(According to Wikipedia)

In permaculture, a regenerative farm is one where biological production and ecological structure are growing increasingly more complex over time, but yields continue to increase while external inputs decrease. The way that regeneration is determined in this construct is by whether the components in the system or actions taken in the system increase both biological diversity and biomass. The overall health of the ecological system in which the farm and its humans are guests is determined by the health of the water and soil. This is achieved by strengthening (making moreresilient, redundant) three key components of regenerative ecosystem management:

  1. Increased biomass

  2. Increased biological activity

  3. Intentional remineralization

I think a lot of economists in the financial sector, if they wanted to know what would be a good model to base economies on, they could probably look no further than a tree or a forest or a perennial grass. Much of our agriculture is annual based. We’re living fast and dying young.
— Darren Doherty, founder of Regrarians



The foundation of regenerative agriculture has occurred over thousands of years, a span of time when most farming was organically practiced worldwide. Even then, its knowledge base was not global because its practitioners excluded traditional non-western local knowledge systems, about which we are only beginning to learn more. It is not possible to list the many contributors or contributions to this process over many centuries. Yet, some voices and systems should be illuminated. Among these, in alphabetical order, are the following:

William Albrecht (1888–1974), an agronomist at the University of Missouri for many years. Through his writings, lectures, and radio programs, Albrecht promoted the intimate relationship between healthy soil and animal nutrition, a relationship that includes humans. Feed the soil to feed the plants to feed the consumer was his mantra.[6]

Lady Evelyn Barbara “Eve” Balfour (1899–1990) was a founding figure in the 20th century organic movement and an organic farming pioneer. She was one of the first women to study agriculture at an English university, graduating from the University of Reading, and began farming in 1920. By 1939, she had launched a privately funded experimental farm, called Haughley, to test the principles of organic farming. The initial findings of the work there and her research were published in Living Soil (1948), which has become an organic farming classic. Haughley was the first long-term comparative research project measuring results from organic and chemically based farming. What the results of her work at Haughley revealed should have led to a global push to institute sustainable agriculture throughout the British empire and beyond, but that was not to be, as the global power of post-WWII capitalism undermined such efforts.[7]

George Washington Carver (1864–1943), inventor and scientist of Tuskegee University, was the grand-daddy of sustainable agriculture in the USA. His contributions are too many to detail here, but among them is his development of the U.S. agriculture extension system and his many inventions in polymer science. His influence on U.S. agriculture in the first half of the 20th century is not fully appreciated nor, more tragically, even known by contemporary proponents of today’s biointensive farming methods. Carver’s scientific research was the foundation of US agriculture policy under two generations of Secretaries of Agriculture. His death in 1948 marked the end of organic agricultural practices in commercial agriculture in the United States until recently, as petrochemical companies and Agribusiness corporations competed successfully to control the actors in the various industries.

Alan Chadwick (1909–1980) was a leading innovator of organic farming techniques and an influential educator in the field of biodynamic/French intensive gardening through much of the 20th century. A student of Rudolf Steiner, Chadwick is often cited as inspirational to the development of the “California Cuisine” movement.

George Chan (born 1923), former Ministry of Agro-Industry & Fisheries of Mauritius, and Mae-Wan Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in Society, are architects of Dream Farm, a model of a sustainable zero-emission, zero-waste production farm that maximizes the use of renewable energies, turns residues into food and energy resources, and eliminates the need for fossil fuels. A core principle of Dream Farm is that sustainable systems are organisms, comprising the farmer, livestock and crops. In a Dream Farm, very little input is wasted or exported to the environment; most are recycled and kept inside the system by consciously integrating food and energy production. Mr. Chan has been a pioneer in the field of sustainable recycling of waste using agro-ecological systems. He developed the Integrated Farming and Waste Management System, which involves a sustainable cycle in which matter and energy circulate through different stages, dramatically increasing yields.[8]

Field Hamois Belgium Luc Viatour

Masanobu Fukuoka (1913−2008) of Japan lived a long and dutiful life in partnership with his environment. He was a farmer, activist, and author of the practices and theory of natural farming, on which he based his four core uncompromising principles: no cultivation, no (chemical) fertilizers, no weeding, and no pesticides. Among his teachings is that for a farmer to be successful, he must form a partnership with the natural environment, derive an intimate understanding of it together with the plants a farmer chooses to grow. Features of his philosophy are present in most contemporary farming practices. His “seed balls” cultivation innovation is widely used in many horticultural environments and in commercial retail products, including lawn seed.[9]

Takao Furuno (born 1950) of Japan is the architect of the Aigamo Method, a modernization of an 800-year-old Chinese technique of using ducks to promote sustainable rice cultivation. Funuro’s system is polycultural, combining rice cultivation with duck husbandry, aquaculture, and vegetable production. Together, these enterprises provide income from rice, vegetable and flower production, eggs, meat, and live ducks from the aigamo, and fish from the paddies. The aigamo ducks are a breed derived from wild and domestic ducks, whose ducklings provide the labor for cultivation, pest control, and manure for fertilization of the rice paddies. This beneficial marriage between duck and rice eliminates dependency on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, molluscicides, fossil fuels, and heavy duty equipment as costs, while sustaining a safe environment for farmers to work and simultaneously increasing net production and farm income.[10]

John D. Hamaker (1914−1994) was a mechanical engineer, ecologist and practical visionary who from 1968 to 1994 tried to awaken the world to the crucial need to remineralize the soils and regenerate the Earth's life-support system. His motivations included a profound desire to help create a healthy, just and real civilization rooted in ecological wisdom, and his realization that malnutrition and disease followed by famine and glaciation could be ended by a total human commitment.[11]

Julius Hensel (1844−1903), a German miller and author of Bread from Stones. In the 1890s, Hensel was an early advocate of restoring trace minerals to soil with dust from primeval stones and reported successful results with his steinmehl (stonemeal). It is said that his ideas were not accepted due to both technical limitations and financing. But, according to proponents of his method, Hensel’s opposition from manufacturers of chemical fertilizers, set the stage for what would happen eventually in American agriculture following WWII when there was little opposition and the rise of the U.S. petrochemical industry. Today, Hensel's pioneer work in opposing the use of chemicals in agriculture found rebirth in the Organic Movement a half a century later. Yet, Hensel may be more modern than the most modern agricultural reformer. On the basis of theoretical chemical considerations, supported by practical tests, he claimed that his rock dust can replace not only chemical fertilizers, but all animal ones as well.[12]

Sepp Holzer (born 1942) of Austria, who, with his wife Veronika, have created a diverse and natural way of growing food in an unconventional way by using a terraced system of mounds on the Austrian mountainsides, referred to as hugelkultur. The mounds are built on a foundation of organic materials, a traditional way of growing in the region of The Krameterhof in Lungau, Austria, just not at 1000+ meters above sea level. Holzer's edible microclimates are considered one of the few perfectly working permaculture systems in the world. After almost 40 years of continuous production, the Holzer farms contain a complex of pond culture, terraces, water power station, thousands of fruit trees cultivated among companionable plant families, thirty different types of potatoes, many different grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs and wildflowers are growing just about everywhere — in the forest, on extremely steep hills, on rocky outcrops, on stone pathways, and around ponds, all without the use of any pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers.[13] Their video, Farming With Nature: A Case Study of Successful Temperate Permaculture, is widely distributed on the Internet and a must-view for anyone looking to develop a sustainable collaborative system of food production.[14]

Sir Albert Howard (1873−1947), an English botanist, was an agricultural advisor to the British government in charge of a colonial research farm at Indore in India. Howard has been called the father of modern composting for his refinement of a traditional Indian composting system into what is now known as the Indore method. It was at Indore that Howard documented and tested Indian organic farming techniques. Sir Howard shared this knowledge through the Soil Association in England and the Rodale Institutein the United States. In his later years, he was the editor of the influential journal, Biodynamics Journal.[15]

Elaine Ingham, a microbiologist and founder of Soil Foodweb, Inc. in 1996, is recognized as a premier authority in soil microbiology and the soil food web. Through her pioneering research and lectures, Dr. Ingham has been instrumental in popularizing the importance of soil health and the growing public understanding of the soil food web in sustaining this health. Since January 2011, she has been the Chief Scientist at The Rodale Institute where she continues to study the microbial life of the soil and to give lectures on her findings.[16]

John Ikerd, a successor to William Albrecht and professor emeritus at the University of Missouri, continues to be a staunch advocate for the “small” family farm and farmers. Today, he is an active crusader for sustainability in the US food system. His views and writings are available on his Website and at YouTube.[17] Dr. Ikerd is author of The essentials of economic sustainability,[18] Small Farms are Real Farms: Sustaining People through Agriculture[19] and Sustainable Capitalism (2005).[20]

John Jeavons, the inspiration and architect of a sustainable 8-step food production method officially known as Grow Biointensive, which combines elements of French intensive and biodynamics techniques. The Grow Biointensive approach is promoted by Ecology Action, a non-profit that operates a research mini-farm in Willits, CA and a retail store called Bountiful Gardens. Both projects promote the Grow Biointensive method teaching people in more than a 100 countries. Ecology Action's research and publications has several goals: (1) enabling small‐scale farms and farmers worldwide to significantly increase food production and income by (2) utilizing predominantly local, renewable resources to decrease expenses and energy inputs (labor, land, water) and (3) building fertile topsoil at a rate 60 times faster than in nature.

Patricia Lanza was born in 1935 in Crossville, Tennessee, to teenagers George and Mamie Neal. An only child for eight years, she spent her early formative years with grandparents while her parents worked in Detroit, MI. She perfected and authored several books about lasagna gardening or sheet mulch gardening, a type of gardening perfected by Ruth Stout in the 1950s, but whose books had gone out of print.[21] Lanza introduced a new generation of gardeners to the ultimate no-till method of growing in which little or no labor is wasted digging and amending soils. Instead, the lasagna method feeds the soil biota from above and encourages the soil food web to do the work of aerating and mixing the nutrients into the soil below.[22]

Jacob Mittleider, architect of the Mittleider Method, a popular contemporary method of soil-less growing. Mittleider’s system is being continued and refined by Jim Kennard at the Food for Everyone Foundation.[23]

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, architects of Permaculture or “permanent agriculture,” a holistic approach that combines ecological design with natural principles of horticultural production. Both men are ardent advocates for creating communities that work in harmony with nature rather than in opposition to it. Permaculture is a worldwide phenomenon whose principles and practices have been published in many of the world’s languages and is rapidly being integrated into public planning projects across the globe. Video presentations about Permaculture and its practitioners are broadly distributed on the Internet and can be found at YouTube.[24]

Maynard Murray (1910–1983) was a medical doctor and a pioneer in merging the disciplines of biology, health and agriculture from the 1930s when he began experimenting with “sea-solids”–mineral salts that remain after total sea water evaporation. Around 1940, he began to perform extensive experiments to determine when the proportions of trace minerals and other elements present in sea water were optimum for growth and health of both land and sea life. His extensive experiments demonstrated repeatedly and conclusively that plants fertilized with sea solids and animals fed sea-solid-fertilized feeds grow stronger and more resistant to disease. Murray recounts his experiments and presents his conclusions in his classic work, Sea Energy Agriculture (1976; republished in 2001). Largely ignored during his lifetime, his lifelong quest contributed greatly to our understanding of the role of trace minerals in the healthy growth of all organisms on the planet, including humans.[25]

J.I. Rodale (1898−1971) was an early proponent of organic and regenerative farming and founder of the Rodale Institute in the United States. He is credited with launching organic gardening practices more broadly in the United States through his writings, research, and publishing enterprise. The Rodale enterprises continue to make contributions around the world through their advocacy, research, demonstrations, and publishing.

Robert Rodale (1930−1990), former CEO of The Rodale Institute, was a major advocate of regenerative agriculture, fostered the Regenerative Agriculture Association, published numerous books on the subject, funded research, established demonstration fields, sponsored practitioners in the field, and spread the knowledge system of regenerative agriculture around the globe. He coined the concept of ‘regenerative organic agriculture’ to distinguish it from ‘sustainable’ agriculture.

Bhaskar H. Save (born 1922) is creator of the highly successful Kalpavruksha ("wish-fulfilling tree") Farm in Umbergaon, India established in 1953. After practicing traditional agriculture for many years with poor results, Sri Save committed his resources to organic farming and developed a system of natural farming that Masanobu Fukuoka, the noted founder of natural farming, praised as the best example of natural farming he had witnessed anywhere. Sri Save used intensive interplanting in which short life-span vegetables (alpa-jeevi), medium life-span species (madhya-jeevi – such as banana, papaya, and custard apple), and long life-span species (deergha-jeevi–such as chikoo, coconut, mango) are combined and phased in over time until the long life-span species mature.

Rudolf Steiner (1861−1925), an Austrian and one of the great minds of the 20th century, is the architect of the Biodynamics method of agriculture, the first truly modern ecological food production system. Biodynamic agriculture was one of the first systems also to treat farms as unified and individual organisms or ecosystems. The system has its basis in a world-view referred to as Anthroposophy, which Steiner developed from his marriage of spiritual, cultural, and intellectual life experiences. Biodynamics emphasizes a holistic balance between the soil, plants, and animals in a closed, self-nourishing system, with an emphasis on animal waste products and composts and exclusion of artificial chemicals. Some approaches are unique, such as (1) the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and (2) the use of an astronomical sowing and planting calendar. The biodynamics method continues to have a large following worldwide, and deservedly so—Rudolf Steiner was a brilliant thinker in many ways.

Ruth Stout (1884−1980) lived a long, active and productive life. By the 1950s, she had perfected a “no-till” method of gardening that she promoted as “no work” in her writings about gardening, including two books, How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back and Gardening Without Work for the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent.The latter volume was republished by Mother Earth News in 2011.[26] Her work has led to other innovations in no-till practices, such as slash and mulch in the tropics.

Charles Walters (1926−2009) was an economist, journalist, farmers advocate in the first phase of his career with the National Farmer's Organization and founder, publisher and editor of Acres U.S.A., North America's oldest publisher on production-scale organic and sustainable farming in the second phase of his extraordinary life. Walters penned hundreds of articles on the technologies of organic and sustainable agriculture and is author or co-author of several books, including Eco-FarmWeeds: Control Without PoisonsUnforgiven, a book about visionary farm economist Carl Wilken, and many more. In 1970, shortly after he started Acres, Walters coined the term "eco-agriculture" because he wanted to unify the concepts of "ecological" and "economical" in the belief that unless agriculture was ecological, it could not be economical.[27]

Keyline Irrigation, Taranaki Farm  SEE DARREN DOHERTY REGRARIANS

Don Weaver, a protégé of John Hamaker, is an ecologist and gardener, who assisted Hamaker in advocating for policies and practices of soil remineralization, biosphere regeneration, and climatic stabilization. He continues to promote these causes today.[28]

Booker T. Whatley (1915−2005), a horticulturalist and beneficiary of the George Washington Carver tradition, may be best remembered for popularizing U-Pick farms and their direct marketing approach through fee-based customer subscriptions. But, he was also among the first practitioners of sustainable agriculture to focus more directly on the economic concerns of small farmers, encouraging them to identify high value crops and enterprises that were more profitable on smaller units of land, such as shiitake mushrooms, the husbandry of small ruminants, specialty cheeses, and much more.[29]

P.A. Yeomans (1904−1984), an Australian geologist and the architect of the Keyline design, an innovative solution to farm water management, is little known outside of Australia for his many contributions from sustainable agriculture to soil fertility to farm management in the early 20th century. His use of land topography to harvest rain water into ponds is quietly used today in the construction of swales and berms in production units ranging from backyard gardens to the monumental landscaping practices of Sepp Holzer today.[30]