Regenerative agriculture (RA) is an approach to food and farming systems which aims to regenerate topsoil, increase biodiversity, improve water cycles, enhance ecosystem services, support biosequestration, increase resilience to climate fluctuation, and strengthen the health and vitality of farm soil, by recycling as much farm waste as possible, as well as adding compost material from outside the farm.
Regenerative agriculture on small farms and gardens is often based on ideologies like permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology, Keyline design and holistic management, whereas large farms tend to be less ideology driven, and often utilize "no till" and/or "low till" aided by the use of herbicide tolerant genetically modified seed.
Ideally, on a regenerative farm, yield production should grow more ample over time. As the soil deepens, yields may increase and external composting inputs decrease. Actual output is however dependent on the nutritional value of the composting materials, and the nutritional status of the soil.  
Regenerative agricuture is based on various agricultural and agroecologic practices, and a particular emphasis is on minimal soil disturbance and the practice of composting.
   The lasagna method feeds the soil biota from above and encourages the soil food web to do the work of aerating and mixing the nutrients into the soil below.  They created a video, Farming With Nature: A Case Study of Successful Temperate Permaculture.
By marching forward under the banner of sustainability we are, in effect, continuing to hamper ourselves by not accepting a challenging enough goal. I am not against the word sustainable, rather I favor regenerative agriculture.
However, the Institute stopped using the term in the late 1980s and it appeared sparingly (in 2005 and 2008) until they released a white paper titled "Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change" in 2014. Its summary states, “we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term 'regenerative organic agriculture.'” The agricultural practices described are crop rotation, compost application and reduced tillage, similar to most organic agriculture.
From 1990 to 2010, RA was most explicitly practiced within the permaculture community. Influenced by Carol Sanford and the design and development work of Regenesis, the ecological systems approach of permaculture led regenerative agriculture to incorporate whole farm design, multi-story agroforestry and rotational livestock integration.
Author and restorative development consultant Storm Cunningham (b. 1951) documented the rise of what he then called "restorative agriculture" in his first book, The Restoration Economy. He defined it as a technique that rebuilds the quantity and quality of topsoil while restoring local biodiversity (especially native pollinators) and watershed functionality. Carbon sequestration has more recently been added to that definition, to help achieve climate restoration. Restorative agriculture was one of the eight sectors of restorative development industries / disciplines in The Restoration Economy's taxonomy. The other seven were watershed restoration, ecological restoration, fisheries restoration, brownfields remediation, heritage restoration, infrastructure renewal and catastrophe reconstruction. 
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Sheep grower, historian, regenerative agriculture consultant and advocate Charles Massy published Call of the Reed Warbler: a new agriculture - a new earth, based on his PhD studies. The book frames regenerative agriculture as a savior for the earth using case studies.
Darren J. Doherty (1967-) founded Regrarians Ltd. in 2013, a non-profit promoting RA. His Regrarians Platform extends Yeomans’ 'Keyline Scale of Permanence', layering social and economic lenses on top of the original agricultural ones. They include climate, geography, water, access, forestry, buildings, fencing, soils, economy and energy.
John Ikerd advocates for the "small" family farm and farmers and for sustainability in the US food system. Ikerd is author of The essentials of economic sustainability, Small Farms are Real Farms: Sustaining People through Agriculture and Sustainable Capitalism (2005).
Vermont farmer and farm consultant Abe Collins created LandStream to monitor ecosystem performance in RA farms.
Mark Shepard founded New Forest Farms in Viola, Wisconsin, and Forest Agriculture Enterprises and wrote Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmers. He demonstrated how to grow more calories per acre than corn and soy without inputs. He does this through a mix of RA practices, balancing nut crops, livestock and keyline.
Ethan Roland Soloviev and Gregory Landua, cofounded Terra Genesis International (a regenerative agriculture and supply company), published Levels of Regenerative Agriculture (2016). In this paper, they describe a four-fold framework consisting of:
- Functional Regenerative Agriculture: "humans can do good through their agricultural production"
- Integrative Regenerative Agriculture: "grow the health and vitality of the whole ecosystem"
- Systemic Regenerative Agriculture: "farms are woven into an ecosystem of enterprises operating in their bioregion"
- Evolutionary Regenerative Agriculture: "harmonize with the potential of a place," and "develop a diversity of global and local regenerative producer webs"
Permaculture designer and researcher Eric Toensmeier wrote The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food Security (2016). Toensmeier claimed that regenerative practices hold the potential to sequester massive amounts of CO
2 into the soil, all while providing adaptive and resilient solutions given a changing climate.
Principles and practices
Regenerative agriculture is guided by a set of principles and practices.
- Increase soil fertility
- Work with wholes, not parts
- Progressively improve whole agro-ecosystems (soil, water and biodiversity)
- Connect the farm to its larger agroecosystem and bioregion
- Create context-specific designs and make holistic decisions that express the essence of each farm
- Express the essence of each person, farm and place
- Make holistic decisions aimed at specific systems change
- Ensure and develop just and reciprocal relationships among all stakeholders
- Design for non-linear, multi-capital reciprocity
- Continually grow and evolve individuals, farms and communities to express their potential
- Continually evolve agro-ecological processes and cultures
- Agriculture shifts the world
- Permaculture Design
- Soil Food Web
- Properly Managed Livestock, Well-managed grazing, Animal Integration, and Holistically Managed Grazing
- STUN (Sheer, Total and Utter Neglect) Breeding
- Keyline Subsoiling
- Conservation farming, No-Till Farming, minimum tillage, and Pasture Cropping
- Cover crops & multispecies cover crops
- Organic Annual Cropping and Crop rotations
- Compost, Compost Tea, animal manures and Thermal Compost
- Natural sequence farming
- Grassfed livestock
- Polyculture and full-time planting of multiple crop intercrop plantings
- Borders planted for bee habitat and other beneficial insects
- Biochar/Terra Preta
- Ecological Aquaculture
- Perennial Crops
- Agroecological restoration
- Biointensive agriculture
- Carbon farming
- Farmer-managed natural regeneration
- Korean natural farming
- Regenerative Design
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