This is the fourth installment in a series of articles looking at how regenerative agriculture can heal our land, our climate, and our communities. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

A Looming Threat

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The Pyramid of the Magician, a ruin from ancient Mayan culture. The Mayan civilization may have collapsed when it ran out of fertile topsoil (image by Hobie Caldwell).

Sometime in the next 60 years, the world is projected to run out of topsoil. We are heading toward a day when farmers simply cannot grow food — resulting, perhaps, in wars over the last arable ground, and people starving not because they are too poor to purchase food, but because there is simply no food to buy. What is causing this predicament? …


The World We Eat, Part 3

This is the third installment in a series of articles looking at how regenerative agriculture can heal our land, our climate, and our communities. Read and

Note: The words “bison” and “buffalo” often refer to the same species, Bison bison. While it’s generally considered standard to call these animals bison, Dan O’Brien exclusively calls them buffalo, and I have chosen to use his word throughout this article for consistency.

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Image by Mia Werger

Regenerative by Nature

It was the first time I’d ever touched a buffalo. I was squatting on a spare tire in the back of a rusty pickup, bouncing along a dirt road into a field. The rancher (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten) was taking me and my classmates to see his buffalo in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. When we reached the herd, he handed us a bucket of grain pellets and let us feed the animals from our hands. I remember the buffalo’s black, gritty tongues as they licked the food from my palms, and the dark woolly hair that framed their bright eyes. They were less menacing than I’d been led to expect; the females were downright shy, and even the big bulls were only interested in the food. …


Grassland Farming Could End the “Planet vs. Profit” Debate

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Image by Phonsay P via Unsplash

This is the second in my series of articles about the regenerative agriculture movement. Read the first one here.

EcoSun Prairie Farms

For ecologist Dr. Carter Johnson, the sound of frogs is a signal that he’s doing things right. “We would restore some of the wetlands in one year, and then the next year, there were so many frogs you could hardly hear yourself think,” he boasts. He is telling me about the seven years he spent experimenting with grassland farming: a model of agriculture that makes farming and conservation two parts of the same goal.

Dr. Johnson is a wetland ecologist and professor at South Dakota State University. Perhaps his grandest achievement is the development of EcoSun Prairie Farms , a living experiment in preserving native prairies and wetlands while simultaneously running a profitable agricultural business. …


How Regenerative Agriculture can Turn Competition into Community

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Image by Maksym Diachenko via Unsplash

The Project

As I log on to Zoom, I try to suppress a twinge of nervousness. This is, I hope, the first of many conversations I will have with farmers from around the country. I’ve committed to writing a series of articles about the regenerative agriculture movement-an alternative farming philosophy that offers hope to our worn-out food system. I’m a tree-hugging city kid, never set foot on a farm except to pick pumpkins at Halloween, and I feel rather out of place discussing agriculture-but that is exactly why I started this project.

I can no longer tolerate being so disconnected from the food that sustains me. I’m tired of being followed by a vague guilt about the food I purchase, without a solid understanding of how the food system works. This series of articles is a way for me, and hopefully you, too, to step out of the dark, to take a hard look at the places we’ve messed up, and to find hope in a new kind of relationship between Homo sapiens and the world we eat. …


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In November 2016, I was a bright-eyed 18-year-old, proud of myself for being “an engaged citizen.” I’d attended my state’s primary caucus earlier that year, registered to vote, and mailed in my absentee ballot (I was living overseas at the time). I thought I was doing a pretty good job of changing the world.

“A pretty good job” means something different to me today. Every election shapes history, but 2020’s sure feels unique. Among other reasons: if we don’t elect people who will take drastic action for the climate, then we waste 4 years that we will never get back. This planet doesn’t have 4 years to waste. This year, if I want to feel the same pride as an engaged citizen that I did in 2016, it’s going to take more than mailing in a ballot. The bar for civic duty has been raised. I challenge myself to do more for this election, and I challenge you to do the same. …


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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I lean into the white picket fence surrounding my neighbor’s backyard. I watch her two young children race around the play set, shouting from the top of the slide and bouncing rubber balls across the grass. As they play, content with this sunny day, free from school, my neighbor and I talk, standing six feet apart.

There isn’t much to discuss except the coronavirus. We both express our shock at how fast our lives have gone from normal to a terrifying standstill. We agree — we should be writing this all down.

When her children grow up, will they remember this pandemic? Do they have any idea how unprecedented this is, how no one has any frame of reference for this kind of crisis? And if they do recall it, what will they remember? Will they remember a long break from school, spending time with mom and playing on the jungle gym? Or maybe they will remember only a pervading sense of anxiety and the claustrophobia of sheltering-in-place. …


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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Last week, I woke up to another barrage of online news proclaiming a climate apocalypse. It was too much — I wanted to roll over and go back to sleep. Not for the first time, I thought: I could give this all up. I could go back to worrying about grades and friendships and summer jobs, like a normal college student. In that moment, ignorance sounded so blissful.

But I really don’t have a choice anymore. Contemplating, researching, and protesting ecological destruction are part of my life. Although it sounds depressing, it’s not just about avoiding catastrophe. …


The moral price of destroying our home.

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I come to the intersection that would lead me back to my warm dormitory, but I don’t turn my feet toward home. The night is bitter cold, with a windchill plummeting to -22°F. I’m wearing only thin jogging pants below my waist; the skin on my legs burns and then becomes numb. I don’t care. I keep walking. This is my world. This is the world. I want to live in it. I want to love it.

The one thing most people know about me is that I am obsessed with climate change. I spend my free hours working with lobbyists and planning demonstrations, reading the latest news on environmental legislation and writing editorials about why we should tax carbon. I can regurgitate a veritable book about the state of our climate: why we need to limit global warming to 1.5°C and bring atmospheric CO2 levels back to 350 parts per million, about the carbon-sequestering properties of prairie soil and the relative potency of methane compared to other greenhouse gases. …


Yes, every little thing you do for the planet matters — but not in the way you think.

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Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

As a member of Generation X, I have grown up under a constant pressure to be “green.” Like many of my peers, I learned to use the term before I was really sure what it meant. Was I supposed to plant trees? Recycle? Ride my bike? I had the feeling that the word meant something bigger, but it was used so often, and in so many different contexts, that it felt more confusing than inspiring. If I’m honest, it still feels that way to me. Maybe you’re in the same boat. You’ve done your reading on climate change; you know about carbon footprints, methane emissions, and the plastic piling up in our oceans. You’ve learned to sort your recycling, you’ve cut down on meat and dairy, and you bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Maybe you even have solar panels, buy all your food in bulk, and drive an electric car. …


Why our fight for the climate needs to start with our forks.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I remember the first time I truly encountered my food. A born-and-raised city kid, I was on a backpacking trip at Isle Royale National Park. My group had hiked for miles atop the rugged ridge of the island, and we arrived at our destination during the hottest part of the day. We stumbled into the Chickenbone Lake campsite, ready to pitch our tents and collapse into a needed rest. That is, until I heard someone shout “berries!” …

About

Mia Werger

22-year-old student and environmental activist. I believe in the power of value-based communities and regenerative agriculture to restore a balanced planet.

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