The 1000 Farms Initiative Investigates Regenerative Agriculture Across the U.S.

The Ecdysis Foundation is launching a study that aims to investigate regenerative agriculture across the United States. The 1000 Farms Initiative is one of the largest projects to date that will gather data on agricultural management practices, soil and water health, biodiversity, and profits on more than 1,000 farms and ranches.

“What this project is intended to do is show that no matter what you grow, or where you’re growing, regenerative works,” Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, Director of the Ecdysis Foundation, tells Food Tank.

The study aims to address the lack of scientifically backed data on the outcomes and benefits of regenerative agriculture. According to Lundgren, support for regenerative agriculture often stems from anecdotal studies and farmers experiences, but not formal institutions. He explains that funds and grants in agricultural sciences tend to focus on the currently accepted system, which happens to be industrialized farming.

The 1000 Farms Initiative hopes to develop a systems level study. The research will include a variety of small-scale, large-scale, women-led, and Indigenous-led farms and ranches across the U.S. The project is calling on farmers already employing regenerative farming practices, farmers in transition phases, and conventional farmers to gather enough data to create a model that can effectively determine the environmental, social, and economic impacts of a farm.

Regenerative agriculture is a way to produce food with fewer environmental and social impacts. According to an article published in F1000 Research, regenerative agriculture has the potential to improve soil health, restore biodiversity, contribute to farm profitability, reduce pollution from agrichemicals, and improve resilience. Some of the most commonly associated practices, according to the Climate Reality Project, include integrating livestock to the farm, reducing or eliminating tillage, and using cover crops.

For Lundgren, regenerative agriculture draws on a number of different approaches to farming, “You have elements of permaculture, elements of organic, elements of some Indigenous foodways, and even elements of conventional agriculture because technology is certainly not avoided,” he tells Food Tank.

Lundgren hopes that the adoption of regenerative farming can help both farmers and consumers restore their connection to nature and food. “There’s a real lack of connection with the land and it is the downfall of our society as we’re seeing it now,” Lundgren tells Food Tank.

In addition to proving the viability of regenerative farming, the Foundation’s goal is to develop a roadmap to help farmers and producers make that transition to regenerative farming. “[For] farmers who have been farming this way, researchers who have been supporting this system and who grew up in a system which supports the current food system, to change that is to admit you’re wrong and that’s hard,” Lundgren tells Food Tank. “We need to be there for producers that are interested in changing.”

Lundgren hopes that the study will help shape future food policies in two ways—the adoption of a systems approach and removing the subsidization of poor practices. “The status quo isn’t good enough anymore. We need bold action, and this study is just that,” he tells Food Tanks. “If we’re going to save ourselves on this planet, this is the kind of thing that’s needed.

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