Kathy and Glen Beaton have gotten used to traditional farming methods, switching to organic years ago.
However, for the last year or so, they have been taking a new step, this time toward “regenerative farming” at their StoneCroft Farm in Black Creek.
They are taking part in webinars in the online Living Soils Symposium the week of Feb. 22 to 26. The event is the work of national non-profit Regeneration Canada, which is working to promote regenerative soil practices in agriculture in response to what it sees as soil degradation that has resulted from industrial agriculture practices.
The Beatons each grew up on farms. In 1977, they purchased the Kelland Road property and moved there a few years later, then started down the path to organics. The farm focuses on turkeys but also produces blueberries and a variety of grains.
The process of going regenerative has made them look at what they’re doing to their soil, as well as how to revitalize it. In their case, it’s not so much an issue of nutrients and NPK levels — nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium — but of microbes — in other words, more biology than chemistry.
“We’ve always used compost … without knowing what was in it,” says Kathy. “There’s more to it.”
Since they started regenerative farming, they have been working with a biologist, Jo Tobias of RootShoot Soils, who has helped them learn more about how important proper compost “tea” is.
“We have a microbiologist to give us a hand,” says Glen. “She certainly has changed our approach…. We’re really happy with Jo. She’s really good.”
They’re still in the early learning stages, but so far they have found the soil has a need for more fungi, but they expect even over this year, they will be learning still more.
“It won’t happen all in one year,” says Glen.
Regeneration Canada says regenerative farming will ensure the health and sustainability of the country’s food supply, something that has taken on greater importance this past year as COVID-19 exposed the challenges around food security. At the same time, environmental issues such as climate change continue to pose serious risks.
“This reality is something all Canadians should be concerned about, as soil is integral to our ecosystem and the source of most of our food,” founder and co-director of Regeneration Canada Gabrielle Bastien says in a news release.
The organization is hoping to make more people aware of regenerative farming and farmers like the Beatons who are practising it. It has even developed an online, interactive map showing farms across the country on the website, which includes other information about the agricultural practice.
The Beatons hope regenerative farming will help them improve their soil as well as their grains, and they’re also spearheading efforts to make the switch with a few other farmers in the Comox Valley.
“In my mind, we have to change,” Glen adds. “Let’s get on with it, let’s try something.”