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Our Triple Bottom Line: Regeneration at MSP

3-bot lineRegenerative agriculture may just seem like the environmental buzzword of the moment, something to replace the tired, abused terms of eco-friendly, sustainable, or green. For Main Street Project, it is infinitely more than that. Regenerative agriculture is the comprehensive, logical alternative to everything that conventional agriculture does wrong. It replaces and begins to repair decades of ecological, economic, and social exploitation.

Treating agriculture as a collection of isolated systems – trying to maximize output or profit, or minimize space or labor – without recognizing the system-wide impact of any change will always lead to failure in at least one other area, and often all of them. While Big Ag is the Big Problem, there are too many “alternative” practices that are also unsustainable. Organic farms can still deplete soil; cage-free poultry operations can still poison the water supply; workers are vulnerable everywhere. Rather than attempting to redress each legitimate grievance, we are implementing a regenerative agriculture system that nurtures all its contributors.

Regenerative agriculture at Main Street Project is built on the foundation of ecological, economic, and social resilience—otherwise known as our triple bottom line.

We start with people. When workers are mistreated or underpaid, it infects the social fabric of farmers, workers, consumers, and communities that form the lifeblood of a food system. Since agricultural workers are vulnerable to exploitation regardless of the method of farming, we eliminate that possibility from the outset. The concentration of market power in the global food industry is what makes exploitation possible, so Main Street Project’s system makes the workers the owners, supplementing their extensive farm experience with the financial and agricultural training needed to ensure their economic success.

Poultry have low startup costs and our integrated system produces numerous other crops that open up market opportunities. In addition to the raising, processing, marketing, and distribution of paddock-raised, nutritious chicken, community members can create value-added products in response to the consumer demand in their area. Meanwhile, the health of the entire region is bolstered by regenerative farming.

For ecological regeneration, energy efficiency is the key. The very foundation of industrial agriculture mandates the continual purchase and application of synthetic inputs (pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers) because those very inputs weaken the natural resilience and productivity of the farm ecosystem. It is enervating by design. We, however, have nothing to gain by weakening the land’s resilience, so we work towards a closed cycle that perpetually sustains itself. At the center, feed is taken in by the chicken, and energy and nutrients excreted by the chicken are taken up by the plants grown in that fertilized soil, producing crops which again feed the chicken. That core cycle is pretty close to perfect, but the entire system must sustain itself, so we use solar power to heat the coops, petroleum-free weeding and fertilizing, and are constantly experimenting with ways to improve efficiency.

Economic success is essential. People drive the system, the ecological efficiency creates a healthy farm, and the two together result in the maximum sustainable economic return on investments. We don’t need to externalize costs like the food system does today, because our impact on the environment and the community is a net benefit, not a loss. We don’t need expensive fertilizers, pesticides, patented seeds, or copious machinery. Our poultry-based system stays affordable by allowing the chickens to do their instinctive weed-eating, bug-eating, pooping thing, and by farming wisely: refining tested, indigenous practices with the current scientific knowledge that allows us to adapt to changing conditions.

Research and development are the screws that stabilize our 3-legged regenerative stool. The well-being of the workers and the chickens are scientifically validated with the same rigor as the health of the soil, the market, and the surrounding ecosystem. That ecosystem includes the entire planet. Healthy soil absorbs carbon, and can actually start to reverse global warming.

When the interconnectedness of people, nature, and markets are embraced, every element of the cycle invigorates every other. This regenerative poultry-centered agriculture system can transform the food industry on the local level and establish a fertile alternative to the destructive, unscientific, and socially exploitative structure on which the conventional food system shakily stands.

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