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Regenerative Agriculture in Action

Regenerative agriculture comes in many forms. Since 2010 Main Street Project has been developing and testing a poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system capable of producing economic, ecological and social benefits that are grounded in local rural communities. Main Street Project’s regenerative agriculture system connects and supports people, makes efficient use of land and

Planting hazelnut in Minnesota.

energy and helps rebuild local food systems by creating opportunities for a new generation of aspiring young and immigrant farmers.

The team at Main Street Project is embarking on an exciting new project in Minnesota. The organization has purchased 100 acres of farmland near Northfield. The farmland is on Mud Creek, located on the northeast side of Northfield, in Dakota County. The farm will showcase the organization’s replicable, scalable system and provide a more expansive space for education and training programs for new and established farmers.

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin is the principal architect of the innovative poultry-centered regenerative agriculture model that is at the heart of Main Street Project’s work. As Chief Strategy Office, his focus is on the development of multi-level strategies for building regenerative food and agriculture systems that deliver social, economic and ecological benefits. He leads Main Street’s engineering and design work and currently oversees the implementation of restorative blueprints for communities in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. The Main Street Project team has helped train more than 70 agripreneurs.

“This is a system that makes sense,” said Haslett-Marroquin. “We’re advocating for a farming approach that has been trusted for hundreds of years. It’s good to the people who farm the land, it’s good to the land itself and it offers countless benefits to the community of people around it.”

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Regenerative Agriculture: Triple Bottom Line

Main Street Project’s poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system has a triple bottom line — economic, ecological and social — one element of which is offering comprehensive training and education programs for farmers to ensure the model can be taught and replicated across the world. A key component of the farm’s mission is its research and development work, which earned a special distinction from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) as a research farm. This designation enables Main Street Project to create a robust research platform where the effects of the farm’s operation will be carefully monitored, especially its impact on the soil, water, farmers and economy.

When Main Street Project’s farm is completed it will fully demonstrate the organization’s highly efficient livestock and perennial-based agriculture system. Chickens will range in paddocks designed to mimic their natural habitat, providing meat, eggs and natural fertilizer. Hazelnuts and elderberries are planted inside the paddock to provide cover for the birds and outside the paddock to provide cash crops for small farmers.

Annual edible crops, like beans and garlic, are planted between the rows of perennials. The farm shows what is possible for the future of agriculture: a biodiverse system of symbiotically connected livestock and perennials, with no chemical inputs, that create the potential to build soil, retain and clean water and deliver economic benefits to the community.

Through creation of this innovative agricultural system and the organization’s work to restore the land, the farm will regenerate the farmland, most notably supporting nutrient-rich soil and healthy natural wetlands.

“Through its work, Main Street Project will transform the land — protecting productive farmland, natural areas and water quality,” said Al Singer, land conservation manager for Dakota County. “From restoring the natural hydrology of the land to protecting the creek from non-filtered runoff and expanding and improving wildlife habitats, Main Street Project’s farm will provide valuable insights into addressing many of the inherent conflicts occurring in rural landscapes.”

The Dakota County land on which the farm is located has been family-owned for three generations, most recently by Craig and Linda Wasner. After hearing of Main Street Project’s regenerative agriculture system, the Wasners’ passion for restoring the land, developing a small-scale diversified agricultural plot and reintroducing animals on the land made Main Street Project an ideal partner. It also gave the Wasners the opportunity to give back to local farmers, helping to mitigate some of the challenges they face when starting out in business.

Main Street Project will host a grand opening ceremony on the farm in September. Until then, the team is planting cover crops, perennial trees and shrubs and beginning the hydrological work of restoring the land’s natural wetlands with their partners Ecological Design and Zumbro Valley Forestry and Prairie Land Pro. Follow the farm’s progress here.

by Tara Maxwell

Tara Maxwell is managing editor of Acres U.S.A. magazine. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a background in journalism and animal science and a passion for sustainable farming.

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin is author of In the Shadow of Green Man: My Journey from Poverty and Hunger to Food Security and Hope, published by Acres U.S.A. He will be speaking at the Acres U.S.A. 2017 Eco-Ag Conference & Trade Show in Columbus, Ohio in December.

 

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