The Difference between Organic Agriculture, Regenerative Agriculture, and Organic Regenerative Agriculture

Mar 22, 2023

The world grows 95% of it’s food in top soil, which is roughly the first 2 to 8 inches of soil in any garden or field. This soil is where nutrients are retained and delivered to plants, where carbon is absorbed, and where water is filtered.

While some top soil degradation can naturally occur from forces like wind and heavy rainfall, some farming practices like intense tilling and using large amounts of synthetic pesticides and herbicides play a major role in top soil erosion.

According to Volkert Engelsman, an activist with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, we are losing 30 soccer fields of soil every minute. And some experts claim that all of the world’s top soil could be gone in only 60 years. With everything we know about top soil, this is obviously very concerning.

This is where the importance of Organic Agriculture, Regenerative Agriculture, and Organic Regenerative Agriculture come in to play. Let’s look at the benefits, where they differ, and why they are all important for the future of our food and planet.

Differences between Organic Agriculture, Regenerative Agriculture, and Regenerative Organic Agriculture

Organic Agriculture

While Organic Agriculture has been around for a long time, it first entered the Canadian market sometime in the 1950’s. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that clear standards and principles were introduced by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). There are four key principles, and they are as follows:

In Canada, specific standards and regulations are set in place to protect the integrity of organic agriculture. The organic certification ensures that farmers are adhering to specific regulations and that customers can feel confident when choosing organic products. These standards include everything from the type of substances that can/can’t be used to production requirements.

When farmers follow these standards and regulations, they are improving soil health, preventing harmful chemicals from entering the soil and environment, and support the fight against climate change.

Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative Agriculture is still a fairly new concept as the term Regenerative Agriculture was only coined in the 1970’s by Robert Rodale, a leader in the organic movement, and founder of the Rodale institute (1).

Robert and his daughter then came up with the 7 Principles of Regenerative Agriculture. They are as follows:

Similar to Organic Agriculture, both share goals of promoting biodiversity, improve soil health, and follow holistic farming practices.

Regenerative Organic Agriculture

Regenerative Organic Agriculture is often viewed as Organic 3.0, taking the foundations and principles of organic agriculture and building on it.

“Regenerative organic agriculture is a collection of practices that focus on regenerating soil health and the full farm ecosystem.” (2)

This can look like cover cropping, crop rotation, low- to no-till, compost, and zero use of persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers (3). Let’s break this down.

Table Source:

Some Key Differences between the Three

One difference between regenerative agriculture and regenerative organic agriculture is that regenerative agriculture does not prohibit the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides where organic agriculture does.

Similarly, organic agriculture does not entirely measure soil health improvements over time but this is something that regenerative agriculture stresses heavily.

Is one option better than the other?

Short answer, that depends. But who better to speak on this topic than our Produce Category Manager, Frank Sarro.

“It might seem organic agriculture has been criticized for becoming to standardized and there are fears that the ideals have watered down. I don’t think that is the case but some of these concerns are being addressed with movements like Regenerative Organic Agriculture. To be clear, this latest movement isn’t some upstart that has had it with organics. On the contrary, the builders of that movement were the same as the original organic pioneers. Organic Agriculture is still very much a part of Regenerative Organic Agriculture and frankly, it’s the foundation that should be built upon. It is always best if we keep ourselves in check and look at the greater good and see how we can keep improving.”

Since the practice of Organic Regenerative Agriculture is still fairly new to Canada and the certification is costly, many of our growers don’t have that stamp of approval. With that being said, the majority of our farmers still do their best follow Organic Regenerative Agriculture principles and guidelines.

Whichever method you stand behind, I think we can all agree that our climate and the health of our planet depends on implementing more of these farming practices. It’s not too late to prevent further damage and rebuild what we have lost.



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