Regenerative farming 

Meredith Mackeen 

Meagan Patch, a full-time regenerative farmer in Brome and former teacher has joined Regeneration Canada as the coordinator of a regenerative dairy pilot project here in Quebec. Soil is crucial in the water cycle. Healthy soil is extremely biodiverse and dependent on a network of plant roots. Constant ploughing and application of chemicals interrupt these connections. Without plant coverage, soils compact, and then water penetration is reduced. In contrast, deep roots aid soil in sequestering carbon instead of releasing it. 

“Regenerative farming aims to keep the soil covered with a living crop and never have bare soil,” say Dr. Caroline Begg of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at Macdonald College. “This helps improve storage of water in the soil. And many regenerative farmers find they use much less pesticide.” 

Meagan Patch comments “my regenerative journey started from the need to improve the economic viability of my family farm where the land conditions did not lend themselves to a large cattle operation, requiring heavy machinery.” 

So she turned to managed grazing which allows her to improve the bottom line without external inputs. She relies on buying local hay and has a diversity of livestock such as meat chickens which naturally add nitrogen rich manure, pigs to open up overgrown areas and laying hens to help reduce the fly population and of course for their eggs. 

Dr. Begg agrees: “Regenerative farming focuses on integrating grazing animals into the system.” 

Some farms in Brome County are adopting these practices for soil improvement. Grain and dairy farmers and market gardeners are experimenting with reduced tillage, cover crops and green manures. Some beef farms are moving cattle more frequently among several pastures and bale grazing as opposed to feeding in the same yard all winter. Local gardeners can utilize regenerative principles such as mowing grass less frequently and leaving grass clippings as homes and food for insects.