Regenerative Food System
Please note: Our path toward a regenerative food system is fluid and ever-changing due to constant shifting in environment, behavior and climate. This was written in 2018 as a template. We have continued to shape, bend and edit our approach. Please read this as a concept and idea, not a concrete plan. We are always happy to engage in meaningful conversations around how we can best achieve a regenerative and equitable food system.
The idea of a regenerative food system has been around for quite some time. And the practice of regenerative agriculture is happening today and encouraged amongst leaders in progressive farming and food communities. However, discussion around a complete regenerative food system that takes into account everyone impacted, has not -to the best of our knowledge- been attempted or implemented.
The idea of a regenerative food system -and often more discussed- a regenerative approach to agriculture is a idea that has been around for nearly a hundred years. Unlike sustainability, which literally means, to sustain; a regenerative approach is to create a system that aims to create a net-positive impact on a continual basis. We seek to actively reinstate and regenerate the environment and ecosystems that have been destroyed or devastated by industrial agriculture. Once this has been achieved, the system will continue to regenerate, providing a truly beneficial impact that ensures every generation can thrive.
As it stands, efforts are being made across the world to create a healthier food system. We’re happy to see so many incredible passionate people and organizations rallying around a healthier food future. Rarely though, do we see a system or operation take into account everyone and truly push to be regenerative in practice.
We see a few areas where most progressive food systems and operations fall short:
They are still far too meat centric. While we don’t believe everyone needs to be plant-based, we strongly believe that everyone should be eating at least 80/20, ideally 90/10 (plant-based to animal based). And animal consumption must be converted to meat raised in biodynamic/regenerative systems or hunted.
A large portion of the population cannot afford nutrient rich foods.
Accessibility to nutrient rich foods remains difficult.
The vast majority of workers within the current food system are not making a livable wage. From farmers, to kitchen staff to service staff...the system is not designed to be economically prosperous for those who are growing, cooking and serving the food we need to thrive. We must -once again- recognize the importance of food, and those who ensure we have healthy food on our plates.
The impact of nutrient density on human health is not discussed (with few exceptions). Understanding what nutrient density is and how soil health, growing, harvesting practices, and preparation methods impact our health is the root of it all. Further, the correlation of soil health to gut health and the similarity in the biology between the two has to continue to be researched and utilized for optimal health.
The key word in “Regenerative Food System” is, system. Systems thinking requires us to see the whole picture, to see all of the moving parts that require a system to thrive and actually be regenerative. This means that in order to create a truly regenerative food system we will need collaboration and active participation across the entire system. This will take a village, but it’s the power of the collective village that will keep the system intact once it’s been successfully implemented.
Here at Planted Cuisine we are actively working on building a regenerative food system, and until that time, we will be subsidizing and making the best compromises possible. We recognize that we can’t start our business right now (March 2018) and immediately be the model system we hope to operate in. Instead, we will be vocal in the areas that we are falling short, and will actively seek out those who can help us fill in the gaps.
The system that we have outlined is one that places equal emphasis on all stakeholders involved. As we continue to learn and grow, our vision for a regenerative food system continues to evolve and mature.
Currently, our regenerative food system model is focused on creating a closed loop, regenerative system that positively impacts the following:
The localized land and soil on which our food is grown. Specifically, we will be actively buying from and supporting the growth of farming practices that build soil health. Most agriculture practices strip topsoil and deplete the soil of nutrients.
The local environment and ecosystems from where we are operating and purchasing from. Agriculture is the leading cause of climate change, and practices across the board from land management to transportation are contributing. Right off the bat we will enjoy a massively positive impact from simply not using any factory farmed animal products.
The farmers & those she/he employes. This means a livable wage/income for everyone who is involved with farming. We believe farmers are some of, if not the most important members of our workforce and should be compensated/supported as such.
The service and kitchen industry. The goal is to see those who prepare and serve the food we eat as a noble, and highly important profession that pays a livable wage. The system is designed to educate everyone to the idea that food must be priority number one when it comes to human & environmental health. Much like farmers, food service employees are critical to this becoming a reality and our perception of the industry needs to shift appropriately. Currently, the service industry (particularly kitchen staff) endures some of the worst working conditions, hours, pay and benefits.
All products, and energy used in the industry. This means all of the byproducts of this industry must be inline with the regenerative approach. Most importantly this will place an emphasis on eating local to reduce, transportation, packaging and overall energy use. Products and foods that require an environmental footprint will actively seek to find renewable solutions, and be subject to an EFP (Environmental FootPrint) cost in the meantime. We will also actively seek local vendors and artists for items such as plates, bowls and much more.
Community engagement & education in all aspects of the food industry. From farming and cooking to education as a whole. This is about the future, and ensuring everyone has the tools and resources to inspire all generations to be active in their food again. At the end of World War II, 50% of Americans had a “Victory Garden”. We seek to generate that type of engagement again, but instead of fear of famine, we will grow to thrive and engage one another. We want all generations to be inspired to be active in their gardens, kitchens and communities.
Responsible composting, reusing, recycling, donation or repurposing of all products and materials used in the production process.
The end goal of a regenerative food system is for all stakeholders to see a net positive impact from taking part in the system. This will also naturally create strong local economies and communities.
For example, a farmer who is dedicated to soil health grows tomatoes for Planted Cuisine, we purchase all of the tomatoes the farmer grows. This includes ones that are imperfect and in today’s industrial farming system, would never even make it off the vine. The farmer is able to pay a fair wage to his workers because we’ve agreed on a price that ensures that is possible. Transportation of the tomatoes is done via an electric vehicle, or there is a EFP (Environmental FootPrint) cost included. This EFP is donated to a local non-profit organization in the community that shares aligned values.
Once the tomato is in our hands, we utilize all parts of the tomato, parts normally discarded are used in sauces or stocks. The guests who consume the tomatoes experience a positive impact due to the high nutrient density of the fruit and consume less food because their bodies are being fed nutrient rich food. This means the cost of eating isn’t as high as you might expect. By eating nutrient rich foods, we are reducing the amount of food needed to be grown overall.
The remains of the tomato after being used in something that isn’t consumed will go into our compost bins. These compost bins are brought back to the farmer who builds his compost and the utilizes it to grow nutrient dense foods for our guests. By returning the compost back to the farmer, we ensure that none of the products use go into the waste stream to emit CO2 into the atmosphere. By composting, we actively sequester CO2 back into the soil.
Community is another large component of the system. While using regenerative practices in general is beneficial to the community by fighting climate change, and creating healthier living conditions, we also aim to make direct impacts. Naturally, our guests benefit, but we also seek to nourish those who would otherwise be unable to partake in our cuisine. This is important. We seek to be inclusive of all. In this regard, a portion of all of Planted Cuisine’s business is used for community dinners and projects.
The money that was brought in for the dinner that used those tomatoes will help fund a donation based community cooking class and/or dinner. For us, if we price anyone out of the opportunity to consume nutrient dense foods, we haven’t perfected the system. But for now, this portion will be subsidized by other projects and events.
This is a very small example of working within a closed loop, regenerative food system.
Of course, this is a very large undertaking and there is far more to the system that what is outlined above. Understanding the historical context of our relationship with farming and food is critical to understanding why this is so important. Equally important is understanding the direct correlation between soil health and human health.
Chef Loghan has put together a presentation on the regenerative food system approach and is happy to share this knowledge with any interested audiences. Please contact us for more details.