Regenerative Agriculture: What is it?

Land: Regenerative Wildlife Agriculture Part 1

Casey Keefer

What exactly is Regenerative Wildlife Agriculture?

Welcome to article one of what will become a whole boatload of articles I write on Regenerative Wildlife Agriculture. Like anything in this world, I’m sure there’s a lot of different opinions on what exactly Regenerative Agriculture is in general, what it means and what the benefits of it are…add in that word wildlife and I bet there’s a million more. Come to think of it, the majority of you may very well have never even heard of it before. Since I’m only me, and I can only speak for myself I’m going to give you what I consider to be the basics of regenerative wildlife ag and why I think it matters to us as whitetail hunters.

While there really is no one-size fits all definition of regenerative ag that I can find, I consider it to be inclusive of the following elements:

  1. Farming practices that specifically promote soil health by focusing on regenerating the soil’s organic carbon.
  2. The implementation of no-till agriculture practices. Snavely calls it drillable, not tillable. I concur.
  3. The use of cover crops and a diverse crop rotation strategy while drastically reducing, if not eliminating entirely, the use of synthetics – fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

So there you have it – I consider those to be my three cornerstones for regenerative agriculture. I’m not dumb enough to think that by my own efforts, I’m changing the world 70 acres at a time. But I do see a ton of value in this approach as a hunter first, then a farmer…btw, I don’t think I’d ever call myself a farmer.

For forever and a day, my approach has been that of the 99%- I employed production agriculture practices to food plots in order to provide nutrients to whitetails. Easy enough right? I guess…if you’re good enough with the status quo…which I’m not.

In the spirit of distilling things down to keep it simple, there’s a few things I key in on when it comes to regenerative ag, especially as it pertains to wildlife, that I believe are true difference makers for us as hunters.

  1. We’re working with nature, instead of working against nature. To me, this is the flash point. I’ve always said that Mother Nature had this stuff all figured out long before we ever got here and screwed it up – so looking at agricultural practices that are in harmony with what the natural world intended makes all the sense in the world to me.
  2. When it comes to developing a surefire plan for whitetails, we would all be wise to first understand that if we benefit wildlife in general, and I mean the birds, the squirrels, the bees, the bugs and all kinds of other critters – we will begin to become the architects of a true ecosystem – one that is symbiotic in nature and where one thing benefits the other – and in that kind of environment whitetails straight up thrive.
  3. Diversity. As we’ve adapted the production ag model over to food plotting we’ve stuck pretty tight to monocultures…sure there are a few blends out there that give some variation, but not nearly enough to be of significant benefit to whitetails. As smarter people than I have taught me, through diversity you can achieve species complementariness, and when you can achieve that complementariness you can truly begin to produce nutrient dense forages targeted towards whitetails for specific purposes at specific intervals throughout the year. And that’s where things get really interesting.

This article just barely scratches the surface of what regenerative wildlife agriculture is and will become in the future, but I had to start somewhere. I’ve been fortunate enough to ask some of the brightest minds in the space a whole lot of questions – and I’ve received a whole lot of answers. So a big thank you goes out to guys like Certified Wildlife Biologist Jason Snavely – a guy that’s never been shy to get into the weeds with me on all of this stuff.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, this is the first in what will hopefully become a vast array of articles. This is a learning process for me and I’m an old dog – but I promise I can still learn new tricks. Through these articles I hope to simplify the process so anyone can understand it. I firmly believe that the main reason we have gravitated towards production agriculture practices in the hunting world is because it’s simple to understand and simple to deploy. I hope to show that regenerative wildlife agriculture is the same – and if I can do that, then there’s no excuse for us to not step up our game as farmers so that we can become better hunters and stewards of our resources.