While regenerative agriculture can (and should) look different for every operation, the business case and value proposition for replicating and growing its adoption is increasingly garnering interest from a diversity of groups within and beyond the food system. Many now acknowledge its potential to help address several sustainability crises by sequestering carbon, supporting climatic, environmental and economic health and creating employment and business opportunities. However, scaling the practice continues to face many obstacles. Phase 2 of our Regenerative Agriculture Lab (RAL) aims to convene ~35 committed producers, industry leaders, food distributors and retailers, academics, policymakers and innovative thinkers in general to work together to learn and take action on initiatives that respond to the question:

How might we grow Alberta's regenerative agriculture system in a way that preserves its integrity, while maximizing the positive social, environmental, and economic impacts for communities?

In Alberta, regenerative agriculture is primarily a grassroots movement of small-to-medium operations trying to grow their foothold in a sector where just the economics can keep many from transitioning to regenerative practices as well as diminish the attractiveness for younger generations. Even as new levels of collaboration with large-scale food companies and companies in other industries present new opportunities to mainstream the field, skepticism remains about potential greenwashing and fragmentation persists across the sector about what must define “good” as regenerative scales and what will ultimately define “value”. With so many economic and environmental benefits at stake, this is the right time and place to forge a collective path forward.

Phase 1 of the Regenerative Agriculture Lab (RAL) focused on bringing together a diverse set of Alberta agricultural producers into a forum for innovation and collaboration through a series of workshops, interactive tools and peer-to-peer learning moments. The broad aim was to collectively identify the desired future they wanted to help create for regenerative agriculture in the province and solutions that participants could advance to make this future a reality.
The ideas Phase 1 participants shared in 2021 became the basis of this visual (left).
Phase 1 also identified projects and initiatives that could garner early wins, particularly focused on supporting new entrants into the field, attracting investors and building the network and connections across the system.
Read this two-pager to learn more about what happened in Phase 1.

The Regenerative Agriculture Lab aims to respond to the timely opportunity to…

  • Create a forum for innovation and collaboration for a network of committed regenerative agriculture ‘actors’ in Alberta
  • Celebrate, learn from, and widely share the stories of Albertans who have been putting regenerative solutions into action on farms and ranches
  • Work on collaborative initiatives that enable regenerative agriculture to accelerate its awareness and impact across all players in the agriculture system
  • Co-create a shared vision of a regenerative agriculture system that the future requires of us
  • Generate and exemplify narratives of regenerative agriculture that bridge the polarization on the topic and invites interest from other agriculture players

RAL is working with ~35 individuals that are committed to both learning and acting to advance regenerative agriculture in different ways and with different parts of the agriculture system

For more information, please contact Shiana at syounger @ stettlerlearning.com.


Small Berry with a Big Story – Rosy Farms – Sturgeon County

Andrew works with natural ecosystem succession: planting berry bushes on broken, exposed soils and making room for pioneer species – like dandelions, for example – and grasses and shrubs. He points out how “weeds” actually have tremendous value in helping to aerate soils, provide shade for other plants, and stimulate microbiology in the soil. Andrew purposely sowed bunch grasses – a grass that would be in the same phase as the haskaps – as opposed to a creeping grass, like a brown grass, or quack grass.

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Organic, Biodynamic & Biodiverse Farming – Sand Springs Ranch – Lac La Biche, AB

Janice and her husband, Ty Shelton, have been running Sand Springs Ranch, a certified organic operation, with a philosophy for biodiversity for over 35 years. They raise grass-finished beef, pasture-raised pork, and grow organic vegetables, and both table and seed potatoes in northeastern Alberta. “We are a small family farm. We consider ourselves small compared to the big guys.”

Biodiversity and diversification are at the heart of what the Sheltons do at Sand Springs Ranch, from relying on the unique skillsets of every family member to feeding their cattle a blend of hay from a variety of fields – all with different soil biology and nutrients – to diversifying their products and marketing strategies, to cultivating lesser known varieties of potatoes.

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In Conversation with Rachel Herbert – Trail’s End Beef – Nanton, AB

‘Sustainability’ is what drives the Herbert family, owners of Trail’s End Beef, a grass-fed and finished beef ranch, nestled outside of the town of Nanton, in the Porcupine Hills of southern Alberta. Rachel and Tyler, with the help of their two children, practice rotational grazing management and steward the native grasslands, rolling hills, abundant springs, and sheltering poplar and willow groves. They raise calves entirely on pasture (and stored forage through the winter) until they’re 26 to 29 months-old, and direct market the beef to a diverse customer-base in southern Alberta.

The Herbert family ranches with an ethic for animal care, and environmental stewardship and regeneration, protecting watersheds, planting cover crops, and allowing the land to rest between grazing. They share the native grassland with a variety of wild ‘neighbours’, including geese, songbirds, coyotes, muskrat, cougars and grizzly bears.

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Intercropping: Experimenting for Diversity – Andy Kirschenman – Hilda, AB

Intercropping is something that I was first drawn to after reading articles about Colin Rosengren, a grain farmer who practices intercropping on his farm, Rosengren Farm, in southern Saskatchewan. Fifteen years ago, I first experimented with managing 20 acres of peas and canola, and have since tried different combinations almost every year. I have managed as much as 600 acres, and as little as zero in the years after that first try. I have experimented with different crops together and different seeding rates.

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