Regenerative agriculture delivers holistic outcomes across soil health, biodiversity and nutrition. Could it also be a catalyst for boosting mental health in farming?
One of the most famous regenerative farmers, Gabe Brown says that he used to wake up every morning and think, “what am I going to kill today?” Now he wakes up every morning and thinks, “what am I going to help thrive?” Brown is a pioneer but he’s not the only one reaping the benefits of nature-friendly farming for his mental health.
The care displayed by regenerative farmers towards their land is mirrored in their relationship with their own mental health. In farming, financial worries, isolation, and suicide are all too common. Calls to rural support helplines have increased or become more complex over the past three years, according to the Farm Safety Foundation.
For farmers in the Mental Health and Regenerative Agriculture study, improvement in mental health was attributed to a return to humanity’s ancient biophilic relationship with nature, embracing a holistic mindset, and cultivating their sense of attunement and resonance with their land.
Farmer and soil health advocate, Abby Rose told us that she knows many regenerative farmers who talk about their change in mental health and the huge impact it’s had on their lives. “Far beyond building a more ecologically sound farming system. It’s also regenerative to farmers, their way of being in the world and what they’re participating in,” says Rose.
Barrister turned farmer and author Sarah Langford told Wicked Leeks (published by Riverford Organic Farmers) that she too has come to believe that regenerative farming might be able to do more than provide nutritionally dense food that benefits, it might also be able to heal an agricultural mental health crisis, too.
Our support for farmers goes beyond just the food they produce. Over the past few years, brands have helped open up the conversation about mental health. Farmers need us as citizens, organisations and brands to share stories of farm life with a wider audience. Because the closer we can bring people to the farmers that nurture the land, the greater connection we will have with each other.
Waitrose is doing just that. At the Leckford Estate in Hampshire, they have committed to farming with regenerative practices. Earlier this year Waitrose launched a dedicated Instagram for real, mud-and-all stories from the farmers who produce Waitrose food. Not only does this give farmers a platform to share their own stories, but it also connects them with people who otherwise would never get to know the farmers who grow the food they buy.
The transition from conventional to regenerative agriculture is not a quick fix. It can take three to five years, with decreased crop yields and investment from farmers. Nevertheless, if we truly care for the people who farm the land, this is a worthwhile endeavour.
Collectively, our goal should be to show that we care about farmers, not just the food they grow.
weMove podcast, What is Regenerative Agriculture? Episode 115, Abby Rose.
Regenerative farming restores people, not just land (26th September 2022) Wicked Leeks.
Gregory, H. (2022). Mental Health and Regenerative Agriculture: Exploring the potential for mental healing through regenerative agriculture. [Master’s Thesis, University of Edinburgh]