is endangered or not. There are many people who depend on a healthy fishing industry for both the jobs and the source of protein it provides. As overfishing depletes the stock of fish in the oceans, the repercussions extend beyond human involvement in the fishing industry to the environment; the entire ecosystem – from the algae to large mammals – becomes imbalanced and deteriorates. Fishing activity has taken many species from abundant to endangered. If we continue in this way, we will lose this very precious resource.

What about aquaculture?

Aquaculture is essentially ‘farming in water’ of both animals and plants. It is being used to meet increasing global demand for fish and to an extent relieves pressure on wild-caught fisheries. However, it is not a silver-bullet solution and brings a set of new challenges relating to sustainability. These issues, which are discussed in more detail here, are outlined below:

  • The feed used for farmed fish is made out of wild-caught fish
  • Fish farming is land and water intensive
  • Antibiotic, hormone-use and pesticides used in fish farming have an impact on the environment (and require serious consideration of human and environmental safety)
  • Farmed fish can introduce new diseases and impact biodiversity in the event that they escape into the surrounding environment

As consumers, our purchase decisions drive demand and place pressures on different aspects of the fishing industries. Collectively, the purchase of fish from healthy, non-overfished sources and from well-managed, environmentally-aware farms will cause a significant shift towards more sustainable fishing and have a lower environmental impact.

What can we do?

  1. Know your WWF-SASSI “Green List” and commit to only eating fish on that list

 

2. Change up the fish you are eating (within this ‘Green’ list). Having variety means that no one species experiences focussed demand.

3. For wild-caught fish, know how fishing methods rank so that you can choose fish caught with the least environmentally impactful method. Here are some examples. The ‘best’ methods are those that have minimal impact on the environment and other marine life.

4. Check the labels

There are many eco-labels and standards that indicate varying levels of environmental and social engagement and best practice. The WWF endorses both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards, as these take a whole ecosystems approach, are stringent, detailed and recognised globally.

If your seafood product does not have the following labels, don’t buy it unless you can confirm that the labels present indicate best environmental practices.

5. Ask the restaurant (or grocer) where the fish they are serving comes from! If they don’t know, don’t eat it. The more we as consumers create awareness and drive this demand around only eating sustainable fish, the more businesses are pushed to meet this demand and supply sustainable fish.

I hope this information helps. Feel free to pass it on. Let’s start living, purchasing and consuming more consciously.

Do you have any other suggestions? Comment below!

Tree hog

Louis Loubser’s ‘Tree Hog’

Earlier this month I visited Louis Loubser’s farm just outside of Robertson in the Breede Valley. Louis is the man behind the ‘Tree Hog’ – a simple, but extremely effective invention that can bring about considerable reductions in on-farm water and energy use! Read more

JD Kirsten's recycling collection igloos

JDK’s interesting household recycling initiative!

Arguably the most important step to driving any environmental initiative is to change behaviour. As with recycling, it is simply difficult to increase recycling rates without increasing  the rate at which recyclables are collected at both the household and company levels, requiring a change in behaviour by both you and I. JD Kirsten, realising the potential wider gains from improved rates of recycling, have adopted a novel approach to onboard its farm workers. Read more

Management intensive grazing

What meat should I be eating?

Informed consumers globally would doubtlessly have asked themselves this question at some stage. Meat and dairy production invariably top the list of production systems when discussing environmental hotspots of agriculture. When dealing with sustainability and livestock, a discussion of whether we should eat meat or not, and if we do which type, is inescapable. Read more

Aquaculture environmental impacts

Where – and how – was my fish grown?

Chances are you will need to ask this question more and more. Historically, capture fisheries (fish caught in the wild) have been the most prominent source of traded fish. However, capture fisheries volumes have levelled off in the past decade and aquaculture (the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments) is increasingly looked on to meet the increasing global demand for fish. In fact, aquaculture already produces almost half of all fish for human food – and this share is expected to increase to more than 60% by 2030! Behind this growth, there are some important sustainability issues that need to be considered. Read more

What are a Business’s Social Dependencies and Impacts?

In my last post, which you can access here, I examined the throughput of energy and materials that is at the heart of every business (the dark blue horizontal arrow) and the flows from, and to, the environment that must be sustained if the business is to achieve the strategic objective of sustaining “economically viable throughput indefinitely”. In this post, I will look at social dependencies and impacts, and how they fit into the Sustainability System Map.  Read more

Blue-North-Performance-Assessment-&-Monitoring

Development of Sustainability Self-Assessment Tools

Blue North has been commissioned to develop a range of commodity-specific Sustainability self-assessment tools for the UK retailer  J.Sainsbury’s.

 

The tools, which reflect our experience in supporting farm-level buy-in and engagement in sustainability programs, are designed to serve first and foremost as value-adding management tools for farm owners and managers.

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Sustainable Fruit Initiative – Pilot Programme

WWF-SA is launching a sustainability initiative tailored to the South African fruit sector, and has engaged Blue North Sustainability (Pty) Ltd to assist in its development and implementation. The Sustainable Fruit Initiative (SFI) is focussed on supporting the achievement of environmentally sustainable farming in the fruit industry, and will ultimately become the environmental “pillar” of SIZA (Sustainable Fruit Initiative South Africa, which is socially focused).

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The evolution of sustainability agendas in global agri supply-chains – David Farrell’s trip to the UK

Visiting the UK and meeting with different people across UK agri supply-chains is always accompanied by discussions around the subject of sustainability – certain concepts and assumptions are affirmed, others challenged, and new perspectives and priorities are brought to the fore. At a minimum, the rapidly evolving and shifting nature of this field is confirmed. These visits are obviously extremely valuable to the shaping of our thinking at Blue North, and below I have shared some thoughts and insights from my latest trip:

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