Ask AGC: What are some examples of deep regeneration?
The team weighs in
We have another question and answer instalment for you! This week, we cover examples of deep regeneration (a followup from our last newsletter), how we’re funded, and what the first steps might be towards food sovereignty. As always, if you have a question for the team, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment!
Within the U.S. context, are you seeing examples of deep regeneration happening at a regional scale? And if so, are you aware of what processes they are bringing to bear to develop a shared awareness of the current reality and a shared vision of their path forward?
This is a great question, and also a piece of feedback we got from the newsletter on regeneration — that if we’re going to point out the problems with an approach, it’s helpful to list out people who are doing it better. We hesitated a bit on this, though, because we don’t want to position ourselves as some kind of certifier or arbiter of who is or is not practising “deep regeneration,” because that comes with it a set of power dynamics that we don’t necessarily want or think should be afforded to us. There can be many different definitions of what deep regeneration looks like, and what we were proposing is more a set of questions to ask rather than a set of criteria to adhere to.
With all of that said, we know there is also value in providing concrete examples to serve as a jumping-off point, and there are certainly some people and groups that we are inspired by that we can point to, and folks can ask themselves the questions to see whether they resonate.
The first group that came to mind is SAAFON, which is “a regional network for Black farmers committed to using ecologically sustainable practices to manage their land and the natural systems on it in order to grow food and raise livestock that are healthy for people and the planet.” As they continue, the organisation “promote[s] agricultural production and land management practices that are rooted in indigenous ways of knowing that span geographies, space and time.” One of the reasons we believe this is deep regeneration, rather than the shallow version, is because they are asking the difficult questions about legacies of land theft from Black people and how that intersects with the health of the environment. They acknowledge and celebrate the Indigenous sources of that knowledge. They are also addressing head-on how healing from past injustice is an inseparable part of the process of regeneration.
Jubilee Justice is another example. Started by Konda Mason, their website states “We envision an America where the institutional injustices concerning Land, Race and Money, that are rooted in a history of extraction and exploitation, both spiritually and materially transform toward justice, equity and repair. It will require the redistribution of resources, the equal sharing of knowledge and information, cross-racial and personal healing based on a worldview of interdependence and the active acknowledgement of the Earth and soil upon which all life depends as sacred.” Some of their work includes the Black farmers program, which “provides Black farming communities with sustainable, regenerative practices, cooperative ownership and financial security in the whole value chain of their crops.” They are promoting regenerative practices, but coupling this with the reality that alternative ownership and financial models are a necessity for that to be successful, especially in marginalised communities.
Some others we are inspired by (definitely a non-exhaustive list) include Sicangu Oyate, Shelterwood Collective, Hopi Tutska Permaculture, Fibershed, Sierra Seeds, Virginia Free Farm, Black Oregon Land Trust and Soul Fire Farm. We encourage you all to check them out.
We also wanted to point to non-U.S. examples, because that’s where most of our partners are. Some that came to mind were MST, Basudha, MASIPAG, and the Rural Women’s Assembly.
How are y'all funded?
We are funded by individuals overwhelmingly — we currently do not get any institutional or foundation funding. This means people paying for our Substack, sending donations over social media, or making donations on our website. Sometimes small brands will donate a portion of their profits to us as well, or people will match donations, which also help, and we occasionally take on consultancies with other organisations who want to develop a more justice-based perspective in their work. It’s been so humbling to see the response from people over the last couple of years — we’ve been able to double the size of our team and take on so many more projects because of this community support, and we are so grateful for it.
In general, our main principle is that we will not take money with strings attached, which is why we don’t get a lot of foundation funding because this usually comes with stipulations. But if there were opportunities to work freely with foundations, we would definitely be open to that.
What would be a reasonable first step towards food sovereignty? A first demand?
This is a great question, but also a difficult one to answer because food sovereignty is a very pluralistic and localised movement. It looks different in different communities; a key step for one might be the creation of a new market, while for another, it might look like getting rid of predatory seed laws. It would look different across countries, regions, localities, and cultures. So there isn’t necessarily a cohesive set of demands unifying the movement. That’s why food sovereignty is more about creating the conditions for individual communities to seek out the changes they want to see, rather than dictating what it looks like for everyone.
So the next question might be “what are those conditions, exactly?” There are some concrete changes that would certainly facilitate this. Intellectual property laws are a major barrier to food sovereignty, as are monopolies of massive agrochemical companies. Antitrust laws and challenges to IP legislation like UPOV are, therefore, areas one could start. Another is pushing for legislation that treats food as a human right, rather than purely as a private commodity. This has occurred at the municipal level in places like Belo Horizonte in Brazil (we have a post on that coming soon). In the U.S. context, movements like Land Back and efforts to correct the injustice of Black and Indigenous land loss (as we wrote about above) are crucial first steps (without land access, it’s much harder to realise food sovereignty).
Individually, however, we also think the first step is more of an internal shift. It involves training ourselves to look at the food system through a lens of power and asking whether a given proposal consolidates power in the food system or distributes it. We all must develop this muscle for assessing whether actions are moving us closer to the kind of systemic change we want, or moving us further away.
Thank you to everyone who submitted questions this week! If you have any questions for us about something you read in a newsletter, something we posted about on Instagram, or you just want to ask us a question about the food system, send an email to email@example.com, or write a comment on one of the newsletters. Since we haven’t been receiving a high volume of questions on average, we’re going to move from scheduling these Ask AGC emails on one off-week per month to sending them out more ad-hoc once we receive enough questions to fill an instalment.
As always, we thank you for your support! We’ll be back next week with a regular newsletter in your inbox.