Viewpoint: Why terms like ‘regenerative agriculture’ and ‘intensive farming’ are meaningless

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Credit: Adobe
Credit: Adobe

Quick: What do all of these terms have in common:

  • Regenerative agriculture.
  • Industrial agriculture.
  • Organic agriculture.
  • Non-GMO agriculture.
  • Intensive agriculture.
  • Corporate agriculture.
  • Conventional agriculture.
  • Urban agriculture.

Answer: These aren’t terms farmers use regularly. Honestly, I’ve never heard a group of farmers employ these words while talking about production methods or substantive conversations. Not while getting permits and licenses. Not when negotiating contracts. Not during seminars. And not during transactions.

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Actual conversations about how to farm have little-to-nothing to do with those words. Farmers make decisions to farm in a way that increases yields, requires less inputs, is profitable, preserves the land for future generations, produces nutritious food, fills contracts, lowers costs, builds soil health, fits with the weather, complies with regulations, and actually works. If the choices they make qualify them as one type of farming over another, they usually don’t even know or care. That’s just not the point.

Yet the rest of the world wants to understand agriculture only within those labels. It makes things more simple. Some terms are all good. Some terms are all bad. And where a particular farm fits shapes how activists, and — to some extent — the public, see it.

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