Rebuilding soil, replenishing water, restoring biodiversity, revitalizing rural communities and increasing profitability. Pioneering farmers and ranchers are finding that the strategic combination of regenerative farming practices delivers these and other important benefits. Their efforts are turning around the long-told story that depicts agriculture as the source of environmental and social challenges, and flipping to one where agriculture provides solutions.
A warming climate
Hope from regenerative approaches comes at a critical time. The climate continues to warm, with consistently more climate disasters, from droughts and floods to wildfires and hurricanes. Climate trends point to notable reductions in crop production in our future, such as a 20 percent drop in corn by 2050. At the same time, farmers are getting a smaller share of the consumer dollar, severely limiting the capacity of farms to provide the food products needed by a growing global population.
Leading companies such as Wrangler and The North Face are stepping up to this challenge and are supporting farm solutions. Pure Strategies’ report, “Connecting to the Farm,” features companies on the forefront of this movement. Our report describes how leading brands and retailers can deliver on the promise of regenerative agriculture.
Wrangler learned from its cotton producers that improving soil health impacts long-term producer productivity and profitability while reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and improving water quality. Soil health is a cornerstone of regenerative agriculture and our future food and fiber supply. At least 95 percent of our calorie consumption is derived from soil. Yet, roughly half of U.S. soil is degraded.
Innovative farmers have proven that soil building practices work, including cover crops, organic soil amendments, complex rotations and conservation tillage. These tools help soil absorb carbon, serving as a carbon sink and helping to mitigate climate change. These practices also reduce the need for fertilizer and irrigation and lessen soil erosion and water pollution.
The North Face supported early research by the nonprofit Fibershed to evaluate these soil health building practices in wool production. With promising results, Fibershed developed the Climate Beneficial Wool standard and The North Face sourced the certified wool for the “Cali Wool Beanie”, which sold out on their online store during its first year in 2017. They have since scaled the Cali Wool Collection to include a scarf and jacket sourced through regenerative agriculture farming practices.
Wrangler partnered with experts, including E3, the Soil Health Institute and others to encourage the adoption of soil health practices in their cotton supply chain. The company purchased cotton from farms implementing these yield-improving and soil-enhancing practices as a part of a special collection of Wrangler denim jeans.
Brands and retailers have an important role in advancing soil health and regenerative agriculture. Companies need to connect with farmers and ranchers and provide tools, resources, and a market for products grown with these practices. Given the challenges facing agriculture and those posed by a rapidly warming planet, our future depends on it.
Let’s look back in ten years and remember the day we pushed ourselves down this path, rather than regretting that we waited too long to start the journey.