Bolthouse Farms' Shelby Layne Discusses Regenerative Agriculture
BAKERSFIELD, CA - At the recent Organic Produce Summit, I had the chance to hear Shelby Layne, Director, Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Hub at Bolthouse Farms (BHF), moderate the “Is Regenerative the New Organic?” panel. The insights shared were invaluable, and Shelby and I dug even deeper on the topic post-show.
“We are at a critical tipping point with regards to climate change and the way we grow our food. Approximately one third of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are generated by food systems, and there is only approximately 60 years of usable topsoil left, according to reports from Forbes, Smithsonian Magazine, and The World Economic Forum. When we look at these factors together, it’s clear we need to radically adjust our approach,” Shelby began.
The key to regenerative agriculture, she told me, is low-impact farming, where instead of degrading the land, farmers work to improve it. BHF uses technologies to regenerate the ecosystem holistically by placing a heavy premium on soil health and the ways in which these practices can help improve natural resource management, fertilizer use, and other factors. This gives the industry an opportunity to course-correct by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity.
“BHF’s approach to regenerative agriculture is heavily informed by our farmers, who have the wealth of knowledge and connection to the land that guides this process. And, because Bolthouse Farms is vertically integrated, we can research and deploy top-to-bottom strategies that enhance our soil health,” Shelby explained. “For example, we use compost to amend the soil regularly, to promote the development of organic matter and nurture the roots. Utilizing new technology plays a key role in removing cost barriers to regenerative farming, bringing solutions to scale, and making it more accessible.”
As I quickly came to learn from my conversation with Shelby, achieving success as an industry requires collaboration.
“For many farmers, the transition to regenerative agriculture may feel daunting. We have to fix that, and emerging technologies are central to that change,” Shelby stated. “We’re committed to partnering with tech companies to improve our data capture that helps us solve issues in real-time. This positions us to better predict yield and reduce waste. These partnerships also allow us to remove barriers to entry for regenerative agriculture by making this type of farming more economically sustainable, which then increases adoption of regenerative practices with our farmers. Using each of these mechanisms, the team is continuing to measure and monitor progress to then translate into greater scale.”
As Shelby puts it, regenerative agriculture is so much more than a technical mechanism for farming; it is a way to revitalize ecosystems and to serve the entire food system. BHF is proud to be a part of understanding and scaling regenerative agriculture for all producers.
“Ultimately, we see regenerative agriculture having huge potential to regenerate the natural resources used for the future of farming to support healthy, thriving communities, and we look forward to continuing to learn from and grow our involvement in regenerative practices,” Shelby concluded. “Regenerative agriculture is a direct response and solution to the concerns around long-term food security, the future of our planet, and food supply. Bolthouse is committed to collaborating with farmers, field workers, plant workers, and all employees to ideate and actualize the future of sustainable farming and go to bat for food security.”
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