Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. Practices include, recycling as much farm waste as possible, and adding composted material from sources 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. Large farms tend to be less ideology driven, and often use "no-till" and/or "reduced till" practices.
On a regenerative farm, yield should increase over time. As the topsoil deepens, production may increase and less external compost inputs are required. Actual output is dependent on the nutritional value of the composting materials, and the structure and content of the soil.  
Regenerative agriculture is based on various agricultural and ecological practices, with a particular emphasis on minimal soil disturbance and the practice of composting.
   The Lasagna method, also called sheet mulching, is a regenerative agriculture practice that feeds the soil biome from above and encourages the soil food web to aerate and mix the nutrients from the mulch, into the soil below.  A video was made that illustrates this practice, Farming With Nature: A Case Study of Successful Temperate Permaculture.
In the early 1980's, the Rodale Institute began using the term ‘regenerative agriculture’. Rodale Publishing formed the Regenerative Agriculture Association, which began publishing regenerative agriculture books in 1987 and 1988.
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 1980's, and it only appeared sporadically (in 2005 and 2008), until they released a white paper in 2014, titled "Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change". The paper's summary states, “we could sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to common and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term 'regenerative organic agriculture.'” The paper described agricultural practices, like crop rotation, compost application, and reduced tillage, that are similar to organic agriculture methods.
From 1990 to 2010, regenerative agriculture was primarily practiced within the permaculture community. The ecological systems approach to permaculture, influenced by Carol Sanford and the design and development work of the Regenesis group, led regenerative agriculture to incorporate whole farm design, multi-story agroforestry and livestock rotation.
Author and restorative development consultant, Storm Cunningham (b. 1951), documented the beginning of what he called "restorative agriculture" in his first book, The Restoration Economy. Cunningham defined restorative agriculture as, a technique that rebuilds the quantity and quality of topsoil, while also restoring local biodiversity (especially native pollinators) and watershed function. 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 sectors were, watershed restoration, ecological restoration, fisheries restoration, brownfield 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.
In 2013,Darren J. Doherty (1967-) founded Regrarians Ltd., a non-profit promoting regenerative agriculture. The Regrarians organization extends Yeomans’ 'Keyline Scale of Permanence', adding social and economic perspectives to the original agricultural ones. These perspectives include climate, geography, water, access, forestry, infrastructure, soils, economy and energy.
John Ikerd advocates for the "small" family farm, farmers and 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 regenerative agriculture farms.
Mark Shepard founded New Forest Farms and Forest Agriculture Enterprises in Viola, Wisconsin, and wrote Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmers. He demonstrated how to grow more nutrients per acre than corn and soy, without additional inputs. He does this through a mix of regenerative agriculture practices, nut crops, livestock and keyline design.
Ethan Roland Soloviev and Gregory Landua, cofounded Terra Genesis International (a regenerative agriculture and supply company), and 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 bio-region"
- 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, while providing adaptive and resilient solutions for a changing climate.
Principles and practices
Regenerative agriculture is guided by a set of principles and practices.
- Increase soil fertility.
- Work with whole systems, not isolated parts.
- Progressively improve whole agro-ecosystems (soil, water and biodiversity).
- Connect the farm to its larger agro-ecosystem and bio-region.
- Create designs and make holistic decisions that express the value and relationship of farm contributors.
- Express the significance of each person, farm and system.
- Make holistic decisions aimed at specific system changes.
- Ensure and develop equitable 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.
- Continuously evolve agro-ecological processes and cultures.
- Agriculture influences 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 & multi-species 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 succession planting of multiple and inter-crop plantings
- Borders planted for pollinator 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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