Boost Our Natural Support Systems
Regenerative Culture — Regenerative Agriculture
This website talks a lot about sustainability – minimizing harm and using resources today in such a way that we can continue to use them in future. But the truth is, sustainability is no longer adequate. Our living systems have been so severely depleted that what is called for at this time is regeneration. That will require vision, creativity, adaptation, a shift in our priorities and a change of heart.
If you have heard the term “regenerative” at all, you’ve probably heard it in the context of regenerative agriculture. That’s farming that rebuilds topsoil and feeds healthy soil micro-organisms. But the concept can be applied in many fields. What would “regenerative healthcare” look like? Could it be that we focus research dollars on preventing cancer? Regenerative community development would focus equally on building housing and building community. A regenerative culture needs to operate at every level, in our families, our schools, our businesses and our communities. Learn more about what people mean when they talk about regenerative culture at Resilience.org.
On this page, we’ll talk about regeneration in terms of how we can all work to rebuild earth’s natural systems. If you have a yard or land, there are things you can do directly. If you don’t have land, you can take action through one of several nonprofit organizations doing important restoration work in our state. And you can talk to your legislator about continuing and increasing funding to do the vital work of regenerating our state lands and supporting wildlife.
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How You Can Learn and Practice Regeneration
The Transition Town movement has its roots in permaculture – a holistic, comprehensive and scalable system of design modeled on natural systems. Permaculture is usually applied to land use and food growing, but the design principles can be applied in everyday life as well (some call this “personal permaculture”).
Permaculture is, at its core, regenerative. You can learn more about permaculture at the excellent website, Permaculture Principles. In Minnesota you can learn about permaculture hands-on from:
Regenerative Food Growing
“Regenerative agriculture” is still relatively new and it can mean different things to different people. Take a look at this article in Medium, “Lineages of Regenerative Agriculture,” to get a sense of the field. You can put regenerative practices into effect in your own yard and garden, even if you have a small city lot:
- Cover crops and mulch to protect the soil when nothing is growing
- Composting to feed soil microbes
- No-till and low-till to avoid disrupting the soil networks. Break the soil once when you first start your garden, but after that you don’t need to till again, just weed.
- Agroforestry – add trees and woody shrubs to get fruit and berries and sequester carbon!
- Limit lawn, collect rainwater and work on soil health to keep water on your property and out of storm sewers where it brings toxins directly into rivers and lakes
- Include chickens in your landscape for insect control and soil improvement
But the real bang for the buck comes when farmers use regenerative agriculture methods and when they have a market for their products so they can continue to do so. Minnesota is home to the newly forming Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, an organization that focuses on the use of perennial crops, bison and chickens to rebuild soil and soil health. It’s a nonprofit so donations are welcome.
How we use our land is one of the biggest areas of opportunity for boosting natural systems. Think about the permaculture principle of Obtain a Yield. What kinds of yields do we desperately need today? More topsoil and better soil health. Less carbon in the atmosphere and more in soil and trees. Less rainwater down the storm drain and more water replenishing our aquifers.
How can you use your home or business property for regenerative yields? Here are a few examples:
- Capture rainwater for later use
- Increase water infiltration by having less lawn, healthier water-absorbing soil, and more deep-rooted plants and trees
- Capture carbon by improving soil health, by growing trees and by planting woody shrubs
- Provide food and shelter for wildlife, insects and birds. (Animals and insects are essential to a healthy ecosystem. We are losing species daily so everything we can do to support non-human life will help.)
- Capture energy with solar panels, solar chargers, solar cookers, clothes lines – or wind turbines if you have more land
It’s vitally important that we reconnect and expand the land set aside for forests and prairies, protecting it from development as well as the ravages of invasive plants, like buckthorn. (See the DNR list of invasive species.) Organizations that help people protect and “rewild” land include:
When soil is contaminated by industrial use or lead paint or years of exposure to leaded gas, our typical response is to scrape it up and haul it away. To where is away, and what happens to it then? Bioremediation is a relatively new field, and a good example of regeneration.
Bioremediation uses plants and trees, bacteria and fungi, to sequester or break down toxins so the soil can be used again. The University of Minnesota doing this research. The Women’s Environmental Institute and Mashkiikii Urban Farm hosted Nance Klehm, of Social Ecologies, for a weekend workshop on regenerative systems.
Forests and Trees
Trees play an essential role in regulating our climate by taking carbon from the air and storing it in wood. They are also vital for climate adaptation, providing shade for buildings, people and animals and preventing rain from reaching the ground and overwhelming wastewater systems. Their root systems guide water down into the ground where it will eventually recharge our aquifers.
We will need to pay much closer attention to our trees. Higher temperatures and excessive rain stress trees, making them vulnerable to disease and insects. Some of our native trees won’t survive a warmer climate. Land owners can begin now to plant trees likely to thrive in Minnesota’s changing climate.
To learn more about tree care – or to become a tree advocate for your community – see these resources:
- Tree care education at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
- Minnesota Tree Care Advisors
- Citizen Pruners
Our bees, butterflies, moths and even beetles provide essential services, not least of which is pollinating our fruits and vegetables. Our survival is dependent on theirs. More people than ever are engaged in providing a food supply, habitat and water for pollinators. Learn more here:
- University of Minnesota Bee Lab
- Xerxes Society
- Pollinator education at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
- Beez Kneez Honey Farm for bee education
Wildlife and Plants
We don’t inhabit this world alone. It’s all one big interconnected, diverse system. These organizations can help you understand the big picture for plants and animals.
- Wild Ones State Conference (find local chapters of this native plant stewardship organization at the conference)
- National Wildlife Federation
- Minnesota Master Gardeners
- Minnesota Master Naturalists
All life on earth is dependent on clean water; and here in Minnesota life depends on fresh water. Unfortunately, a significant amount of our state’s water supply is degraded. Shocking, 50 Minnesota lakes are so impaired by salt that they are no longer classified as freshwater lakes! We are a thousand miles from an ocean but we have saltwater lakes. Here’s what you can do and who you can get involved with to work on water protection: