Why Participate?

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Why Be a Participant in the RAFT Program?

How can I be sure that my family is eating food that comes from a farming system which produces healthy, nutritious crops, is environmentally friendly, socially just, and local? These days we have to put so much thought into how we eat, where we eat, and what we eat. As our population centers have evolved, expanded and industrialized, so too has our farming systems. This has led to a conglomerate of problems relating to our food systems and environment.

Current farming methods continue to contribute to a worsening global environmental and food crisis. Since the era of the Green Revolution, conventional farming practices has reaped havoc on our soils, and our communities at a local and international level.

Traditional farming practices hold many inherent sustainable practices yet the ever-changing world has driven people away from these land management techniques. Studies which blend the old ways and the new ways, combining science with traditional knowledge, have surfaced for centuries in many fields of study, and in many movements across the globe. These agroecology movements provide solutions to our failing food systems. Yet change in our agriculture is a slow and daunting task. We believe these innovations are so compelling that CNGF has become part of this agriculture revolution by initiating a comprehensive training program called RAFT.

USDA sites that our agriculture sector is responsible for approximately 1/3 of the global GHG emissions, and the majority of this is due to centuries of heavy tillage practices, and poor management on fields.

We also know that while our agriculture sector is producing this amount of GHG it is also the sector that can mitigate carbon the fastest, at the cheapest cost mainly through ecologically conscious management systems. Yet, even though we know that there are alternatives to tillage based mono-cropping systems which produce more food, on smaller plots of land, we still cease to change our management ways.

A century ago our organic matter content in our soils was around 6-10%. To date, our agricultural lands hold about 1% organic matter. Top soils have been depleted rapidly with current agriculture practices. RAFT will call attention to these pressing issues in numerous ways by teaching how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester more carbon, while increasing soil fertility and organic matter. Regenerative agriculture models sequester more carbon by transitioning to no-till practices, utilizing poly-culture plantings, continuously planting and harvesting year-round, and keeping healthy native and perennial plants in the soil.

Regenerative agriculture will enhance soil microbial activity by improving underground ecosystems. We look at the significance of these underground ecosystems in relation to our above ground  ecosystems, such as native plant communities and annual cropping systems.

We know there is a continuing loss of biodiversity worldwide. Regenerative agriculture will focus on building biodiversity in multiple ways. Our farms utilize local plant communities in many ways, including:

– incorporating hedge rows of local plant communities

– integrating native edibles into planting areas

– integrating native grassland and food plants into orchards and food forests.

– joining local native plant parks and gardens in our communities.

Utilizing regenerative farming methods, we can begin to restore local genetic biodiversity and ecosystems services.

 

Let’s zoom out and understand something very key about our global agriculture system:

While large scale agriculture seems to produce on the most amount of land and receives the largest capitol return on their efforts, 90% of our food production worldwide is produced by small holder farming systems. 70% of that is owned and operated by women.

Yet even though we are surrounded by family farms, in our globe, healthy food access is limited, to those who can afford to pay for it. Our RAFT training program will provide local agriculture models and create equal access to food production. RAFT farms are for local food sovereignty and local food security. They bring back ancestral plants and heirloom seed varieties. We must bring agriculture into the cities so that growing food is at our front door step. We must educate and provide examples of how to farm in a way that is ecologically sound. To achieve these goals, we need to create support through policy, community, and practice.