Regenerative Farming Comes To Dairy

The Lempert Report
September 27, 2021

It looks like the dairy industry is moving to regenerative farming and here’s why

Regenerative farming’s goal is simply to improve the health and productivity of crops, including the cocoa beans that Dr. Bronner’s uses, and introduce dynamic agroforestry which creates biodiversity and offers farmers more security by improving yields, diversifying what they grow and avoids the use of toxic chemicals. Now it looks like the dairy industry is moving to regenerative farming and here’s why. Fourth-generation Kansas dairy farmer Ken McCarty is all in on regenerative agriculture. He’s planted cover crops, reduced tillage, and fosters biodiversity by creating wetlands and planting trees on the land where he grows the crops that feed his animals. “We’re young and we’ve really staked our future livelihoods on these regions and their resources sustaining us for the next 20, 50, 100 years,” McCarty told Civil Eats. “Taking care of the assets that sustain you simply makes economic sense. And there’s a moral obligation, regenerative agriculture is the right thing to do.” McCarty isn’t a small- or medium-scale farmer. His is one of two conventional operations that make up the MVP Dairy partnership, a company that owns a total 26,000 cows, including 13,000 milking cows, holds all its cows in barns, and grows grain—predominantly corn—on approximately 9,500 acres in two states. And dairy farms like his may be the future of regenerative ag—Danone, General Mills (maker of Yoplait yogurt and Häagen-Dazs ice cream, among other big dairy brands), and yogurt maker Stonyfield have all recently launched soil health programs specifically aimed at dairy producers. The voluntary programs, which offer training, tech support, and financial assistance, are seen as key to transforming dairy farms—a major source of emissions—into “carbon sinks,” allowing Big Food companies to reduce their carbon footprints and open up new avenues to market their products. “Food companies have a tremendous amount of influence on their farmers. So if they are actively promoting these practices, that speaks volumes to the farmers,” said Allen Williams, a co-founder of regenerative agriculture consulting firm Understanding Ag and the Soil Health Academy coach hired by General Mills. “It signals to them that companies are getting serious about regenerative agriculture and maybe the farmers should, too . . . otherwise they won’t want to buy from them. It’s an impetus that can help drive this movement more rapidly.” Big Food companies from Cargill to PepsiCo and Nestlé—have made public commitments to help finance farmers’ adoption of regenerative practices. The world’s largest retailer Walmart has also joined in. When we all work together, and learn from one another, we can have a huge impact on the environment. Want to know more? Next Thursday September 30th at 12pm eastern the Soil Health Institute will present its study: Economics of Soil Health on 100 Farms. Registration is free – just go to to sign up.