Organic agriculture has made its foothold as the basis of harmless and “healthy” agriculture. With a heavy focus on reducing environmental impacts and eliminating contaminants from crops, the organic certification has become a widely accepted standard as one of the best options for consumers.
In recent years, however, regenerative agriculture has gained in popularity among the farming community. Regenerative agriculture includes many organic practices but focuses on soil health.
Cedar Meadow Farm has practiced regenerative agriculture for decades and, with science-backed evidence, can firmly make the statement their practices are "better than organic" from a soil health perspective.
What is the difference between organic and regenerative agriculture?
Both organic agriculture and regenerative agriculture share the common goal of bringing the healthiest produce to consumers with the least impact on the environment. Their biggest difference, however, is how they achieve this goal: while organic agriculture focuses on as few synthetic chemicals as possible, regenerative agriculture focuses on enhancing soil health.
In order to obtain the USDA Organic Certification farmers must follow strict rules and regulations. The Organic Certification found on food aims to ensure the consumer that the agricultural management practices used to produce the food had as little environmental impacts as possible as well as no use of harmful synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Because of the regulations in place for Certified Organic foods, organic-focused consumers assume organic is the best option. Most consumers, however, would be surprised to learn just how many organic pesticides are in use. In addition to pesticides, fertilizers of any kind (organic included) can cause harmful nutrient loads in waterways leading to toxic algae blooms.
On the other side, regenerative farmers focus not only on minimizing environmental impacts and harmful chemical use, but place a heavy emphasis on soil health.
Whereas the heavy tillage used in organic practices destroys soil structure, kills earthworms and suppresses soil microbes, the no-till practices of regenerative agriculture bring farming as close to nature as possible.
Regenerative agricultural management practices reduce soil disturbances through no-till practices. The soil health is further protected from erosion and nutrient loss through the use of cover and cash crops year round so the soil is never left exposed to the elements. These practices lead to better nutrient density in the soil and overall healthier and more nutrient rich produce for consumers.
How Does Cedar Meadow Farm Differ From Organic Agriculture?
Cedar Meadow Farm has long based their farming on regenerative agricultural management practices.
The most notable difference between Cedar Meadow Farm and a Certified Organic farm is that Cedar Meadow Farm has not tilled their fields in decades - no field has been tilled since 1995, with some having last been tilled as far back as 1982!
Cedar Meadow Farm also uses cover crops and cash crops to keep the soil constantly covered. The constant soil coverage not only protects the soil structure but also ensures that the soil maintains its nutrients and thus produces more nutrient rich crops.
Because of the regenerative practices at Cedar Meadow Farm, the soil's biodiversity increases as well by growing a diverse variety of both cash and cover crops, planting different species each year. This dramatically amplifies the nutrient content of the soil which yields more nutrient dense produce.
Because Certified Organic agricultural practices use heavy tillage in favor of cover crops, the soil structure and soil ecosystems are consistently damaged which leads to less nutrients in the soil. This creates both lower crop yields as well as less nutrient-rich produce for the consumer.
Cedar Meadow Farm: Better Than Organic!
By the numbers, Cedar Meadow Farm’s soil is healthier than that of the average Certified Organic farm. Looking at the 2020 Soil Health Benchmark Study, compared to almost 50 other local farms (94% of which were Certified Organic!) Cedar Meadow Farm consistently ranked significantly higher in soil health.
The numbers speak for themselves: Cedar Meadow Farm is better than organic!
While Cedar Meadow Farm does judiciously use some herbicides to continue no-till practices, farmer Steve Groff has been working closely with a company to develop a natural, organic herbicide that is both effective and less harmful than other herbicides currently on the market.
In Steve’s own words, “I envision a future where ALL methods of farming are intentionally emphasizing the nutrient density of foods and how they affect human health.”
Steve intends for Cedar Meadow Farm to set the standard and lead the charge on the journey for better foods.