Potential effects of Regenerative Agriculture & Soil Health Movement on Climate Change

For those of you who were able to attend Soil School last month, it was a full day of excellent presentations, all focused on climate change and its impact on soil health and ecosystems. 

One topic that was repeatedly highlighted throughout the day was the movement towards supporting Regenerative Agriculture worldwide.  These farming practices have enormous potential to reverse climate change through carbon drawdown from our atmosphere. Many of the basic principles behind this movement are things that we as Master Gardeners already know, practice and share with the general public every day. The potential benefits that practicing regenerative agriculture on a larger scale could have on our environment as a whole are remarkable.

Here are some of the key principles & practices of this holistic approach to farming:

No Till. Tilling disrupts soil surface, releasing valuable carbon in the soil which combines with Oxygen in the atmosphere, increasing CO2.

Increase diversity of plant species.

Feed the soil by growing organic matter- plants, cover crops, perennials- year round.  Importance of year round vigorous root systems which improve the overall soil structure.

More surface cover of plants, ending erosion and increasing beneficial microbial populations near the surface. Improving and increasing water retention capacity.


Increasing opportunities for photosynthesis through plants. Photosynthesis pulls the carbon from the atmosphere, converts and naturally sequesters carbon in the soil, improving overall soil health and fertility.  Through “Carbon Faming” (soil carbon capture and sequestration) global trends can possibly be reversed.

Portland’s very own Kristen Ohlson gave a fantastic key note presentation about her research on this topic. Here is a link to her excellent book The Soil will Save Us.

What would happen if regenerative agriculture was promoted and supported worldwide? The possibilities provide a glimmer of hope that both soil health and biodiverse approaches to gardening and farming can have a real impact on reversing climate change. The idea that we can all make a difference and that the actions of ordinary people matter inspires optimism about the future of our planet.

For more information on this fascinating topic: 


California Farmers Try New Strategy To Cut Carbon, NPR Morning Edition story (audio)

California's Latest Weapon Against Climate Change Is Low-Tech Farm Soil

Link to Gabe Brown’s book "Dirt to Soil One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture” 

100,000 Beating Hearts (short film). A pioneering farmer in rural Georgia shares his journey from industrialized beef production to sustainable, humane agricultural and environmental stewardship.

If you missed Soil School this year, you can view and download the presentations from the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District website: https://wmswcd.org/projects/soil-school/