Cultivating Resiliency

What does it mean to be resilient?

Resiliency comes with the cultivation of health and wellness. A resilient nature is made of a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy community. These pillars and their interconnectedness provide strength and willpower to withstand and overcome any challenges that come our way. Not only that but coming out with renewed strength and vitality.

Throughout my time with Charlotteville Brewing Company, I’ve become aware of how diversity plays an essential role in building a resilient nature. We need a diverse range of resources to draw from, in order to face a diverse set of challenges. Just as a healthy diet must consist of a wide range of foods and nutrients, strong mental health relies on a wide range of tools. These can include doing the things that bring you joy, being part of and contributing to a community, spending time in nature, and practising gratitude.

We get to work closely with the natural world in Norfolk County, right here in the Carolinian forest. The beauty of our planet and her resiliency are showcased to us through the changing seasons. Her talents in regeneration are on display right now in the greens of springtime. Only by respecting her and honouring her, will she keep revealing her dynamic and holistic means for survival.

Our farming philosophies and methods are deeply rooted in cultivating resiliency in the same way.  Regenerative Agriculture and Agroecology work in harmony with nature to improve our health. This means building sustainable systems of farming for our community to rely on. They will enable us to face the complex challenges of the climate crisis and food security that are right on our doorstep.

Regenerative Agriculture and Agroecology: Principles

-“Do no harm” to the land while simultaneously improving it

-Main priority is soil health:  rejuvenating biodiversity from the ground up

-Producing high-quality & nutrient-dense food

-Food Security

-Productive farms contribute to productive communities

A diverse diet of healthy foods is the basis of a resilient immune system that will prevent and stand up to disease and infection. The same goes for our planet: her immune system relies upon building healthy soil. Soil health is intrinsically linked to the total health of our food system. Soil health affects everything from plant health to human wellbeing and the future of our planet (Regeneration International).

The Rodale Family of the well-known Rodale Institute are at the forefront of the Regenerative Agriculture movement through the US from the 1970s and beyond. Robert Rodale coined the term “regenerative organic” to describe a holistic approach to farming that encourages continuous innovation that leads to improved environmental, social, and economic conditions.

 Agroecology has also emerged at the global level. Based on principles first described in the 1980s in Latin America, particularly in pioneering work by Dr. Miguel Altieiri, agroecology emphasizes the interconnectedness among environmental, agricultural and social dimensions of food systems. It includes the concept of a “dialogue of knowledge” among farmers and scientists. It has been embraced by social movements around the world, especially La Via Campesina, which represents small-scale producers (“Revisiting Crisis by Design: Organic, agroecological and regenerative agriculture”).

Why are these farming methods so important in the face of climate change?

Regenerative agriculture is a movement that has grown in response to the Green Revolution in Agriculture. The Green Revolution started in Mexico in the 1940s and spread worldwide from the 1960s onwards. This revolution marked a shift away from small family-operated farms to large industrial-scale agribusiness. Large-scale monocropping and highly concentrated livestock production were developed in the guise of fighting world hunger. In reality, this broken farming system of over-production (think cash crops) actually just increased profits for the few at the top (4 agrochemical corporations have 60%+ control of seed, machinery and chemical global markets).

Breeding a monoculture of harm:

Agriculture is now the leading source of pollution in many countries. Mass monoculture has led to the loss of the rich biodiversity of the soil and our food supply. The intensive use of chemicals has not only been a leading cause of global warming and mass climate change due to carbon emissions, but has also contributed greatly to soil desertification, erosion and a polluted water table. The agricultural sector uses 69% of the world’s fresh water supply while damaging what’s left. Half of all agricultural topsoil has been lost as a result (World Wildlife Foundation). We are left with degraded soil and degraded health (World Bank).

Hunger is subsided in the short-term, but at what cost?

And who really pays the cost?

We do. Our planet surely does. Our children and grandchildren will be left with depleted resources. 70% of our population, especially in the Global South make a living through farming and are further locked in poverty through agribusiness, while also losing food security through globalization.

Mother Earth lives in terms of richness that never relies on credit. Whereas the credit agribusiness takes for curing world hunger just breeds more; problems create problems while solutions sustain solutions.

“Because agroecology is not only a transition to ecological growing practices but a shift in power from big agrochemical corporations to small-scale communities – who make up 70% of the global hungry. Thus, it redesigns agricultural systems by “reshuffling the wealth produced and regaining of control” for small-scale communities.”

Astrud Lea Beringer, The Ecologist, “Agroecology can be our new food system”

Regenerative Agriculture marks the start of The Brown Revolution: shifting our focus to building soil ecology and using that as a means to increase agricultural productivity in the long term. This rejuvenation of small-scale farms enables local farmers to feed their families and local communities. It does not require huge inputs of capital or high technology. The methods can restore the land, and help it to produce the food that it is meant to produce. If the soil we grow our food in is healthy, then the nutritional value of our food improves. Healthy bodies; healthy minds; healthy communities.

Principles that take us beyond farming:

-Developing practices that combine modern science with local knowledge from our community

-Co-creating and sharing of this knowledge

-Human and social values

-Culture and food traditions

-Responsible governance

-Circular and solidarity economy

-Diversity

-Eating locally and Seasonally

-Resiliency!

Regenerative Agriculture & Agroecology: Techniques

-Organic and sustainable farming (no chemicals)

-Preserve and use regenerative energy sources

-Conservation tillage

-Cover crops

-Crop rotation

-Composting

-Mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping

-Carbon sequestration

-Seed saving

Agroecology is a way to connect and express regenerative techniques of farming in more localized markets, like our Norfolk community which we produce for here at Charlotteville.

A look at some of these Initiatives on our Farm:

We grow a diverse range of organic produce right on sight. Our most popular beer uses only hop varietals grown on our land (Chinook, Cascade and Galena), and is fittingly called Local 519. We use well water for brewing. It contributes to the terroir of our beer.

We have a windmill and water tower on our farm that will soon be functioning as energy sources in our farming techniques.

Seed Saving from previous years and sharing with neighbours is essential to improving our food security.

milkweed seeds held in palm of a hand
Milkweed seeds

 No chemical inputs: we compost everything we can from the brewery and kitchen to use in our gardens and hops. In addition, we use manure that we purchase from local farmers.

Companion planting is a farming method that couples and groups certain plant species together who share nutrients through the soil, and help each other repel pests. This relies upon and contributes to the biodiversity we have on the farm. There are also certain flowers that repel pests. Plants work as a community to face diverse challenges much like we do.

Crop rotation is key.  Some plants take certain nutrients from the soil while others give off certain ones into the soil. It is important to rotate these to maintain the health of your soil.  For instance, we rotate our tomatoes with our legumes to balance nitrogen.

Cover crops prevent erosion and soil desertification. Leguminous cover crops add nitrogen to the soil through photosynthesis and when they are tilled back into the soil, they are called green manure. They also contribute to carbon sequestration and keep weeds under control in the meantime. Last year we planted rye in our open fields and we planted oats and mustard in our hop yard.

More than half our acreage is left natural and offers help battling climate change through carbon sequestration, and prevention of erosion and flooding. It is also an opportunity to soak in the beauty of the Carolinian forest while sitting on our patio or working on the farm.

We have a great team that forms our community on the farm. We get to do jobs that play on our talents and abilities and enjoy our time at “work” (I have trouble calling it that sometimes). We get physical activity and get to be outdoors. Our team all make a living wage and have access to health benefits, so we have a sustainable livelihood. We treat each other with respect and equality and can draw on each other’s diverse backgrounds to share knowledge and inspiration. This extends to how we treat those that visit us and consume what we produce on our lands. The owners hold a responsible governance of us and our community as we are able to contribute to the local economy as a result. These are some essential social determinants of mental health.

We take part in culture and food traditions on the farm. We offer seasonal menu items and beers. What we don’t grow ourselves, we purchase from local Norfolk farms, which contributes to the local economy. We also take part in food traditions like preserving through the fall and winter. Many people in Norfolk share these values. Those who wish to learn about them, we are happy to share ideas and recipes. We hold National Farmer’s Union meetings at the brewery, where ideas and local knowledge is exchanged.

Farmacy is our farm stand that gets stocked with fresh veggies each weekend. Our team also get to take home a lot of our surplus to make healthy meals with.

Being with Charlotteville Brewing Co is a constant and renewing adventure in learning how to transform hardships into opportunities for growth. May each season feed the next, as opposed to fee the next. We wish to set an example with regenerative agriculture and agroecological principles and techniques to do our part in building a resilient home for our future generations.

By: Ms. E Hoey

 Further reading on Agroecology and Regenerative Agriculture:

Soil Not Oil & The Stolen Harvest

By Vandana Shiva

Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

By Joel Salatin

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

By Michael Pollan