The Future is Regenerative
When I was a little girl growing up in Malaysia, the forests where we lived had more kinds of fruit than I could count. I would go out and collect everything from mangosteens to lychees. Malaysia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with more than 15,000 species of plant and more than 150,000 species of invertebrates.
The UK by contrast has around 70,000 species of plant, animal, fungus and microorganism – and this is declining. At Ewhurst Park, I’m keen to restore some of the biodiversity this part of England has seen in the past. One of the most important tools in this restoration is regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is a collection of farming and grazing practices that work with nature rather than against it, using technologies that revitalise the environment in a dynamic and holistic way.
Regenerative agriculture not only helps to improve biodiversity, it also increases the resilience of an area to climate shocks like drought or floods.
The extreme weather over the summer here in the UK showed just how important this resilience is. With the climate continuing to change, we can expect more instances of extreme weather events that will damage our food supplies and our landscapes. Regenerative agriculture leads to land that is capable of retaining much more water and needs much less irrigation, which reduces the impact of drought and means floods are much less likely to occur.
One of the most important elements of regenerative agriculture is soil health. Recent farming techniques have seriously undermined our soil health. Soil loses its nutrients when it grows just one crop over and over. So-called monoculture has a devastating impact on the health of the environment. Diversifying the plant life that the soil supports actually requires less intervention – meaning we can reduce the amount of fertiliser and artificial pesticides that we put on the earth. This results in healthier soil that produces healthier crops.
It’s also important to diversify plant life because single-crop environments do not make for healthy environments. If only one strain of plant is being grown in an area, it can easily be overtaken by disease and wiped out. It also means that other plants that are useful and nutritious but not being cultivated are pushed out and are at risk of becoming extinct.
If we build a diverse environment, our soil becomes healthier. This is really important because soil is the start of everything.
Good soil health means the ability to adapt to climate change, helps us with water purification and even cultivates microbes that provide us with further nutrients. We’ve seen at Ewhurst Park what is true the world over – nature has an incredible ability to repair and rebuild when left to itself. Human-made farming processes can be destructive; we need to let nature lead the way.
The good news is that there is more than enough growing capabilities in the UK and elsewhere to support ourselves. But we need to change the way we think about what we eat.
Current systems of food production are stretching our natural resources and contributing to climate change – setting us up to fail in the long term. We need to work with nature and not against it, taking advantage of the bounty that the earth gives us.
Read more of Mandy’s articles in Sublime Magazine
About the Author
Mandy Lieu is an exclusive columnist for Sublime Magazine, food systems entrepreneur and philanthropist. Having enjoyed success across Asia as a model, film and TV actress, she moved to the UK in 2015 to start a family and join the revolution in local, sustainable food. Now Mandy is transforming her lifelong passion for nutrition and food systems into a business – she owns The Good Plot, a new farm-to-table restaurant and Ewhurst Park a regenerative farm.