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Regenerative farming: Sun, soil, water, organisms

 

Picture of Coen Farm

 

“Our mission on the farm is heal yourself, heal the planet,” says Coen.

The Coen Farm is moving beyond sustaining the planet and is moving towards regenerating it. The Coen family is using regenerative agriculture to produce nutritious food that is better for consumer health, and planet health.

Coen Farm is a 250-acre regenerative agriculture farm, located in Ferintosh, Alberta, less than two hours away from Edmonton. Takota Coen, 29, is a second-generation farmer, author, and permaculture educator from Coen Farm.

“Permaculture is this holistic system,” says Coen. “How do we create an antifragile, regenerative culture that lasts as long as possible on this planet?”

Regenerative agriculture is one component of permaculture. According to the Permaculture Research Institute, permaculture investigates and applies holistic solutions for rural and urban contexts at all scales.

Regenerative farming is a holistic approach and a paradigm shift in the agriculture industry. To better understand this practice, one must understand agriculture. Agriculture is a practice where farmers are managing and optimizing “four ingredients from the ecosystem; sunlight, water, soil, and organisms,” explains Coen. Regenerative agriculture targets how well those four ingredients are being managed.

Those four ingredients are so intertwined that, “as soon as one of them is gone the whole system shuts down, or if one of them is weakened it starts to pull the other ingredients down,” states Coen.

“Biodiversity is declining and topsoil is being lost,” says Coen.

Regenerative agriculture is a way to ensure there will be a healthy planet to farm on in the future. It is a form of farming that can be done in different ways, but with very similar key techniques and goals.

According to Canadian Organic Growers, regenerative agriculture practices include composting, cover cropping, and growing leguminous green manures, crops that are made up of legumes that are later worked into the soil. More practices include crop rotation, mixed farming, shallow and reduced cultivation, and enhanced biodiversity.

In addition, regenerative agriculture helps tackle climate change by enhancing and improving soil health, since healthy soil can pull carbon out from the atmosphere and into the soil.

“We can increase topsoil, photosynthetic capacity, biodiversity,” says Coen. “By doing that we have a regenerative system.”

Aerial View of Coen Farm

Nutrient-dense food

 Not only is regenerative agriculture better for the planet, but it is also better for your health. One key outcome by practicing regenerative agriculture is producing nutrient-dense food.

For example, “Tooth decay is a degenerative disease. It is your body falling apart because of lack of nutrients,” states Coen.

The Coen Farm produces nutrient-dense foods like milk-fed pork, grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, local fruits and nuts.

“The healthier our land, the healthier our animals and the healthier our customers get,” says Coen.

 

About Coen Farm

 

Michael, Laura, and Takota Coen Photo from Coen Farm

 

Takota Coen grew up wanting to be a farmer like his father, Michael Coen. After finishing high school Takota left the farm thinking he could not make a living from it and trained as a carpenter. But, after realizing if the agriculture problem was not addressed it would lead to the destruction of the planet, he returned to the farm. Then he completed some permaculture design and regenerative agriculture courses and started his journey on regenerating the planet’s health.

When he is not busy farming he also provides educational resources to farmers and the public about regenerative agriculture. This includes courses, consulting, podcasts, farm tours, apprenticeships, and public speaking to give farmers the tools to grow the farm they want.

In the 1980s Coen’s parents, Michael and Laura Coen, made the switch from being a certified organic farm to a regenerative farm. Although they say this switch is best for the planet, Coen says it was a difficult and lengthy process.

 

Why Coen Farm does not sell to supermarkets

Many farmers sell their products at local farmers’ markets, or supermarkets. In the past, Coen’s parents found themselves on the short end when selling to supermarkets, causing Coen Farm to sell directly to its consumers.

Coen Farm’s primary customer base is families who are interested in purchasing grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, frozen berries, and herbal teas. The frozen berries are sold in a “five berry medley” that includes silver buffaloberry, red raspberry, black raspberry, red currant and black currant.

Coen has a big enough customer base to contact his customers through email when products are ready to be purchased. He designed his delivery and ordering process to be accessible to the public, by giving the option of payment plans. Then customers can respond to the email and choose which products they want.

After completing their orders, customers are provided with a specific date, time, and location of the pick-up point. The pick-up point is in either Edmonton, Camrose, or Calgary, typically a large parking lot, located in a common part of the town where they are delivering.

This efficient delivery process allows him to complete deliveries of up to $5,000 to $10,000 worth of meat, and farm products quickly. These pick-up points allow him more time for education and investing in the farm. Plus, he is also seeing 100 per cent of the profit.

In addition to selling affordable, and nutritious products, purchasing directly from Coen Farm helps to reduce food waste.

Coen Farm noticed when selling to supermarkets there is a great amount of food waste, due to expiration dates and the surplus of foods. By creating this direct relationship with the customer, Coen Farm is only selling what needs to be sold.

A key recommendation that Coen suggests to lower grocery costs and reduce food waste is to invest in a chest freezer. Customers can purchase meat in bulk at wholesale price and reduce their cost of groceries, and their trips to the grocery store. This practice will ensure that there is enough room to safely store meat for the whole year.

View of Coen Farm

Terroir Talk

 As part of Coen’s mission to educate his consumers, he joined a webinar hosted by Terroir Talk on April 13, 2021, to provide insight on regenerative agriculture.

Terroir Talks are hosted by Terroir Hospitality to educate the public on ethical practices and processes from the food and beverage systems. They introduce the public to the producers and creators of all the foods and drinks we consume in our everyday life.

These events include a panelist of leading ethical farmers, fisherman, butchers, bakers, and winemakers. The most recent event introduced regenerative farming practices and leading farmers in the movement. Regenerative agriculture is a huge step toward regenerating the planet’s health and the public’s health.

 


Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.

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