Author: YahNé Ndgo
This website and the RegeNEration Proclamation are for you! The Proclamation is a statement about the future of agriculture and food sovereignty in Nebraska. Our statement was developed with input from a diverse set of Nebraskans, many of whom are highlighted in the Regenerative Resource Guide which can be found both on the website and in the Proclamation. Please be a part of our growing network and don’t hesitate to use RegeNErate Nebraska as a way to help you and your community choose a more regenerative and healthy future.
Strong Community Is At The Heart Of Regeneration
RegeNErate Nebraska is a network of farmers and ranchers, tribes, urban farmers, supporting businesses, organizations, food consumers, and communities who are committed to a shift away from extractive industrial food production in favor of an ethical and regenerative food system. Lying in the middle of the nation, Nebraska is the heart of our nation, and the culture and principles found here serve as a lifeblood for a well-functioning country. RegeNErate Nebraska’s mission is to redevelop and strengthen our communities from the soil up. This starts with building strong communities.
Our Diversity Is Our Strength
Tribal Food Sovereignty
Urban Soil Regeneration & Food Sovereignty
Regenerating Soil and Rural Communities
The Solution Lies In The Soil
Everything comes from the soil — all that feeds us, nourishes us, provides us with strength and community. It’s who we are. Nebraskans know, as well as anyone, that soil is soul.
Even our values are rooted in the soil. Working with the land has given us independence, our sense of shared responsibility and purpose, and our devotion to each other and future generations. Whether we are farmers and ranchers or urban consumers, those Nebraska values are engrained deep in our hearts. It’s how we go about our day-to-day lives, and it’s how we do business.
But over the last several decades, agriculture has become increasingly industrialized. The result: we’ve lost control of our food system to a handful of large corporations. Industrial Ag’s extractive business model, more concerned with profits than people, continues to degrade the soil, poison water and defoul the air. And in the process, this model exploits workers and animals alike, while threatening our health, safety and the well-being of our communities.
Many people have been left behind as Industrial Ag has replaced cooperation with competition, separating us from our connection to the soil and also our connection to each other. We’ve seen rural communities erased from the map, urban communities transformed into food deserts, and Native communities prevented from growing their traditional crops on lands that have belonged to them for thousands of years.
Just as the soil itself is under threat, so is the Nebraska way of life. It seems there is nothing left for these Industrial Ag corporations to take but our souls.
This is the way it has been — but it’s not the way of the future.
RegeNErate Nebraska is a community of Nebraskans who are bucking the system, in favor of the solution which lies in the soil: regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative is about going back to the way farming was, so that our future can be the one we know it can be. Studies are showing farmers can achieve great benefits by adding diversity through techniques such as cover cropping, prairie restoration, forestry, and augmented livestock grazing. For example, a recent Iowa State Study shows that by simply adding another crop rotation besides corn and soybeans a farmer could eliminate 96% of chemical herbicide applications and 86% of synthetic nitrogen applications, while increasing yields. Adding diversity saves farmers money and protects our water.
Regenerative practices draw down carbon from the atmosphere and sink or sequester it in the ground. Agriculture can be our best chance to removing rising greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change, rather than being a catalyst of it.
Furthermore, going regenerative has the potential to address a myriad of intersecting crises. When farmers prioritize care of the soil, they put high-quality, nutritious food directly into the hands of people who most lack access. Regenerative farmers can partner with communities to help reclaim the urban consumer’s connection to the land, and each other. Together, the farmer and the consumer can unleash food democracy, instead of succumbing to food scarcity.
Nebraska is already home to a flourishing network of regenerative farms, and many have joined together under the farmer-owned co-op model, allowing them to pool a wide variety of products and satisfy growing demand. By giving back to the land and water what they take from it, these farmers are finding drastically reduced input costs, and even achieving higher yields.
Industrial Ag would have you believe that nutritious food is more expensive. What they don’t tell you is that they have manipulated the system through perverse subsidies which artificially lower the cost of food and encourage the use of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides that cost us all more in the long-term. They don’t tell you that a vast majority of subsidies go to the top two percent of industrial farm operations, instead of smaller independent farms producing food crops, and they don’t tell you that our nation could save $8 billion per year by investing in small scale, regenerative operations.1
1. Meyers, Norman and Kent Jennifer. Perverse Subsidies: Tax $$ Undercutting our Economies and Environments Alike. The International Institute for Sustainable Development. 1998.
Regenerative Is A Native Concept
When it comes to cooperation and harmony between the land and the people, Indigenous peoples are the world’s leading experts. Chief Looking Horse, great-grandson of the venerable Chief Sitting Bull, and keeper of the sacred pipe of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribes teaches us of the sacred hoop between time, nature and humans. It is our responsibility as temporary inhabitants of the earth to maintain, strengthen and repair the sacred hoop. To this end, Native leadership and knowledge are a key aspect of RegeNErate Nebraska. We are honored to be joined in partnership by local tribes, including the Winnebago, Ponca and the Omaha Nation, who have commenced local initiatives to increase food sovereignty and quality, while preserving and protecting the soil for future generations.
Former Winnebago Council Member and Sustainable Foods Coordinator for Ho-Chunk, Vincent Bass, reminds us, “regenerative agriculture is actually a Native concept.” He continues, “If the tribe cannot produce its own food with traditional practices, the Winnebago will never be truly sovereign.” This applies to all Nebraskans who understand that we must be the ones in control of our food systems, and this starts with regenerating our relationship to the land and all it provides for us. In this vein, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska recently launched their own Food Sovereignty Initiative.
The Ponca Tribe is in the process of increasing their bison herd with plans to purchase land in northeastern Nebraska near their original sovereign territory. Additionally, the Ponca envision opening a Tribal health clinic in South Omaha that will incorporate contemporary and holistic approaches to health care. It will also include Tribal programs and services that include cultural and ceremonial activities for all Natives in the Omaha metro area. The clinic will also be utilized as a location to distribute their agricultural products and educate young people about traditional land practices, tools and equipment like the ones on this review, and Indigenous plants. Ponca Cultural Director Dwight Howe states, “Re-identifying Indigenous plants allows for our people, especially our youth, to know who they are and where they come from. And this gives them a sense of direction of where we are going into the future, while reaffirming our sense of place in the sacred circle.” In the Omaha Nation, activities around reclaiming food sovereignty are also taking place including aquaponics, and increasing the planting and use of Indigenous plants seen as sacred and necessary for medicinal purposes, while also increasing pollination, an important natural process vital to growing of food.
We look forward to learning more from Indigenous partners and incorporating their knowledge and approaches as we continue to grow RegeNErate Nebraska statewide.
A Transformational Transition
The food choices you make impact the environment — but you can be part of the soil solution.
Whether you raise regenerative foods yourself, reclaim a vacant lot in your city to start a community garden or food forest, or help to develop a rural-to-urban food pipeline in your community, the RegeNErative Resource Guide will connect you with other Nebraskans that can get you started in a regenerative direction. When it comes to pest control, you’d want the best pest control specialists so you’ll have the best chance at eliminating pests in your garden.
Even if — especially if — you live in a town or city and don’t have a background in farming, you are part of the soil solution, because your choices control what the farmer produces, and give you access to more nutritious foods produced by regenerative farmers.
We must shift from building fossil fuel pipelines, school-to-prison pipelines, and all pipelines of oppression, and start building regenerative food pipelines — funneling connection, community, and care to everyone living in their path. This is the regenerative way; this is the Nebraskan way.
The Nebraska state motto is “Equality Before The Law”. Nebraskans even had a ban on corporate agriculture as of recently, won by a grassroots people’s initiative to get it on the ballot. This is an example of how Nebraskans do business…by principle. We must continue to hold our public servants accountable to us — and ask them if they will stand with Nebraskans or the corporations that have put good people, and “The Good Life” at risk.
The Emancipation Proclamation was about freeing bodies. The RegeNEration Proclamation is about freeing ourselves from the injustice of industrial ag by regenerating the soil, and the Nebraska way.
We hope you will use our website and the Regeneration Proclamation as a guide to connect with the folks who are already making this vision happen, and we hope you’ll use it to grow your home community — from the soil up.