What’s All the Fuss About Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative farming and ranching seems to be in the news a lot these days. For us at Mirr Ranch Group, we’re excited about regenerative agriculture because it poses the possibility that our agriculturist friends and clients can be part of the solution where climate issues are concerned, increasing their revenues, and enhancing the resiliency and value of the working ranches and farmland that we consult on at our firm.

The BX Ranch is a regenerative agricultural success story.

What exactly is regenerative agriculture? 

A Definition

Regenerative practices include minimizing tillage, diversifying annual cropping systems, using cover crops, and changing the type of fertilizer used, alleviating much of the stress on soil and improving its water absorption, total amount of organic matter, and overall health, sequestering carbon in the process. 

Another regenerative agriculture technique especially relevant here in cattle country is the reintegrating of grazing animals, mimicking the huge herds of herbivores such as bison that historically ate their way across our expansive plains grasslands here in Colorado.  

As livestock graze, their movement breaks up the soil, allowing nutrients and sunlight to new plants, which expedites the building of essential organic matter. The livestock’s manure adds nutrients to the ground, reversing years of damage from unsustainable agriculture. 

By employing regenerative techniques such as intensive, rotational grazing, systems work harmoniously with nature to improve the soil and even the economic output of a ranch, since tools like actively-managed “mob grazing” means getting more animal units on the ground, hence more revenue. 

JE Canyon also utilizes regenerative agriculture practices.

Through pioneering conservation efforts, the former owners of The Cottonwood near Daniel, Wyoming have improved the ecological and economical sustainability of the overall ranch.

The Goal of Legislation

Efforts to legislatively increase the number of tools to help agriculturists go regenerative are happening across the nation. In Colorado, new “Healthy Soils” legislation was introduced in March, with Senator Cleave Simpson (R-Alamosa) heading a bipartisan initiative that intends to create a new soil health program in the state’s Department of Agriculture. The voluntary soil health program would establish elements such as the following: 

  • A system for monitoring the environmental or economic benefits of soil health practices; 
  • A state soil health inventory and platform; 
  • And a soil health testing program.

Check out the full text of the Colorado bill. Many other states also have healthy soils legislation and/or incentive programs.

Ultimately, we all want to see our ranchers make more money, to be rewarded for their good stewardship and exemplary protein production; and regenerative methods, new, voluntary, incentive-driven legislation, and the free market can potentially get us there. 

The Future of Agriculture

Carbon Ranching

As carbon markets mature, more and more agriculturists will be paid for using regenerative methods to sequester carbon in their soil, absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into their soil via its grasses and cover crops, turning grassland ranches, for instance, into carbon sinks. In fact, new companies like Indigo and Nori are matching buyers and sellers of carbon credits, paying farmers and ranchers for being regenerative stewards of their lands.  

Other support for “carbon ranching,” a term that integrates regenerative practices such as intensive, rotational grazing, includes a partnership between the NRCS and Colorado Department of Agriculture that is providing the funds for many new, local district conservationist positions who will help farmers and ranchers transition to regenerative techniques, thereby boosting their land’s productivity and drought resiliency by improving soil health.  

There are also nonprofits like Mad Agriculture who provide loans and expertise to empower agriculturists to make this shift, often collaborating with operators to put together altogether new regenerative farm plans for them.  

Innovative Income

So, you see there are a multitude of resources out there for farmers and ranchers who want to learn more about a different way to get their property to thrive. At Mirr Ranch Group, we’re always on the lookout for new, creative ways for our rancher and farmer friends and clients to augment their assets’ values with new income streams. 

Whether it be conservation easements, solar and wind power leasing, micro-hydropower production, or mitigation credits, MRG is monitoring such innovations, discerning their efficacy for our clients and their properties. 

Regenerative agriculture offers a similar promise for working landowners. Mirr Ranch Group is often involved in these multi-stakeholder efforts from the grassroots level. 

Where regenerative agriculture and healthy soils are concerned, groups like the Colorado Coalition to Enhance Working Lands (CO-CEWL) and Colorado Coalition for Healthy Soils (CCHS) are integral to advocating for the needs of farmers and ranchers.  

Improvements on the BX Ranch allow for a much more productive and healthy grazing regimen which has lead to the robust return of native grasses and a diversity and density of herbaceous cover.

Just the Beginning

If you want to learn more about regenerative agriculture efforts in Colorado or other states, or tie into a community of like-minded operators, these are all great places to begin one’s land stewardship journey, summed up here succinctly by grazing expert Noble Research Institute’s CEO Steve Rhines: 

“Land stewardship is a core value held by many farmers and ranchers, and regenerative agriculture is the next step in the land stewardship journey wherein farmers and ranchers reduce their reliance on conventional practices and concentrate on restoring or regenerating the soil. The soil is the cornerstone of a healthy ecosystem and a productive farm or ranch.”

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