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Life, Soil, Food and You with Tim LaSalle

By Ken Hill
February 14, 2024

Central Coast Center for Ecological Civilization hosted an exciting event, Life, Soil, Food and You on January 28, 2024, showing how people are building tools for an Ecological Civilization. Tim LaSalle, an eminent consultant in regenerative agriculture, showed us how regenerative agriculture can solve some of the most pressing existential problems we face today. He is Cofounder of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems at Chico State University and is on the board of Groundswell International. His work shows how building alliances with living systems can work better and empower farmers to feed us and leave the world in a better condition when they do so.

Tim LaSalle defined regenerative agriculture as “a natural process of revitalizing living ecosystems by restoring the water, carbon, and nutrient cycles which enhance soil health, biodiversity, nutrient density, and economic outcomes. Regeneration is the foundation of building community, health, and prosperity.” Regeneration and restoration are critical as he points out that we have less than 10 years to deal with climate change and only have enough soil to feed ourselves for less than 55 years. Fortunately, living systems and known techniques are equal to this task. Yes, we still need to stop using fossil fuels and refuse to continue pursuing mindless consumerism, however we don’t need to develop any exotic technologies to feed ourselves or pull down our legacy carbon dioxide. We do need to stop killing our soils and start allying ourselves with plants and the soil biome, which can store carbon from the atmosphere while providing the nutrients the soils need to provide healthy food. As a substantial bonus, healthy soils are remarkably resilient when challenged by stresses like chaotic weather.

Justice and food security are important aspects of this work. Tim LaSalle’s work in Africa aimed to provide high yields to small landholders without tilling and the use of expensive chemicals, which can leave farmers with compacted, eroded, lifeless soils that will not feed their families. Poor farmers that have suffered these consequences can use regenerative techniques to restore soil health and productivity.

Our priority needs to be the welfare of farmers that are growing food, from small landholders that grow most of the food in the world to struggling first world farmers whose margins are razor thin due to chemicals, diesel and equipment that they are using. Minimizing or eliminating tilling and chemicals, and covering exposed land is critical to providing the foundation for resilient agricultural systems that can help solve critical problems like food insecurity and climate change. The change needs to happen fast. This is why Tim LaSalle’s colleagues are starting research efforts to provide quantitative evidence of what they are seeing in the field. The preliminary numbers are impressive: net financial returns up over 50%; microbiome improvements; water infiltration rates improved; soil organic carbon improvement. Farmers are a conservative lot, but many are shifting to the new techniques because the techniques work and positively affect their bottom line. Neighbors and science are showing the way.

Tim LaSalle pointed out the limitations of labeling while trying to transition our agricultural systems. Organic only means no chemicals, which is good, but it does not preclude organic farms from falling far short of regenerative processes to build soil health. Excessive tilling and leaving land bare are common on organic farms. Farmers that do not have an organic certification may be using many regenerative techniques and may be using minimal amounts of chemicals. Sometimes, regenerative certifications allow practices that are antithetical to building soil health. We can help by encouraging policies that help the farmers, not the chemical and equipment companies. Learning about the potential of life affirming systems to feed us and solve our most critical problems can help us see a new way. When we are told that we must dominate and kill to get what we need, we know there is a better way. The differences are profound.

Central Coast Center for Ecological Civilization will continue to bring programs that show the life-affirming alternatives we can use to build an Ecological Civilization. See resources below for more information and some great videos that are similar to our event and bring in even more aspects of Tim LaSalle’s work.

Videos:

BUILDING THE WORLD WE NEED: TRANSFORMING FOOD AND AGRICULTURE, Tim Lasalle 

Tim LaSalle — What Fixes Climate, Hunger, Water Shortages, Erosion, and Nutrient Density? Soil & Nutrition Conference/Hosted by the Bionutrient Food Association

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