Environmental filmmaker Brandon Gaesser believes small changes lead to big changes. That’s the message of his short documentary. earthen chicken soup, examining the global impact of regenerative agriculture through the lens of two small farms in North Carolina. Rachel Herrick of Slow Farm (Cameron, NC) and Suzanne Karreman of Reverence Farms (Graham, NC) prioritize land management in crop and livestock management. “We think of farms as building ecosystems and gathering crews of creatures,” Herrick says in the film.
While there are no USDA-issued standards for regenerative agriculture, its basic tenets prohibit cultivation and chemical treatment of soil, influenced by Indigenous peoples’ holistic approach to the land. In general, “you put more nutrients into the soil than you extract from the crop,” explains Herrick. Praised at festivals across the country, the film ironically shows that farms that emphasize quality over quantity are more productive than conventional farms. In one scene, Herrick compares his two distinctly different soils on his farm. “This is sand,” Herrick said of the former, and “this is life,” of the latter.
The film will be available to watch on Weather Channel’s free streaming service Pattrn in 2023. Check out goodnaturedfilms.com for more information. And in the spirit of making small changes, the featured farmer shared some suggestions for taking care of the soil under your feet.
1. Plant origin. When choosing plants for your garden, choose native species that are likely to thrive without fertilizer or heavy watering. “Native plants don’t need a lot of encouragement,” says Herrick.
2. Patronize local daycares when possibleshe says, because they are more likely to offer native, organically grown plants.
3. Build an ecosystem. Biodiversity is essential to the health of landscapes and the animals that inhabit them. “The more you can diversify the plants in your garden, the better,” he says Herrick. Plant from seed because there is more seed diversity in a seed packet than in a single transplant.
4. Throw away the chemicals. Herbicides and pesticides deter pollinators and damage nutrient-carrying fungi that play an important role in healthy soil. Use other means to keep weeds at bay, such as laying down cardboard, adding mulch, or weeding by hand, Herrick says.
5. Start composting (or use a composting service). According to Herrick and Karreman, compared to chemical fertilizers, organic matter in compost takes longer to break down into the nutrients plants need, but provides more value over time. Compost creates a healthier root system, adds topsoil, and reduces erosion.
6. Do you have a green thumb? Eat mindfully. If you can’t grow your own food, Herrick and Karreman recommend sourcing from renewable and sustainable organic farms whenever possible. It helps,” says Herrick. And if you don’t eat it, go to the compost storage area.