According to a United Nations senior official, the world’s topsoil could be gone within 60 years. The Dust Bowl in the 1930s in the United States is one example of how devastating that can be. Globally, nearly a quarter of the globe’s land is degrading due to climate change and human activities, according to the United Nations.

At the same time, estimates compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization show that by 2050, we will need to produce 60 percent more food to feed an anticipated world population of 9.3 billion if we do not curtail food loss and shift dietary patterns.

Two more data points: food systems account for at least one third of greenhouse gas emissions, and agriculture coupled with logging has led to a 68 percent drop in mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian populations since 1970.

Regenerative farming principles have been with us for thousands of years, often embedded into indigenous practices the world over. Braided with fresh innovations, they offer direction and hope for a planet grappling with the extremes of climate change and an industrialized food system operating outside of planetary boundaries.

  • Acknowledge the Spectrum Regenerative agriculture is not just one thing. It covers a range of outcomes, and the practices to achieve those outcomes are as varied as are landscapes.
  • Agree on Definitions To promote thoughtful debates and decisions about how to transition to practices that best heal the soil, enable nature to rebound, and deliver nutritious foods to feed the planet while supporting farming communities, we need clarity around how we define regenerative agriculture. We don’t have that yet.
  • Don’t Get Dogmatic That’s a distraction, and based on a false premise, because many of the practices are place-specific—is the farm in a landscape where the soil is too dry, or is it too wet? Is the growing season brief or long? How critically is the soil eroded?
  • Follow the Data This is as important for those working in legislative halls as it is for those in the fields. We first need to agree on what we are measuring. And then we need to measure it everywhere: on small farms and large farms, on lands held by indigenous people and local communities and by business, across the globe, and in different climates.

Read the full article about regenerative agriculture by Sarah Farley at The Rockefeller Foundation.