From Danielle Nierenberg
Transitioning to more sustainable forms of agriculture remains critical, as many current agriculture practices have serious consequences including deforestation and soil degradation. But despite agriculture’s enormous potential to hurt the environment, it also has enormous potential to heal it. Realizing this, many organizations are promoting regenerative agriculture as a way to not just grow food but to progressively improve ecosystems.Drawing from decades of research, regenerative agriculture uses farming principles designed to mimic nature. To build healthy soils and fertile, thriving agro-ecosystems, this approach incorporates a range of practices like agroforestry and well-managed grazing. Benefits of these practices include richer soil, healthier water systems, increased biodiversity, climate change resilience, and stronger farming communities.
To celebrate the ongoing work of individuals and organizations dedicated to healing agro-ecosystems around the globe, Food Tank is highlighting these 17 organizations building a global grassroots movement for better agriculture.
1. Aranya Agricultural Alternatives
Aranya Agricultural Alternatives organizes and strengthens rural farming communities in India to achieve food and nutrition security through permaculture farming practices. Sanskrit for “forest,” Aranya promotes natural agricultural practices based on forests’ self-regulating ecosystems. Aranya runs permaculture design courses and workshops as well as community-based projects focused on watershed and soil management, tree-based farming, diversified cropping, animal integration, and seed saving.
Grounded, an organization based in Cape Town, South Africa, partners with farmers across sub-Saharan Africa “to develop regenerative businesses [that]establish a healthier and more profitable balance between nature and agriculture, while shortening the value chain between producers and consumers.” Their projects include restoring the natural biodiversity in the biodiversity hotspots of Madagascar, the Langkloof, and the Baviaanskloof, as well as restoring natural migration routes of elephants in Zambia. Grounded is actively working to improve soil quality, increase the vegetation cover, and add to the water table in these regions while promoting sustainable and profitable farming models.
3. Kiss the Ground
Kiss the Ground is a California-based nonprofit working to regenerate land and reverse climate change through rebuilding healthy soil. They create educational curriculum, campaigns, and media to raise awareness and empower individuals to purchase food that support healthy soils and a balanced climate. Kiss the Ground also works with farmers, educators, NGOs, scientists, students, and policymakers to advocate for regenerative agriculture, and help drive brands and businesses to develop more sustainable supply chains worldwide. Locally, they operate a community garden in Venice, California, demonstrating urban permaculture to volunteers and homeless youth.
RegenAG is a community-based family enterprise providing farmers, professional organizations, and communities with education and training to learn from the world’s most innovative and effective regenerative agriculture practitioners in a wide range of fields. Their on-farm consulting and extension services teach farmers the knowledge and skills to significantly reduce inputs and effectively manage and monitor farm fertility though beneficial microbe capture and reproduction, water cycle repair, soil building, and other holistic management strategies. RegenAg also holds courses, workshops, and field days to showcase the success and trials of farmers who have adopted regenerative strategies on their farm.
5. Regeneration International
Regeneration International (RI) provides information and resources that highlight the connection between healthy soil, regenerative agriculture and land use, food, health, healthy economies, and climate change. These include a multilingual website and social media networks, an interactive online portal, consumer campaigns, events, and international conferences. And every year, RI brings a delegation to the U.N. Climate Summit to raise awareness about the links between soil and climate. RI also engages in farmer training, through partnerships with Via Organica and its teaching farm and the Main Street Project’s regenerative poultry project.
6. Rodale Institute
The Rodale Institute is known for pioneering and continually advocating for the use of regenerative agricultural practices. Founded in 1947 in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, by J.I. Rodale, the Institute has transformed 333 acres of formerly degraded farmland into highly fertile and productive land growing a variety of organic crops. The farm forms the basis for Rodale’s research, education, and outreach, and it is home to the longest-running comparative study of organic and chemical agriculture, started in 1981.
7. Savory Network
The Savory Network is a global group of entrepreneurial innovators and leaders working to advance regenerative agriculture, reverse desertification, and combat climate change. With more than 30 hubs around the world, the Savory Network advocates, trains, implements, and facilitates Holistic Management and regenerative agriculture practices in their own global and agricultural contexts. The network is an initiative of the Savory Institute, which has the broader goal of informing policymakers, establishing market incentives, and increasing public awareness to support the ecological restoration of grasslands worldwide.
8. Soil Capital
Soil Capital is “a company committed to scaling and sustaining regenerative agriculture through market-based solutions.” Using proven farming processes and adapted technology, they focus on maximizing farm profitability through increased soil health, resilience, and the natural productivity of the farm ecosystem as a whole. Through partnerships with experienced farmers who demonstrate resource-efficient and sustainable operations, Soil Capital assists other farmers in transitioning from conventional to regenerative agricultural practices. In doing so, Soil Capital seeks to scale and replicate holistic and healthy agricultural projects worldwide.
9. Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities
Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities is a participatory, farmer-led organization which uses local indigenous knowledge and agroecological methods to improve food security, nutrition, and soils in Malawi. Their Malawi Farmer-to-Farmer Agroecology project uses farmer-to-farmer teaching about agroecological farming methods to sustainably manage soils, improve agricultural and dietary diversity, and improve incomes of 6,000 farming households in central and northern Malawi. Through the use of grains and perennial legumes, farmers fix nitrogen, nutrients, and organic matter directly into the soil, improving soil fertility and enhancing environmental and food security.
10. Soil Foodweb Institute
Founded by leading international soil microbiologist Dr. Elaine Ingham, the Soil Foodweb Institute (SFI) provides expert analysis and advice to empower primary producers to take control of maintaining the health of their soil. SFI analyzes soil micro-organism activity and creates management plans tailored to farmers’ specific soils to achieve a sustainable, productive, and low-input farming system. SFI Laboratories have extended across the globe, providing services to thousands of farmers to improve the health and productivity of their soils.
11. Sustainable Harvest International
The mission of this nonprofit organization is to “preserve the environment by partnering with families to improve well-being through sustainable farming.” They work in Central America promoting sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture. Through their multi-year program, participants receive tailored training and technical assistance. Former Peace Corps Volunteer Florence Reed founded the organization in 1997 after realizing the potential for training in sustainable agriculture to help farmers provide for their families while engaging in restorative practices.
12. Terra Genesis International
Terra Genesis International is a regenerative design consultancy that includes engineers, permaculture design experts, agro-ecologists, foresters, carbon scientists, and financial analysts. They help large-scale agriculture and business clients that use natural ingredients in their products to redesign their supply chains and incorporate agricultural practices that regenerate soil, increase biodiversity, and boost business.
13. The Carbon Underground
The Carbon Underground (TCU) acts as an umbrella organization connecting academia, businesses, organizations, schools, governments, and the general public, communicating and educating about the power of healthy soil to combat climate change. TCU coordinates a globally interconnected set of research groups working to demonstrate the impact of sustainable agriculture, land management, and regenerative enterprises as principal tools for sequestering carbon. Through their focus areas of corporate impact, education and training, policy, and communications, TCU aims to facilitate the widespread transition of farms, ranches, and grasslands from industrial into regenerative enterprises.
14. The Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm)
The Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm) is a nonprofit organization that connects farmers, ranchers, distributors, retailers, activists, and researchers for education, alliance building, and advocacy. They run an annual Ecological Farming Conference that features more than 70 workshops, intensives, exhibitions, and special events including seed swaps, film screenings, and organic culinary fare. EcoFarm also offers a free mentoring program for apprentices and beginning farmers as well as a range of online farmer resources. EcoFarm is a broad network of grassroots leadership and has facilitated an exchange of knowledge for more than 60,000 people across the United States.
15. The Land Institute
The Land Institute focuses on developing perennial grains, pulses, and oilseed crops. Their crops are grown in “ecologically intensified polycultures” that mimic the diversity of natural ecosystems. The Land Institute breeds new perennial crops and develops ways to productively grow these crops in diverse polyculture mixtures. Led by a team of ecologists and plant breeders that partner with multiple organizations worldwide, The Land Institute works to develop an agricultural system that can produce ample food while minimizing or eliminating the negative impacts of industrial agriculture.
16. The Timbaktu Collective
The Timbaktu Collective works to protect, manage, and restore degraded ecosystems in rural Indian village communities. The Collective works in 172 villages within the Anantapur district, reaching and serving approximately 21,000 marginalized families. Their work in ecology includes the restoration of wastelands through planting locally adapted indigenous varieties of trees, reviving traditional water-harvesting structures to conserve water, and rejuvenating soil health through organic farming practices.
17. The Traditional Native American Farmers Association
The Traditional Native American Farmers Association (TNAFA) holds an annual Indigenous Sustainable Food Systems Design Course (ISFSDC), providing training in ecological design, natural farming, and earth restoration. ISFSDC is a holistic indigenous approach based on traditional knowledge and practices. These practices help improve air and water quality, ecosystems, nutrition, and community health. TNAFA also holds workshops and training on seed saving, beekeeping, and growing medicinal herbs to enhance biodiversity and increase seed and crop vitality.
(Danielle Nierenberg is President of Food Tank and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She has written extensively on gender and population, the spread of factory farming in the developing world and innovations in sustainable agriculture)