Throughout the world, farmers are finding ways to enhance the environment while producing profitable agricultural products. The most advanced forms of sustainable farming processes and certifications can fall under the category of regenerative agriculture: organic farming, permaculture, biodynamic certification and agroecological practices. There is plenty of overlap among all of these practices, but they go beyond what the USDA Organic standards attempt to achieve and work to both maintain healthy ecosystems and enhance them.
Organic farming principles were developed to help improve soil and use natural processes and fertilizers to enhance soil fertility. Regenerative agriculture builds upon organic farming to help improve biodiversity, reduce erosion and increase organic matter in the soil. The Rodale Institute began using the term 'regenerative agriculture' in the 1980s as an alternative to the term 'sustainable.' The farming technique uses less tilling, applies compost, avoids artificial chemicals and rotates crops. It also has the added benefit of sequestering carbon in the soil to help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
While regenerative agriculture is used across the globe, we decided to focus on wine and chocolate producers, some of which were the highlights of the Sustainable Food Summit in January, both large and small, who are putting these sustainable principles into practice.
Many wineries incorporate regenerative agricultural practices at their vineyards, including achieving biodynamic certification. Grimm's Bluff is a ranch and vineyard that has used biodynamic regenerative agricultural principles since its beginning. Grimm's states, "[b]iodynamic and organic methodology has been practice from inception. No herbicides, pesticides or artificial fertilizers have been used in this vineyard." Fetzer Vineyards uses regenerative agriculture methods, like "organic and biodynamic vineyard practices [that] include the use of cover crops, compost, habitat corridors, alternate row tilling, planting to enhance biodiversity and elimination of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides." In addition to its commitment to regenerative agriculture, Fetzer is a Certified B Corp, committing to "meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency."
In addition to wine, consumers are looking for more sustainable chocolate options. Zenbunni uses certified biodynamic, organic and wild foraged ingredients in their chocolate bars. If you have a recipe that calls for chocolate, Cholaca offers Cacao Liquor Wafers sourced from farms that use "regenerative farming methods [to] create healthier plants without the use of pesticides or destructive, industrial farm practices." In Ecuador, Pacari not only grows cacao, but also makes their chocolate nearby. Pacari's commitment to sustainability follows its products from "tree to bar." The company has its own array of goals and certifications that include: USDA Organic, Demeter Biodynamic Quality certification and is a Certified B Corp.
Wine and chocolate can be made in a sustainable manner using regenerative agriculture, and so can so many other products. As Friends of the Earth found, agroecology (another term referring to regenerative agriculture) can feed the planet. As they note: "not only can organic farming yield enough to feed a growing population, it helps to protect and regenerate the ecological basis of food production."