Meet Bobby Gill, director of development and communications at the @savoryinstitute, a nonprofit that works to facilitate the regeneration of the world's grasslands through holistic management. So who better to ask about animals' role in #regenerative agriculture? (Answer: No one.)
Q: Regenerative agriculture is the latest buzzword in food. But is it really new? Or just the old ways rebranded?
A: I think the buzz speaks to the growing awareness that we need nature-based climate solutions, and improving soil health provides tremendous potential on that front. But you're right, there's a lot of "lost" wisdom being incorporated into a modern context. Grasslands have always had large herds of grazers bunched together, regularly moving to fresh pasture. In a modern context, we replicate this with portable electric fencing or herding. "Regenerative" is all about bringing farming in nature's image, and when you think back to how plants and animals co-evolved together, it's a no-brainer!
Q: We hear a lot about carbon drawdown as a big reason for regenerating land. Is there more we should be focused on?
A: Yes! Carbon is an incredibly important indicator of ecosystem health, and each acre of soil can draw tons (literally) of CO2 from the atmosphere. But carbon isn't the end-all-be-all that dictates ecosystem health. There's also properly functioning water cycles (think of the soil like a sponge that can store water for if/when a drought hits); biodiversity (all the beautiful plants and animals and pollinators and bugs and microbial life that call grasslands their home); energy flow (how much sunlight is being converted into soil life via photosynthesis); and so on.
Q: Can regenerative really scale up?
A: Not only can it, it has to! We've got 12.5 billion acres of grasslands worldwide––1/3 of the Earth's land––so that's a lot of grass that could be grown if we grazed it properly. By properly, I mean Holistic Planned Grazing, a method that mimics ancestral migratory patterns (by matching animals to the availability of food) and honors the rates of grass regrowth. The system has been shown to at least double grass productivity—and in some cases increase it by 17x! The thought of that on 12.5 billion acres... just brings me so much hope. More grass = more animals = more healthy food!