I’m the new writer/editor at the Bruyère Research Institute and uOttawa Department of Family Medicine. Before joining the team here, I held the Marketing and Activity Coordinator role at the Bruyère Village. I’m very passionate about proper human nutrition and longevity. I also love to cook, sing, write music and play guitar. I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of this dynamic team. Thank you for the warm welcome! You can reach me at cchartr3@uOttawa.ca.
Have you “herd” of regenerative agriculture? Chances are you probably haven’t. Regenerative farming and grazing practices help reverse the effects of climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, which results in atmospheric carbon sequestration and an improved water cycle1. In other words, the soil on these farms is carbon-rich and absorbs water which helps prevent drought and flooding.
While it is true that over the years, the adoption and widespread use of synthetic petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides have increased yields and helped feed our increasingly growing populations, the use of these chemicals has led to soil erosion, land degradation and ruined ecosystems2. Just like health professionals who adhere to the Hippocratic Oath, farmers who practice regenerative farming and grazing, first do no harm to the land. They do not till or spray the soil with toxic chemicals. They allow nature to do its work.
There are two established grazing methods, continuous grazing and rotational grazing. Historically, continuous grazing has been the norm in factory farming because it requires little labour, and cattle can feed anywhere on the pasture3. However, with rotational grazing, a pasture is divided into paddocks (sections). Cattle graze on one paddock and then move to another a few days later. It’s a little more labour intensive for ranchers, but it prevents overgrazing and allows forages to grow and replenish4. On some farms, there are paddocks that haven’t been grazed in over eighty days. There are even instances where native grasses that were once thought to be extinct are growing again.
Over the last few years, there have been a number of individuals falling ill from consuming lettuce that has been contaminated with E. coli. In the fall of 2019, authorities from Canada and the United States have enacted recalls and urged people to refrain from consuming lettuce from the Salinas Valley in California. While authorities still don’t know the exact cause of this E. coli outbreak, many have speculated that fecal matter from cattle grazing nearby could have made its way into the water supply and subsequently contaminated neighbouring lettuce crops5. It’s entirely possible that we could eliminate future E. coli outbreaks if more ranchers began adopting regenerative agricultural practices.
Though we’re in the midst of the greatest pandemic in over a century, the challenges we face with COVID are dwarfed by the threat of climate change. Humanity has come a long way in the last century, but our standard of living has come at an immense cost. Regenerative agriculture has a vital role in helping reverse climate change. Everything we consume is dependent on the biodiversity of our soil. Healthy soils lead to healthy ecosystems, leading to healthy animals, which leads to a healthy and thriving food supply for humans. Next time you have something to eat, be mindful of where it came from.
1Regeneration International. Why Regenerative Agriculture?. 2019. Accessed 20 Apr 2021.
2Schiffman R. Why It’s Time to Stop Punishing Our Soils with Fertilizers. 3 May 2017. Accessed 20 Apr 2021.
3James R.E. Replacement Management in Cattle. Growth Diets. Encyclopedia of Dairy Sciences. 2011. Accessed 20 Apr 2021.
4Smith R, Lacefield G, Burris R, Ditsch D, Coleman B, Lehmkuhler J, Henning J. Rotational Grazing. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. 2011. Accessed 20 Apr 2021.
5Loria K. Cattle Farms Most Likely Contributor to 2019 E. Coli Romaine Outbreaks, FDA Finds. The agency calls on leafy greens growers to work to mitigate the risk. 21 May 2020. Accessed 20 Apr 2021.
Want to learn more?
Carbon Cowboys is an inspiring ten-part documentary that shares the stories of cattle ranchers who are helping fight climate change, restoring soil health and raising healthier livestock with regenerative agriculture. Where to find it: Available for free online at www.carboncowboys.org.