Regenerating the Farm

By Mike Moran on October 15, 2014

The "Young Guns" visit Dr. Dwayne Back in South Dakota.

Standing in a field of teff grass in South Dakota with 15 of Shepherd’s Grain’s youngest growers, I suddenly understood a core component of what makes this method of agriculture truly sustainable – regeneration. As William McDonough illustrates in his book “Cradle to Cradle”, a fundamental principle of sustainability is leaving things better than you found them. Unfortunately, agriculture in the 20th century evolved in a way that relies on intense monoculture and depleting resources to increase productivity. By shifting the focus from the crop to the soil and increasing the bio-diversity of both the microbes in the ground and the plants that we cultivate, we replenish our resources rather than delete them. This leaves the ground healthier and more productive while also reducing the need for chemical interventions. Regenerative agriculture is the key to achieving long term sustainability.

As I looked around at the next generation of Shepherd’s Grain farmers, I realized how this approach is also playing a very real role in the re-generation of the family farm, making farming a viable and profitable vocation for a new generation of growers. Without fertile land to farm, there are no farmers. And without farmers there is no food. While the national average age of farmers continues to rise, the average age of a Shepherd’s Grain farmer is going down, currently at 45.

We took 15 of our youngest growers to visit Dr. Dwayne Beck and a group of farms that have been practicing regenerative agriculture for over 20 years. Regenerative agriculture is characterized by a philosophy of continuous improvement. Improving practices, improving soil health and diversity, and ultimately improving the planet. This is what you support with every bag of Shepherd’s Grain flour you buy.

Thank you for your continued support,

Mike Moran, General Manager