We know that agriculture significantly impacts the environment; we need land and resources to provide food for all. Fortunately, we can decide what that impact will be. By focusing on the sustainability of agricultural practices, we can not only reduce its effects on the environment but also ensure that agriculture has a positive impact on the environment. Practices like cover cropping, rotational and intercropping, applying compost, dry farming to reduce water usage, and more that focus on cultivating soil health and reducing inputs are commonly packaged together with the term regenerative agriculture and are key to improving both human and planet health. It is important to acknowledge that the practices that are foundational to regenerative agriculture are rooted in Indigenous knowledge and science and have been practiced for time immemorial (you can learn more here). These practices are important for the health of our planet because they focus on not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also drawing them down into our soils, effectively acting as a climate solution.
Foods grown using regenerative organic practices are higher in nutrients due to healthier soil, are free of chemicals, and support the continued supply of these foods. This vastly benefits our society as a whole, but most importantly, children. If these are the foods we raise our children with, the values we instill, and the practices we educate, the benefits stretch far beyond the generation we serve today.
In May, Eat REAL hosted a group of school food and regenerative agriculture leaders at Richards Ranch for a regenerative farm tour. School food leaders, real food advocates, and government advisors met to discuss the importance of child health and find ways to work together and accomplish our shared goal of making schools the largest purchasers of regenerative organic food. Food Service Directors representing 275,000 students in over 400 schools gathered alongside the First Partner of California, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) representatives, Top Chef Chef Tu, and other nonprofit leaders to examine what it would take to apply this combined $130M in buying power to the future of agriculture we want and need while touring a great example.
Carrie Richards of Richards Ranch, a fifth-generation regenerative organic operation, led the group on a tour of the pasture to discuss what it means to be regenerative organic. “When I learned that you could sequester carbon using grazing practices, my mind was blown. I was like, ‘Why would you do it any other way?’” Richards shared. Allowing the cattle to graze in patterns that do not overextend the pasture will enable the natural regrowth of plant life and sequester enough carbon to create a greenhouse gas footprint that is 66 percent lower than conventional commodity animal farming.
There can be a lot of challenges to public purchasing processes, and Eat Real connects schools with local regenerative farms and facilitates conversations to remove these purchasing barriers. By ensuring our school food is using products grown with regenerative organic practices, we help raise the next generation of real food advocates for the benefit of both human and planet health.