Teton Talks: What is Regenerative Agriculture and Why Should It Matter to You?
Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds and enhances ecosystem services – the system and management style of Teton Waters Ranch. We had the pleasure to gain and share an inside perspective of why this system of agriculture is so important, and how it affects not only the cattle and the land, but also the consumer as well. TWR’s very own Ian Chamberlain, Director of Procurement, shared his insight on why Regenerative Agriculture should matter to you.
Chamberlain states, “At Teton Waters Ranch our mission is to make products that are better for the planet, better for the animals and better for the consumers that eat them. We have worked hard to create a network of ranches and processing partners that share and support our vision of a healthier future for all.”
Continue reading for full interview:
- What is the mission of Teton Waters Ranch and how did it begin? Teton Waters Ranch began almost 10 years ago with a mission to rehabilitate land by allowing cattle do what they do best: graze freely on open pasture. “Regenerative” wasn’t a widely used term then, but we had unknowingly taken the leap into a new way of thinking about beef production in North America where improving soil health was the benchmark for success.
- What does it mean to use the Regenerative Agriculture system? Regenerative Agriculture is a system of principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. Regenerative Agriculture aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass (Pastures), reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming and ranching communities.
- Can you describe the term Holistic Management? Holistic Management is a decision-making framework that ensures decisions are economically, environmentally and socially sound and enables you to develop a clear vision of the future you want. Holistic Management has its roots in environmental management and works towards making a change, with properly managed land and livestock. We can use animals to make a positive impact on the land by using principles of holistic planned grazing, where animals mimic the traditional patterns of wild herds moving across grasslands. How does it encompass the mission and values of Teton Waters Ranch? At Teton Waters Ranch our mission is to make products that are better for the planet, better for the animals and better for the consumers that eat them. We have worked hard to create a network of ranches and processing partners that share and support our vision of a healthier future for all.
- In more detail, how does the practice of Holistic Management/Regenerative Agriculture benefit the planet? Holistic and Regenerative Agriculture practices, processes and management techniques work to enhance the functioning of the core ecosystem cycles of energy, water and mineral by enhancing biological function. The ultimate goal is to move closer to how natural ecosystems function when they haven’t been disrupted, to work more in sync with nature. These systems require significantly less pesticides and herbicides as well as less, if not the elimination of synthetic fertilizers and can actually lead to increased yields, better disease resistance livestock and crops.
- Do the animals on these ranches benefit from this method of agriculture? Absolutely, animals raised under holistic management in regenerative agriculture systems do live a much healthier lives than animals in more conventional ranching systems, they are able to live and behave in a more natural way being always on pasture and never in confinement.
- What are the main differences between your Holistic Management approach vs. more common agriculture practices seen in America? At Teton we require all the ranchers we work with to operate under strict Humane Handling guidelines as well as working to support Regenerative and Holistic management practices. We require animals to always have access to pasture and only be fed a natural, forage based diet without the use of hormones or unnecessary use of antibiotics. Conventional/Commodity beef operations are concerned more with finding operational efficiencies that result in short term financial profits rather than creating methods and systems to support long term sustainability. The feedlot being the most obvious example where yields and profitability outweigh humane treatment of the animals and responsible stewardship of the land.
- How do your food system practices help increase the quality of your product? Holistic and Regenerative practices are not only better for the animals and people who work with them but there is new research that shows greater nutrient density in vegetables grown in healthy soils and meat from animals that graze on grasses grown in healthy soils.
- How do you ensure that your animals do not receive antibiotics or hormones? We have a strict internal auditing system as well as external third party audits on our ranchers and processing partners to ensure compliance with all our standards. More importantly we work with folks that share our philosophies and values around regenerative agriculture and good business.
- What some of the obstacles TWR has faced while sourcing beef for our products? Teton Waters Ranch has grown and evolved so has our industry and consumer awareness of how conventional agriculture operates making validation of our claims so important. One of the most difficult challenges has been to find ranchers and suppliers that meet our standards, a lot of producers meet some of, but not all of, our standards. We require 100% compliance to our standards and are willing to support producers in meeting them by providing technical assistance on the industries best practices and by offering a commitment on future production, giving suppliers confidence to operate to our standard and know they will have an outlet once they have invested so much in their production system.
- Aren’t all cattle grass-fed? How do YOU define the standard for grass-fed? Unfortunately not all beef is grass-fed, typically cattle have access to grass until they are 500-600lbs and are taken to the feedlot to be finished on grain. Some of the “Grass-fed” beef we see on the market is finished in a feedlot with stored hay and other agricultural bi-products like processed corn and grains. Our standard of grass-fed is that all animals have free access to pasture and only eat a natural, forage based diet, with no feeding of grains or grain bi-products.
- What’s your favorite Teton Waters Ranch 100% Grass-Fed Beef product and how do you prepare it? I have two kids so our fridge always has Junior Franks in it, they are so easy to prepare and are great as a snack or as a quick meal with a veggie side. For a quick family meal my current go-to is to take our favorite package of dinner sausage, Andouille for folks that like it spicy or a Black Pepper and Coriander for a milder version, cut it into small cubes and throw it in a crock pot with a couple cans of beans (I do pinto or black) and a can of diced tomatoes and set to medium for a few hours. It’s a great quick meal that the whole family loves.