Added 20 Jun 2024 by Gem Ellithorn

Integrating Livestock
The practice of raising animals alongside crops on the same farm in a way that benefits them both

Clarkson's Farm is not the only place where regenerative farming is taking centre stage. Musician Andy Cato, originally from Groove Armada, surprised many with his recent foray into agriculture. Inspired by a desire for a more sustainable food system, he sold his music rights and co-founded Wildfarmed, a company dedicated to regenerative practices. This shift, along with the show's spotlight, sparked our curiosity:

What exactly is Regenerative Farming? Is it just a fad, or does it hold promise for the future? Is it expensive to implement? Can it benefit both the environment and farmer’s bottom lines? These are just some of the questions we had!

Let us delve into what Regenerative Farming is all about. Imagine a farming system that not only produces food but also improves the environment, captures carbon from the atmosphere and even boosts biodiversity. Too good to be true, surely! Well, that is the idea behind Regenerative Farming. Ancestral communities worldwide have been doing this for millennia, so this is not a new idea! Still, it has become a talked about subject due to the show, which is a great advertisement for the practice.

The main pillars of regenerative farming are:

  • No-tilling systems: This means reducing the digging and ploughing that can lead to loosened topsoil being dispersed by wind or carried away by water.
  • Cover crops: These are grown, once the farm’s most profitable crop has been harvested this is to help with the soil health, these crops protect the soil from the elements and can also be used for forage or grazing animals, whilst providing additional benefits for livestock operations.
  • Increasing biodiversity: Promoting the variety of living things within a specific area or ecosystem. This can involve plants, animals, insects, fungi, and even microorganisms. Ecosystems with higher biodiversity are more resilient to disturbances like climate change or invasive species. A wider variety of life forms provides more options and ensures the ecosystem can adapt to changing conditions.
  • Rotating crops: This means diverse types of crops are planted on the same land in a planned sequence by the farmer across growing seasons. It's a core principle in sustainable farming and offers several benefits for both the soil and the crops themselves.
  • Integrating livestock: This refers to the practice of raising animals alongside crops on the same farm in a way that benefits both. Traditionally, farms might focus on crops or animals. Crop farms rely heavily on fertilisers and may struggle with maintaining soil health. Animal farms often generate significant waste products that can pollute the environment if not managed properly. Integrating Livestock takes a more comprehensive approach; by integrating the animals with crops, farmers create a cyclical system that benefits both elements.
  • Reducing reliance on chemicals: This means reducing the reliance on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. This approach prioritizes natural methods to nourish the soil, control pests, and promote healthy crop growth.

It all seems straightforward when you look at how it works now let's look at the benefits not only to the farmers but the environment too. Regenerative farming offers a range of environmental benefits due to focusing on improving soil health and working in harmony with nature.

Take reduced tillage and cover cropping, these two things help rebuild the organic matter in the soil. This then leads to better water retention and the improved soil structure minimises soil disturbance and promotes plant cover to help prevent soil erosion from wind and rain! It's like one big cycle! With the now improved soil health increased the land's ability to absorb and store rainwater is also increased, which can help lessen droughts and floods! Overall, regenerative farming is a fantastic way to take care of the environment and grow food in a way that's good for the planet, and it helps keep the soil healthy, cleans our water, and brings back all sorts of wildlife. Plus, it can help fight climate change!

Beyond the environmental benefits, regenerative farming practices can also offer significant advantages for farmers' wallets and time management! By building healthy soil that retains nutrients and moisture, farmers can reduce their reliance on expensive synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, saving them money and the time spent applying them. Additionally, healthier soil can lead to potentially higher yields, further boosting their bottom line. Regenerative practices involve less tilling, which translates to less time and fuel spent on this activity. While there may be some initial investment involved, this long-term strategy is to improve soil health, farm productivity, and profitability.

Regenerative gardening

So how can you help? well I’m glad you asked... did you know you can do regenerative farming at home it’s called Regenerative Gardening and I have trawled the internet and found some tips!

  • Composting: Even a small compost bin can turn kitchen scraps and yard waste into nutrient-filled food for your soil and you’ll be stopping the waste from going to a landfill!

  • Mulching: Cover bare soil with organic materials like leaves, straw, or even wood chips. This keeps moisture in, weeds out, and slowly breaks down to feed your plants.
  • Companion Planting: Plant different vegetables and herbs together that benefit each other. For example, tomatoes and basil are a classic pairing. Research companion planting strategies specific to your region.

  • Cover Crops: Plant fast-growing plants like legumes aka beans or other cover crops between planting seasons. These will fix nitrogen in the soil, stop weeds, and improve soil structure. Just let them decompose before planting again - they'll leave your soil happy and healthy.
  • Attract Pollinators: Plant a variety of flowering herbs and wildflowers to attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that are crucial for fruit and vegetable production.

  • Provide Habitat: Create small areas with rocks, logs, or shallow water features to provide habitat for beneficial insects, amphibians, and other creatures that help control pests naturally.
  • Mulch: As I mentioned earlier, mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for frequent watering so you’ll be saving water as well as feeding your plants!

  • Rain Barrels: Collect rainwater from your roof in a rain barrel to use for watering your garden. This is a free and sustainable way to conserve water.

Remember to:

  • Start Small: Don't try to convert your entire garden overnight. Begin with a manageable area and gradually expand your regenerative practices.
  • Observe and Adapt: Pay attention to your garden and adjust your techniques as needed. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to regenerative gardening.
  • And Lastly Be Patient: Building healthy soil and a thriving ecosystem takes time. Celebrate the small successes and enjoy the journey!

In conclusion, regenerative farming offers a win-win situation for the environment and farmers. By adopting these practices, even on a small scale, we can contribute to a more sustainable food system and healthier planet. So, grab your compost bin, get your hands dirty, and join the regenerative movement!