Tisdall-Downes is at pains to stress that Regenuary is far from a dig at Veganuary or veganism. “It doesn’t have to be about one or the other. There’s nothing to stop you from embracing vegan regenerative eating.”
The problem in January is that it’s difficult to eat a colourful, seasonal vegan diet that doesn’t rely on imported foods. You’d be looking at a lot of beetroot, artichokes, celeriac and kale. He also points out that regenerative eating involves eating less meat, but better.
“Regenerative farms don’t produce as much meat as intensive farms. It forces you to think nose-to-tail, embracing duck gizzards, oxtail, ox tongue and liver. You might buy one chicken a week and see how many meals you can get out of it.”
Regen produce is more expensive, but the added cost can be mitigated by viewing meat as a treat – as previous generations did – and using it judiciously to add flavour to stews and pasta dishes, for example.
“Eating regeneratively will tend naturally to take you away from supermarkets and processed foods towards supporting smaller-scale butchers, fishmongers and producers with your purchasing power. We’re dictated to by supermarkets when it comes to what we eat. It’s hard work and it can be expensive – particularly if you’ve got a big family to feed – but this country has some amazing regenerative farms,” he urges.
Regen prompts us to think about the choices we make when deciding what to have for dinner. You might well scoff that only the middle classes have the budget to buy meat from the farmers’ market and to worry about how holistically the soil that nurtured their carrots has been cared for – but every consumer has some measure of power over what they choose to eat.
As for me, if this January I simply find out more about the affordable additions or swaps I can include in my weekly food shops, and discover farmers, producers, chefs and restaurants who are championing regen and exploring alternative, non-intensive farming methods, then I’ll consider my Regenuary 2022 efforts a success.
There’s not (yet) a food label demarcating regeneratively farmed foods but, happily, there’s no calorie counting required – and I’ll raise a glass of compost broth to that.
What is regenerative agriculture?
According to Innovation for Agriculture, regenerative agriculture encourages “a return to the mixed farm, where livestock are used as tools to heal the land between crops”. The aim is to enrich soil, capture carbon, protect water and increase biodiversity.
How to eat regeneratively, according to the Ethical Butcher’s Glen Burrows
- “Whether carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, the same principles of buying from regenerative producers and getting involved in discussions around food and agriculture apply,” says Burrows
- Source as much of your food as possible from regenerative producers, from meat and fish to dairy, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and vegetables (see box, right, for suggestions)
- Buy from British suppliers where possible and do what you can to minimise the impact of transportation, especially the “last mile” of the food chain, as this is where the emissions proportion is highest
- Where regenerative produce isn’t an option, look for produce from organic, biodynamic or permaculture systems
- Buy direct from small producers wherever possible, including at farm shops and farmers’ markets, to shorten the supply chain
- Ask questions, do research, get involved in discussions and share your own ideas on food and the environment
Where to source the best produce
Farm Wilder, a not-for-profit company, supplies meat boxes direct to your door from farms in south Devon and east Cornwall committed to supporting and restoring wildlife.
Farmer Tim Mead of Yeo Valley Organic is an advocate for the benefits of regenerative organic agriculture and firmly believes organically produced produce can reverse the effects of climate change.
Toats Mylk is an oat milk produced on Rushmere Farm in Hampshire using oats grown in a regenerative rotation.
Cornish dairy producer Trewithen Dairy is investing heavily in pioneering a “carbon-neutral milk”.
Sapling Gin is a “climate positive” London dry gin distilled from organic regenerative wheat produced by Wildfarmed farmers.
The Worstead Estate is a wagyu farm in Norfolk, which specialises in regenerative farming.
Hodmedod’s British-grown pulses and grains – which include quinoa, lentils, chickpeas and carlin beans – are packed with micro and macro nutrients and have a role to play in more diverse, resilient crop rotations. Add to soups, stews, curries, salads and roast vegetables.
Tunworth cheese is made with milk from Rotherfield Park, a progressive estate in Hampshire at the forefront of regenerative farming in the UK.