Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems

Giving Tuesday is a Wonderful Opportunity to Support Regenerative Agriculture

by CRARS Staff member Sheryl Karas M.A.

student checking vegetables at the Farm

At this point most people know that regenerative agriculture is an important part of the effort to combat climate change. When farming is done using conventional farming methods, it is responsible for about 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, putting agriculture in the top five of all emission sources according to the EPA. But regenerative farming practices significantly reduce emissions and actually help draw down carbon from the atmosphere to safely sequester in the ground where it is used to nurture the soil biology and provide nutrients to the plants. Many of the same practices have also been shown to improve water retention and stop soil erosion, both essential factors for farmers hoping to keep their land productive in the face of extreme weather conditions. They also reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides over time, eventually reducing costs for farmers and potentially increasing their profits.

Given all that, you’d think that converting to regenerative farming would be a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, not. The words “eventually” and “potentially” are very problematic to farmers considering making the change because switching over to a different system of farming requires time, money, and a willingness to take the chance. They need to see proof that it will be worth it and evidence about what approaches are most likely to yield the results they most need.

The Need for Robust Research

 For this reason, the Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems is primarily focused on research and farmer education. The latest push is for projects that are producer-centric, farmer driven and farmer supported, meaning that the farmers identify problems that need to be addressed and research projects are developed to match their needs. The center currently has studies underway for specific practices on rangelands, in almond, walnut and olive orchards, for cotton production, and vegetable crops; and the list of producer specialties and approaches for particular farm conditions grows larger all the time. This also means that the need for funding to support this research and the people to do it is growing as well. The Center has identified a particular need for undergraduate interns and graduate student research assistants for all of these projects and the ones we’re adding soon.

Luckily, this dovetails nicely with what students need most as well. On the undergraduate level it has been found that research is the #1 student retention tool. It helps them explore and clarify their career direction, build skills and credentials for entering the workforce or graduate school and, most importantly, allows them to feel engaged in important work that will have a positive impact on the world. These connections and the value of hands-on learning are especially important right now when so many students feel isolated by learning in off-campus virtual environments. 

The Need for Funding

 Unfortunately, funding for regenerative agriculture research is in short supply and the general public hasn’t been made aware of the opportunity that exists to support this field in any way besides buying the products that regenerative farmers sell (if they can find them). That is where Giving Tuesday comes in. This national day of giving, celebrated this year on Dec. 1 st, provides an opportunity for people to support projects that make a difference in our communities and in our world. The Center is joining in this effort for the first time this year, and all the funds we raise will go to undergraduate internships and graduate student stipends. A donation to the Center supports our students to stay inspired while gaining the opportunity to gain valuable experience in regenerative agriculture in a COVID-safe on-farm environment. And that supports our ability to provide the research farmers need at the same time.

The future of agriculture can be regenerative and you can help make that happen! Get involved by joining our campaign. Share this blog post with your friends. Then make a donation.(opens in new window) Thanks!