Natural Products Insider

JAN-FEB 2019

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34 INSIDER January/February 2019 "Natural" and "organic" have experienced decades of growing pains as industry-shaping nomenclature. While the intricacies of terminology and philosophy continue to be worked out, progress has made way for the next generation of ideology to emerge. Among these concepts is regenerative agriculture, which takes the principles of organic farming and adds more layers of accountability. "Regenerative organic agriculture is different in that it considers the long-term consequences of farming practices on the soil, environment, animal welfare, farm and community economics, and human health," explained Zoe Schaeffer, communications specialist at Kutztown, Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute. "And it ensures that we're on a path of continual improvement toward all those ends." Andrew Pittz is a sixth-generation family farmer and "farmer-in-chief" at Missouri Valley, Iowa-based Sawmill Hollow, the fi rst aronia berry farm in the United States. He also serves as director of Heartland Superfoods, a vertically integrated supplier of organically farmed ingredients. Pittz identifi ed two challenges in advancing regenerative agriculture: infrastructure for both farm and industry. "The agriculture 'food system' was built over a century ago, if not more, so the system has been developed for some time," he explained. "There will need to be a parallel system created for regenerative agriculture/food to fl ourish. This has yet to be done, so it is quite diffi cult to farm regeneratively when the infrastructure is designed and built to serve a conventional farmer. Likewise, for industry to fl ourish and profi tably support regenerative agriculture, there must also be infrastructure to process value-added ingredients that are usable for marketers, manufacturers and formulators of natural products." Pittz is not alone in his passion to cultivate planet-positive farming. Since 1973, Rodale Institute has focused on expanding the organic movement through consumer education; long-term, solutions- based research; and farmer training. In 1981, Rodale Institute started its Farming Systems Trial—the longest-running, side-by-side controlled comparison of organic (one manure-based and one legume-based) and conventional grain cropping systems in North America. "Over those nearly four decades, soil organic matter and other measures of soil health have increased in the organic systems, while organic matter and soil health in the conventional system have remained the same or degraded," reported Andrew Smith, Ph.D., chief scientist at Rodale Institute. "With just 60 years of farmable topsoil left, we need to be focused on actively building soil and soil health for the future of our food system." After a three- to fi ve-year period when the study fi elds were transitioning to organic, yields between the organic manure system and conventional system have not differed much for three decades. Although conventional grain crops generally out-yield the organic, Smith said there's more than meets the eye. "During years of drought, organic grain always out-yields conventional," he asserted. "We attribute this to higher organic matter (carbon) in the soil in organic systems, which allows the soil to hold more water. Organic systems also see less erosion and run-off. That means that in extreme weather—which we expect to see more and more—organic systems are more resilient. "In short, our research shows that organic can compete with, and even outperform, conventional on yields; it actively builds soil health, whereas conventional does not—and it's a smarter choice for an increasingly unsteady climate," Smith concluded. Rodale Institute is taking its organic platform a step further with a cohort of organizations and businesses such as Patagonia and Dr. Bronner's via the nonprofi t Regenerative Organic Alliance (regenorganic.org). In early 2018, the group began developing a global Regenerative Organic Certifi cation (ROC) for the production of food and fi ber used in the supply chain. It builds on the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standard (using IFOAM standards for international bodies), but includes three additional pillars—soil health, animal welfare and social fairness. Not all organic is considered regenerative—although in order to be regenerative, a farm must fi rst be organic, explained Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute's executive director. "It is possible to farm a piece of land organically and still deplete it," he shared. Moyer emphasized regenerative organic agriculture must show continuous improvement of natural resources—both the soil and surrounding ecosystems. Although he acknowledged many organic Regenerative Agriculture Not all organic is considered regenerative; although in order to be regenerative, a farm must first be organic. Regeneration results in measurable improvement in areas such as biodiversity, soil health and ecosystem function. EPIC Provisions, Applegate Farms, Union Snacks and Zuke's Natural Pet Treats are investing in regeneratively farmed ingredients. Regenerative Agriculture: Taking Organic to the Next Level by Karen Butler INSIDER's Take

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