Regenerative farm research has global interest

Jonathan Lundgren feeds free-ranging chickens.
Jonathan Lundgren, Director/CEO of Blue Dasher Farm, feeding the free-ranging chickens on the farm. In addition to his research, by raising livestock, crops and tending bee hives, Lundgren demonstrates the feasibility of regenerative agriculture on a functional farm.
Dan Koeck for MPR News

The Ecdysis Foundation led by Jonathan Lundgren launched the 1,000 farms initiative earlier this year with the goal of a long term intensive study of farming practices on farms across the country.

The idea is to analyze the benefits of a shift to regenerative agriculture practices.

The South Dakota-based non-profit hoped to sign up 350 farms the first year, but the interest outpaced expectations.

"We've had farmers actually register to be a part of this study from all over the world. Africa, all over Europe, Australia, South and Central America. We ended up having more than 1000 farms register to be a part of the study," said Lundgren.

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The project is still focused on farms in 10 eco-regions of the United States.

“This year, our scientists visited 389 farms around the United States,” said Lundgren. “Logistically that's extremely challenging. And the fact that we already have almost all of the data in databases, and we can publish on it within weeks of finishing the field season is pretty remarkable. And so that experimental framework on a global scale is going to be extremely useful.”

Jonathan Lundgren, Director/CEO of Blue Dasher Farm.
Jonathan Lundgren, Director/CEO of Blue Dasher Farm, photographed in the farm's research laboratory on Oct. 22 where Lundgren and his staff develop and evaluate farm management practices to increase biodiversity in crop and livestock production through an approach called regenerative agriculture.
Dan Koeck for MPR News | 2018

The farms underwent intensive data collection this year, creating a massive database of everything from biodiversity to soil composition and the nutrition of harvested crops.

Lundgren said the data will verify some benefits of regenerative practices, but also may challenge some common beliefs.

An $800,000 one-year grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, announced at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference will help expand the project globally.

"Their grant is intended to help with the globalization of this initiative, how can we take what we're learning from North America and scale it to the planet," said Lundgren.

The grant will allow for the creation of an internship program for farmers of color and scientists to ensure diversity within the study. It will also contribute data to a project to track crop nutrition worldwide.

Lundgren anticipates expanding the regenerative research effort “one continent at a time”.

He expects to study another 500 farms next year, expanding the effort to the southeastern U.S. and the Great Lakes region. He plans to publish the first results of the multiyear study early next year.