Regenerative is the buzz word in agriculture these days. It refers to a type of farming that goes above and beyond today’s organic standards to actively regenerate the natural resources used while supporting healthy, thriving communities. We launched the Regenerative Organic Certification in late 2017, but the idea of regenerative has been around a lot longer.

Beyond Sustainable

Robert Rodale, son of J.I. Rodale and head of Rodale Institute after J.I.’s passing in 1971, championed regenerative before the USDA organic standards and certification even existed.

In this video from an interview with the USDA in 1989, Bob describes the difference between organic and sustainable (start at 1:23):

Regenerative as we know it today applies specifically to measures of soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. But Bob’s original philosophy of regenerative encompassed a broader spectrum of human values. Together with his daughter, Maria Rodale, Bob penned the 7 principles of regenerative as he saw them, outlined below.

Seven Tendencies Toward Regeneration

1. Pluralism

  • Increase in diversity of plant species
  • Increase in diversity of business, people, and culture
  • Increase in diversity of personal experiences, capacities, opportunities and openness to new experiences

2. Protection

  • More surface cover of plants, ending erosion and increasing beneficial microbial populations near the surface
  • More resistance to economic and cultural fluctuations because of quantity and variety of businesses and people, which increases overall employment and community stability
  • Improvement of personal hardiness and an ability to withstand crisis, accompanied by a boost in the body’s immune system

3. Purity

  • Without chemical fertilizer and pesticide use, a greater mass of plants and other life exists in the soil.
  • Without pollution of the environment, more people can exist in better health.
  • By ending detrimental habits such as smoking or thinking negatively, the potential for growth, happiness, and success increases.

4. Permanence

  • More perennials and other plants with vigorous root systems begin to grow.
  • As businesses and individuals become successful and stable, they can contribute more to the community.
  • New, more positive, personal spiritual behaviors take root and provide a deeper meaning to life.

5. Peace

  • Past patterns of weed and pest interference with growing systems are disrupted
  • Former patterns of violence and crime are reduced, improving overall security and well-being.
  • Negative emotions such as anger, fear, and hate lessen in intensity and are replaced by tolerance, compassion, and understanding.

6. Potential

  • Nutrients tend to either move upward in the soil profile or to accumulate near the surface, thereby becoming more available for use by plants.
  • “Trickle up” economics – more resources and money accumulate and are more available to more people
  • The positive qualities and resources in yourself and your environment become easier to access and effect more people around you.

7. Progress

  • Overall soil structure improves, increasing water retention capacity
  • Overall community life improves, increasing the health and wealth of its inhabitants
  • Capacity for well-being and enjoyment increases
For more updates on Rodale Institute research and programming, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

One thought on “The Original Principles of Regenerative Agriculture

  1. As of today our farm is certified organic. We just got word our certifier might be losing their accreditation. If we are already certified and the nop asks us to re-certify with another out of state certifier we will have to pay again for a new cert which we already have. How will that affect certifying regenerative for us. The nop wants us small farmers out of the business. I am not happy with the nop anyway even though we have been certified organic since 1998. I am ready to quit the whole program but I am a devoted organic grower.What can be done for us. There will be 25 or so small farmers here in Nevada who won’t be able to certify any longer.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.