Why Supporting Regenerative Farming Should Be Your New Year’s Resolution

regenerative farming
What's The Deal with Regen Farming?Supplied by author

The subject of Ted talks, Netflix documentaries and must-read books, regenerative farming is finally getting the recognition it deserves — but what exactly is it?

In a nutshell, regenerative farming is a way of producing food that benefits the environment, whether that’s by improving soil health, or promoting biodiversity. There’s no definitive approach, but rather a collection of actions that can be taken to improve the future of our planet.

And how about Slow Food?

Not to be confused with slow cooking, Slow Food is “a global, grassroots organisation, founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people's dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us.”

Slow food is also responsible for The Ark of Taste — a catalogue of products, ingredients and suppliers at risk of extinction. Whether that’s a cheese, specific type of bread, or simply a species of potato, ingredients are added to the Ark of Taste, with the intention of shining a spotlight on them.

One brand recognising the above as an essential step in the fight against climate chang is Relais & Châteaux, an association of individually owned luxury hotels and restaurants, who has partnered with Slow Food to highlight the important work they’re doing.

The collaboration means these near-extinct foods are given a new route to market by appearing on menus and (hopefully!) ending up on your plate. And by listing the producer, supplier and place of origin on menus, we as consumers discover so much more about what we’re eating.

Food for change

On a recent trip to Cashel Palace in Tipperary, Ireland, we witnessed how this movement was working in practice. Situated at the foot of a hill — in the shadow of Ireland’s most iconic mediaeval site, the Rock of Cashel — it’s easy to feel a connection to the land.

Inspired by their locations, Relais & Châteaux chefs are embracing the task, growing the likes of lemongrass, melons and ginger in the grounds of Ballyfin and sourcing hyper-locally in a quest to become more self-sufficient and reduce their carbon footprint.

And while we can all agree this sounds like a worthy project — does it result in a menu worth travelling for? Tasked with using the 14 Irish ingredients listed in the Ark of Taste, executive chefs from the Relais & Chateaux portfolio put together a six-course feast showcasing regenerative agriculture.

As Sam Moody, chef at Ballyfin explains “Limiting yourself to only a handful of ingredients, forces creativity”. His canapés included Dexter beef blade croquettes (which was later used in the main course to reduce waste), as well as farmed and foraged baked artichoke with cep compote.

regenerative farming
Relais & Châteaux

Mark Treacy from Sheen Falls Lodge presented the Irish native oyster — the freshest-tasting we’d ever tried — and a clear win for locally sourced produce.

Cashel Palace’s Stephen Hayes came up with agnolotti, stuffed with Shepherd's Store — a seasonal, semi-hard cheese made literally 20-minutes up the road by a passionate, second-generation cheesemaker that we’d otherwise never have discovered.

Later, toasted oat ice-cream was served alongside Ard Cairn Russet (an old Irish apple variety, discovered in 1890) — both of which you’ll find housed in the Arc of Taste, ripe for rediscovery.

But unless we, the customer, demand it, things won’t change. It’s in our power to make decisions about where our food comes from. And when the menu is this tempting, it’s quite the no-brainer.

Don’t have the money for a Relaix and Chateau holiday right now? There’s other ways to support the regen movement. Your everyday purchases can make a big difference too. Here are a few retailers leading the good fight, to name just a few.

Made In Oldstead

Made In Oldstead is the food box delivery service from Michelin-starred chef Tommy Banks, and uses produce grown and reared by Tommy and his family at their farm. A huge champion of regenerative farming, the Banks family over the past few years have been introducing animals to their 160-acre lane in order to promote biodiversity, soak u carbon and enrich the soil which produce some of their stunning products in their Made In Oldstead menus, and their two Michelin-starred restaurants.

Abel & Cole

Retailers such as Abel & Cole lead the way in sustainable shopping. Always on the lookout for ethical, delicious produce, you’ll find a Future Food collection on their site, where they champion trailblazing producers in this space. Current food pioneers include the likes of Wildfarmed Sourdough (a loaf made with wheat that enriches the soil without resorting to pesticides) and British Hemp Co. Oil made with planet-friendly, home-grown hemp seeds. You can even have a go at growing your own grub with this mushroom growing kit.

Farmison

This online platform supports a network of farmers doing things the right way. From animal welfare to offering heritage breeds, sustainable farming to ecological stewardship.

It’s been 10 years since the infamous horse meat scandal (which affected a number of leading supermarkets) and Farmison has never been more passionate about providing a transparent supply chain. New for 2023, customers are now able to scan a QR code on every package of Farmison meat, which provides a complete oversight of where the food has come from. You’ll be able to see the farm via a beautifully shot video, learn more about food miles, find info about the breed (be that Dexter, Galloway or free-range woodland pork), and download recipes.

Daylesford

Daylesford’s 30-acre agroforestry project in the Cotswolds is a regenerative way of working land. By integrating trees, crops and hens in the same space, not only have they seen better crop productivity but it has also encouraged biodiversity and animal welfare, with hens free to seek out shade or run around as they wish. And while switching your whole shop to Daylesford might be unattainable right now, even adding a packet of the brand’s eggs to your next shop is a step in the right direction.