Updated: Nov 30, 2020
On a recent webinar (yes I know, how very COVID!) with over 700 farmers in attendance, there was a plethora of different views. With traditional farming paradigms, the argument was put forward that regenerative farming was the preserve of the rich and not in fact sustainable as it could never feed the world. This got us thinking, is regenerative agriculture the answer? Or is it just over priced food sold to hippies? It also got us thinking about the true cost of food.
Modern agriculture has allowed exponential growth and crop harvest, it has also led to huge profits for chemical and petrochemical companies, producing ever more crop sprays and an estimated 186.67 million tonnes of fertiliser this year alone.
Firstly, let's address the issue that all farmers agree on that our job is to feed people. Can we feed the world with less intensive farming practices? Yes, I believe we can BUT we need everyone's help. Currently we throw away 30-40% of food that we buy. This is an unsustainable level of waste.
Secondly, 90% of the farms in the world are subsistence farms. A subsistence farmer, is one that only produces enough for their own use, without any surplus to trade. In many countries these subsistence farmers use a spade rather than a tractor, yet they already produce around 80% of the world's food. If the efficiency of these farms could be improved by even the smallest percentage, our world food production would increase dramatically.
We already have the potential to feed the world, it is just not the choice to do so.
Next lets talk cost. Does regenerative farming make food unaffordable? The cost of food is complicated and down to more than just the price we pay in the supermarket.
Part of the problem is we have become used to cheap food. In 1970, around 25% of our income was spent on food, this has now reduced to less than 13%. However, other costs associated with food have sky rocketed.
Tax payer money now has to be diverted to farmers to support farms that at are selling food below the production cost.
Health care costs have sky rocketed as lifestyle disease such as type 2 diabetes and obesity have become the norm.
The cost to the planet has been possibly hit the hardest with global warming, extinction of species causing effects that will not only affect us but generations to come.
The choice is then yours, is it better to invest in your health and the health of the planet by buying from farmers and producers who farm in sustainable and regenerative ways, or accept the other costs associated with cheap food?