As soon as November rolls around, the momentum of our lifestyles begins to speed up. We blink, and just like that, the holidays are over. We are living in an era where we feel the need to surround ourselves with constant distractions. When October started, I caught myself in a brain frenzy thinking about all the holiday-themed projects I wanted to accomplish. I forgot to take five minutes to enjoy the moment I was currently living in. My goal for this holiday season is to take a moment to reflect, experience and be thankful.
I want to slow down and focus on the important things like family, and being thankful for where the food on our table comes from. I’m not talking about the grocery store; I’m talking about right down to the soil. I’m partnering up with General Mills to share more about what they’re doing to make a conscious effort to encourage farming techniques that can restore the planet and address climate change through regenerative agriculture. I’ve spent that last three days learning about regenerative agriculture, and I’m blown away by what it’s capable of doing for our planet. I’m feeling very grateful that I have the opportunity to share this timely topic with you all. It’s important to look beyond the box while making food choices.
To continue enjoying the holidays with our families for years to come, we need to focus on restoring our planet, not just sustaining it. I want to be honest. I was a little nervous to talk about regenerative agriculture when I was given this opportunity. Why would they want me to talk about it? I may have grown up in the Midwest surrounded by cornfields, but I know very little about farming. I couldn’t even keep my strawberry plant alive longer than a week! Then it dawned on me. The average person most likely doesn’t know much about regenerative agriculture either, or how it’s impacting our lives. And with my platform, I’m able to raise awareness and educate others as I learn about the power of regenerative agriculture. General Mills’ mission is to serve the world by making food people love, and some of my favorite General Mills brands are the leading force in bringing regenerative agriculture to farms across the country.
So what is regenerative agriculture? Regenerative agriculture is a way of farming that works towards diminishing harm to protect and purposely enhance natural resources and farming communities. It creates a way to restore and enrich the soil for generations to come. Over the past few decades, relying on certain farming practices have caused the food system to contribute to climate change. Regenerative agriculture is looking to reverse those effects.
We often hear the term “greenhouse gas.” Do you know where it comes from? When soil can’t store carbon anymore due to certain farming practices, the carbon bank becomes depleted and lives in the air instead of our soil. If we could keep that carbon in the ground, our soil would be much healthier adding more nutrients for crops and animals and retaining more water for dryer months and even protecting against erosion. Regenerative agriculture makes use of the earth’s natural solar energy, water cycles and nutrient cycles to build that healthy soil and helps eliminate the greenhouse gas. (You can read more about how it works, here!)
General Mills shared a video to illustrate what regenerative agriculture is and what they are doing to move it forward. In this video, Casey Bailey, a 4th generation farmer, talked about the excitement he has for what’s happening under the soil. His enthusiasm gives me hope for our earth, knowing that our farmers are excited about the change, and being proactive towards making our food come from a healthier way of farming. If we continue to harm our soil, what will the food industry look like in 150 years? That’s a scary thought, and I’m glad General Mills is stepping up and working towards change.
I mentioned that “certain” farming practices have contributed to climate change and reduced our soil’s health. Those practices include tilling and no crop rotation. Regenerative agriculture includes minimizing or reducing tillage, incorporating cover crops and diverse crop rotations, and integrating livestock. The practices that regenerative agriculture follows can have positive impacts on our soil’s health, the above ground biodiversity, and farmer economic resilience.
Growing up in Iowa, I always wondered why some years farmers would grow soybeans and other years they’d grow corn. Now it makes sense. If the crops aren’t rotated, the land itself becomes less fertile. If you plant the same crop over and over, it’ll start to drain the land of the same nutrients needed for the growth of that plant. And now we are learning that adding more rotations year after year increases soil health even more.
I once had someone tell me that recycling my cans couldn’t help combat climate change. They said one single person wouldn’t affect our carbon footprint. That’s simply not true. It’s our responsibility as humans on this planet to care for it and take every step towards making our earth healthy for the generations to come, no matter how small. General Mills is setting a great example when it comes to saving our planet and taking steps to make a positive change for our soil through regenerative agriculture. If you don’t think it’s a big deal, listen to this. If certain farming practices don’t change, topsoil is predicted to run out in the next 60 years! That is incredibly scary to think about. That can dramatically affect how much food we can produce. The quality of our food will drop, and the prices of food could go up. This is why regenerative agriculture is extremely important.
Some farmers believe that regenerative agriculture can increase the density of nutrients in food by restoring nutrients in the soil to support soil organisms. More research needs to be done to understand the specifics, but they’ve already begun to see positive results and will continue to work towards more research on these improvements.
Bees have effects on our entire food chain.
I’m sure you already know this, but the bee populations are declining. So many of my favorite fruits and vegetables are in thanks to the bees! Regenerative agriculture promotes diversity above ground by protecting pollinator and wildlife habitats, and establishing new ones. General Mills is in the midst of planting pollinator habitats on nearly 100,000 acres of farmland across the U.S. to help bees and butterflies do what they do best — pollinate plants to make fruits, nuts and crops grow.
General Mills is partnering up with Midwestern BioAg to convert 34,000 acres of conventional farmland to certified organic farmland using regenerative agriculture practices as a way to invest in this movement. 3,000 of those acres will be dedicated to new pollinator habitats. Once it’s transitioned in 2020, the farm will supply organic wheat for Annie’s Mac & Cheese.
Not only is our food affected by farming practicing but so is the quality of water in our lakes and rivers. If we have healthy soil, it can keep nutrients on the land and out of the water where they cause pollution. When the soil is healthy, it stays intact during heavy rains, which is important for reducing the risk of flooding or topsoil to run-off into our waterways. Healthier soil sustains life during droughts, which helps farmers ensure resilience.
General Mills is doing so much to further regenerative agriculture. I love supporting a company that supports the health of our earth. So far, they have invested more than $3 million in soil health initiatives led by NGO partners such as The Nature Conservancy, The Land Institute, and Soil Health Partnership. General Mills will continue to support farmer education and coaching to advance Regenerative Agriculture practices to improve soil on the lands they source their oats for brands like Cheerios. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit some of the oat fields. I loved that General Mills worked with family-owned farms to support their business, but I’m even more excited to see some of those farms transition within the next few years.
General Mills is bringing regenerative agriculture to the market! Cascadian Farm has a vision of empowering organic oat farming communities in the U.S. and Canada to implement the regenerative farming principles. General Mills is in the early stages of this process and are working with oat growers on 2,500 acres of land to learn more about the impact of organic, regenerative practices on soil health, biodiversity, and economic resilience in the farming communities.
Through its partnership with the Savory Institute, EPIC Provisions helped create The Land to Market program to connect conscientious companies to progressive livestock producers using regenerative practices. EPIC Provisions debuted the first product to feature the science-based Land to Market EOV (ecological outcome verification) seal. This helps us identify food created through regenerative agriculture. Looking for labels like this allows us to help contribute to the health of our soil, climate, and water enhancement. I hope to find EOV labels on most foods in the near future.
Read more here!
As the holidays quickly approach, I plan on keeping regenerative agriculture on my mind. I’m so grateful for the ability to access food at any time, and how hard our farmers work to provide the food we eat. I plan on keeping up with General Mills transformation and staying proactive to learn about where the food I eat comes from. I want this planet to be sustainable and restored for many years to come, and with the work General Mills is putting into our land, I do not doubt that it’ll be possible.
I hope you loved learning about regenerative agriculture on the blog today. I’ve included a short video that helped me understand regenerative agriculture below. It’s very helpful, and great to get a farmer’s perspective on it all. If you have any questions, please let me know! I’d love to do more research, or talk with General Mills to help you!
Questions for you!
- Did you know about regenerative agriculture before reading today’s blog?
- What surprised you the most about regenerative agriculture?
This post has been sponsored by General Mills and all thoughts are my own.