Author: Emily Otte, KU School of Law

Commenting on Regenerative Agriculture Can Change the Fashion Industry–And the World. But What Is It? by Emily Farra for Vogue, available here.

Journalist Emma Farra wrote a thoughtful, useful primer on “regenerative agriculture” in fashion for Vogue. The Global Restoration Project sees regenerative agriculture as an important step forward – and indedde the term “regenerative” sits at the very center of our acronym RESTORATION (in which “ORA” stands for “organic regenerative agroecology) – but it is important to bear in mind that there are risk of “half-measures” or “backsliding” in the implementation of regenerative-agriculture principles by some players. Importantly, we see this piece as a reminder of the wide reach of agricultural issues; it isn’t often that farming and fashion intersect.

Regenerative agriculture seeks to move beyond sustainability. In the piece, a fashion executive says, “The word sustainable is like a dinosaur now.” Instead of organic or sustainable farming, Farra explains that regenerative agriculture “replenishes and strengthens the plants, the soil, and the nature surrounding it.” Regenerative agriculture utilizes techniques like cover crops, pollinator strips, and trap crops, to mimic the diversity of nature. The result is “rich, nutrient-dense soil” that produces stronger crops and those crops, in turn, sequester carbon through photosynthesis. Farra reminds us that these techniques are not new and radical; one brand said farmers in India felt like they were returning to traditional agricultural practices.

The Global Restoration Project encourages those pursuing regenerative agriculture to think deeper. Low-impact, carbon capturing agricultural practices are an important step forward, but the deep agroecology for which we advocate envisions perennial polycultures. The inclusion of cover crops, pollinator strips, and trap crops could be a useful example of a polyculture but the principles of regenerative farming go much futher than that, calling for a “mimicking” of natural systems that involve not just polycultures but also a predominance of perennial species. Farmers (and their customers) should realize that agricultural production could be even more regenerative– fewer chemicals, better crops, and more carbon sequestration– if perennials were used.

Additionally, Farra mentions that brands will have to invest capital in regenerative farming methods; perennials could help lower costs for brands and farmers. The Global Restoration Project remains hopeful and encouraged that fashion is a promising vehicle for moving these conversations into the mainstream.