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GUEST EDITORIAL


winding back roads with occasional glimpses of the knob of Pilot Moun- tain or the Sauratown ridgeline’s distinct array of communications tow- ers, depending whether I am traveling to work on my family's farm, or home again, to the farm- land of my wife’s family. I pass pastures and fields, cross creeks and drain- ways, traverse wood- lands and hillsides and see lots of houses. The daily activity of human life is on full display, although modified slightly for the times, as I see the old man at the corner mowing his lawn and the cute couple with their chicken tractor and little round of fencing in the center of another clipped lawn. There are farmers working tractors, home- owners working tillers, and lots of folks just sitting on their porches, watching the world slowly turn all on its own.


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On my drive each morning I pass a number of fields managed by farmers who have been working this land in some cases for


early every day I make the 18 mile drive along


Regenerative Agriculture A Case for


as long as I have been alive. I speak with these farmers whenever I can, and I deep- ly respect the knowledge they have accumulated over their years. However, many of the practices they have long been encouraged to utilize on this farmland are destructive in nature. For example, most of the fields around us at this time of the year are fallow - this means they produced a crop that was harvested last fall and were left to their own de- vices to recover from the resource depletion, com-


paction and soil surface exposure. In early spring these fields are often turned and shaped into geometrically pleasing patterns that stir something primal in me. I’ll be the first to admit that these nice tight rows of finely groomed dirt are appealing. What we don’t see, however, is the rapid degradation of these soils that results from the very practices that seem to bring this aesthetic relief. We know through exhaustive research that turning, plow- ing, tilling and hilling of bare soil all results in loss of organic matter, reduction in water holding capacity, general breakdown of soil structure, and overall reduction in the soils ability to sup- port the diversity of life that has allowed natural ecosystems around the world to continue functioning after thousands of years of harvests. In fact, the leading governmental conservation agency in the United States, the National Resource Conservation Service, has been trying to push this very knowledge out to farm- ers and land managers for decades now. It is no secret that bare soil agriculture spells doom for the long-term productivity of our soils. Yet the majority of production systems in our North Caro- lina communities still practice these methods, and incredibly, most research done in agriculture is premised upon this method of farming.


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Over the years, many approaches have been tried to provide different avenues for farmers to follow including the National Organic Program and less politicized movements like Sustainable Agriculture, Permaculture, and Restoration Ag. However, as a result of political or economic realities, and more often than not an unfortunate combination of the two, these movements have been fighting an uphill battle at every turn. Commercial agricul- ture, both in practice on farms across America and in the research at our land-grant universities, is functionally dependent upon the petrochemical and agrochemical industries. Chemical agriculture companies pay most of the research bills at our ag research col- leges, and whoever funds the research, drives the research objec- tives. This is in direct contradiction of the scientific evidence that continuing blindly down the high petrochemical input growing path leads only to greater food and climate instability. There must be another way.


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