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Are regenerative practices the work of the country - or the city?

written by

Michelle Sroka

posted on

October 28, 2021

“What can I do?” This is a question I am often asked when we talk about regenerative practices. It’s easy to conceptualize cultivating the soil when you’re standing on a farm. But what if you live in the suburbs or the city?

Many of the people asking me this question already do a lot. They’re conscientious consumers. They make sacrifices to support businesses that meet their standards. They work within their communities to enact change.

Yet that question speaks to the heart of our obligations to the land. Who is responsible for taking care of our earth? And where is this land that we should care for?

Eating pasture-raised food isn’t just about eating food that tastes better and is raised more humanely. It’s also a step toward seeing and treating the land around us differently, by understanding our obligations toward it. 

Over the years, Joe and I have become well-versed in talking about the soil of our particular fifty acres. But the soil doesn’t end at the borders of our farm. It doesn’t go away when it’s covered by a road or the sidewalk beneath our feet.

The land that we are obliged to cultivate is everywhere.

I think this is challenging because, at least in my experience, there seems to be a divide between land that we want to “protect”, and land that we are willing to exploit. This is an uncomfortable reality to dwell upon, but I think it’s true.

When we talk about combating the climate crisis, we often gesture “out there” – to those factory farms, or corporations, or single-use plastics drifting in a faraway ocean. But climate change is as much about how we relate to the earth as it is about the practices or policies we advocate for.

To see the wildflowers springing up in city sidewalks as signs of soil – of the earth – asks us to recognize how precious and fragile all land is. It asks us to think more critically about where we pour concrete, and what we raze or destroy. It asks us to consider the environmental impacts of the places that we populate.

We talk about “regenerating” the soil because we have literally stripped it bare in this country. To me, this means that the work of regenerative practices is not just the work of farmers. It’s work that everyone must participate in.

What would that look like in your community, at your home? Would it mean planting pollinator gardens or vegetable beds? Joining a council that advocates for creating greener spaces? Taking a leadership role on how to make city development more sustainable?

I think this an ongoing conversation, but ultimately a hopeful one. In this spirit, I’ll be adding on a new section to this newsletter – a “Food for Thought” section on sources that offer optimistic stories about how people are working together to combat the problems we’re facing. I hope that you’ll enjoy it – and send me any recommendations you may have.

What are you already doing to regenerate the land in your community? How might you be inspired to do this? I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,

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