When you imagine farming in the U.S., what do you see? Is it fields of bio-diverse crops, meandering in organic forms across the land? Or, more likely, do you see regimented blocks of monocultures, thousands of cattle herded into concrete pens, and giant machines spraying chemicals over corn and wheat fields?
Sadly, it’s this latter picture that more truthfully resembles the state of U.S. agriculture.
And it’s not confined to the food industry. Cotton, used to make billions of items of clothing every year, is also grown in the same damaging ways. Intense farming uses a plethora of chemicals and harmful processes which degrades the soil and local environment. According to a UN projection, unless we find a way to repair our soil, we have only 60 harvests left before our topsoil is gone (a contested figure but startling nonetheless).
But there does seem to be an answer. Regenerative agriculture is a method of farming which looks to disturb the land as little as possible, encouraging the revival of healthy soils which absorb water and carbon dioxide, and increase biodiversity.
To increase regenerative cotton agriculture, Kiss the Ground, a non-profit organization focused on regenerative practices has partnered with Citizens of Humanity Group, the company behind the denim brands Citizens of Humanity, AGOLDE and GOLDSIGN. The program will support cotton farmers in the US and abroad, fast-tracking their adoption of regenerative agricultural practices. For customers, the partnership will provide a clear label for clothing made using these methods. “Kiss the Ground Cotton” will launch with the brands’ Fall 2023 collections.
If Kiss the Ground is ringing some bells for you, you’re probably thinking about the Woody Harrelson-narrated documentary of the same name. Its success has increased the visibility of the non-profit and regenerative agriculture in general.
The program is also partnered with Advancing Eco Agriculture, a regenerative farming consultancy with 15 years of experience in the space. AEA’s involvement is meant to provide on-farm mentorship and support.
Farmers will receive more than educational support. Cash advances are being offered to help farmers get started, vital for a process that can cost much more than chemically-fuelled farming. Participating farmers are also paid a premium above cotton market prices. And Kiss the Ground will receive endowments for each pound of cotton produced to support the broader regenerative agriculture movement.
Regenerative agriculture is not a new term. Like “sustainability”, it has become something of a buzzword. From small scale holdings producing organic root veg to McDonald’s farms producing tonnes of beef, everyone is laying claim to “regenerative.” Because of this increase in often hollow marketing spiel, the Federal Trade Commission is currently reviewing its guide to companies’ sustainability claims.
Ryland Englehart, chief mission officer and cofounder of Kiss the Ground, is well aware of the issues surrounding the term: “We are at an interesting inflection point where we can celebrate that the term ‘regenerative agriculture’ is being adopted by consumer awareness and by some of the largest corporations as their aspirational north star. As more and more brands enter the space, it will be critical that, as a community and industry, we aren’t thinking in terms of a marketing campaign, [but] instead how can we be thinking about investing in farmers to have the financial resources, training, markets and building a direct human relationship of trust and accountability?”
Kiss the Ground and Citizens of Humanity are investing heavily. The current scale of production equates to more than 700,000 products. And in 2023, the program looks to double its participants in the U.S., with a similar program following suit in Türkiye. These are big numbers and big ambitions which we hope will, in part, transform global agriculture away from monoculture factory lines to revive the earth and protect the planet.
Read more about this initiative and about the potential of regenerative agriculture over on the Kiss the Ground Cotton website. Elsewhere, in other potentially good news for the state of the planet, New York is making the move to ban the “forever chemical” PFAS in fashion and beauty products.