Regenerative agriculture enacts farming practices that restore soil health, enhance biodiversity, capture carbon and strengthen community resilience. Third party certifications like Land to Market and Regenerative Organic verify adherence to standards and convey trustworthy seals for conscious consumers to find on produce, meat and dairy when shopping.
Eating is an agricultural act. With every bite of food we take, we influence the path of food production – whether positively supporting regenerative, ethical practices, or contributing to the continuation of the industrial status quo. Regenerative food certification programs aim to make our role as eaters a more conscious one by providing standards and labels to identify food grown using regenerative methods that revitalize soil health, sequester carbon, support biodiversity, and strengthen farming communities.
As consumers increasingly demand food that aligns with their values around health, environment, and social justice, regenerative certification helps connect them to farmers going beyond just sustainable to enact agricultural practices that have a net positive impact. Let’s explore what exactly regenerative agriculture entails, how certification programs are verifying on-farm practices, and how conscious eaters can vote for regenerative farming with their dollars.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that rebuild soil organic matter, restore degraded soil biodiversity, enhance water cycling and nutrient flow, sequester carbon, improve the water holding capacity of soil, and support biosequestration. The key principles include:
Minimizing Disturbance: Regenerative farming limits tilling and mechanical disturbance to support healthy soil structure enriched with organic matter, microbes, and living roots.
Keeping the Soil Covered: By maintaining living covers on soil like cover crops, mulches, and perennials, regenerative systems protect soil biology, reduce erosion, and feed soil microbes with plant nutrients.
Increasing Diversity: Using crop rotations, intercropping, livestock integration and polycultures builds soil health by enhancing biodiversity above and below the soil surface.
Maintaining Living Roots: Keeping living roots in the ground as much as possible via cover crops or perennials feeds soil microbes and builds soil carbon compounds.
Integrating Animals: Thoughtfully integrating livestock like cattle, pigs, chickens or other animals mimics natural ecologies and cycles nutrients.
When practiced together according to regional environmental contexts, these principles restore whole ecosystems linked to the farm soil, from enhancing plant-insect relationships to supporting the water cycle to sequestering more atmospheric carbon. Regenerative agriculture provides a hopeful paradigm shift for using agriculture as a solution for issues like climate change rather than a contributor.
How Regenerative Certification Programs Verify Farm Practices
So how do we know whether farms indeed adhere to these soil regenerating, mutually beneficial principles? This is where regenerative certification programs come in. Third-party certification bodies have rigorous standards, auditing protocols and labeling programs that offer trustworthy verification of on-farm practices.
Some of the leading regenerative certification programs farmers can attain include:
- Regenerative Organic Certification – Administered by the Regenerative Organic Alliance, ROC certification has a high bar for soil health, animal welfare and social fairness standards farms must meet. It takes a full systems approach – not only evaluating crop production but also ranch management and value chain facilities.
- Land to Market Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV) – The Savory Institute’s EOV program measures outcomes like soil carbon sequestration, water infiltration and biodiversity gains to verify regenerative impact rather than prescribe practices. The eco-outcome assessments inform the Regenerative Product Seal consumers can find on meat, dairy and produce.
- Real Organic Project Add-On Certification – For farms that are already USDA Organic certified, the Real Organic Project’s add-on regenerative organic certification stipulates additional standards for soil health, agroecology, biodiversity and farmer justice.
- Regen Organic Certification – Managed by the Rodale Institute, Regen Organic certification builds upon the USDA National Organic Program requirements with criteria for soil health, animal welfare and social fairness across the whole supply chain.
While programs take varying approaches, what they have in common is third-party audits to ensure meaningful verification of regenerative practices that revitalize farmland ecology, mitigate climate change, and support farming communities. The seals, labels and certification names then offer conscious consumers a more credible way to identify regenerative food products.
How Conscious Eaters Can Support Regenerative Agriculture
Voting for regenerative agriculture with our dollars is an empowering way for eaters to drive the expansion of carbon sequestering, ethical farming practices. By seeking out food certified to regenerative standards when grocery shopping, HERE ARE key ways we can catalyze market demand:
1. Look for regenerative labels at your grocery store – Leading food retailers like Whole Foods Market and Walmart are expanding offerings of produce, meat and dairy with regenerative certification seals like Land to Market and Real Organic Project. Seek out these verified products.
2. Purchase directly from regenerative farms – Visit farmers markets, join CSAs and check out neighborhood grocers and coops supplying directly from regional regenerative farms. Purchasing produce shares and grassfed meat straight from soil restoring farms keeps more dollars circulating locally.
3. Ask your favorite brands about sourcing practices – Question major manufacturers about whether ingredients like grains, produce or animal products are sourced from regenerative farms. Voice interest in seeing third-party verified regenerative ingredients in packaged goods.
4. Support restaurants using regeneratively grown food – Dine at restaurants actively sourcing meat, dairy, grains and produce from soil restoring farms. This expands market stability for regenerative farmers.
5. Share about regenerative certification with your community – Talk to family and friends about seeking out verified regenerative labels. Share social media posts and write reviews when you find certified regenerative food at grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants.
As conscious eaters leverage their purchasing power to expand markets for regeneratively grown food, we collectively nurture the restoration of living soils supporting ethical livelihoods and healthy landscapes. Our food choices do make a difference – bite by bite, we can all play a role in stewarding the regeneration of living soils supporting ethical livelihoods and healthy landscapes. Vote regenerative with your dollar.
Key Takeaways on Regenerative Food Certification
- Regenerative agriculture enacts farming practices like cover cropping, no tillage and crop rotations that restore soil health, enhance biodiversity, capture carbon and strengthen resilience.
- Third party certification programs like Land to Market and Regenerative Organic Certification verify adherence to regenerative farming standards and convey trustworthy seals consumers can find on produce, meat and dairy.
- Conscious consumers can expand market demand for regeneratively grown food by seeking out verified labels when shopping, asking brands about sourcing, supporting restaurants using regenerative ingredients and sharing about regenerative certification with their communities.
- Our everyday food purchases influence whether the future of agriculture protects living soils, mitigates climate change and sustains ethical livelihoods for farming communities.
As eaters voting with our dollars and voices, we each have power in catalyzing a regenerative future for farming aligned with our values around health, climate and justice. Regenerative certification helps clarify our role.