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When it comes to agricultural choices, what’s old is new

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Permaculture, regenerative agriculture, sustainable agriculture, all-natural and organic agriculture are a few of the land stewardship and marketing practices available to today’s farmer, rancher or farmers’ market grower.

One might ask, what do they all mean? Chances are, many producers are already practicing these different types of production. 


In 1974 Australia, Bill Mollison developed a land stewardship concept termed permaculture, a combination of the words “permanent” and “agriculture.”

In 1979, he established the Permaculture Institute to teach soil, water, plant and economic systems.

In his book titled “Permaculture a Designer’s Manual,” Mollison says, “Permaculture is one of working with, rather than against, nature – of protracted and thoughtful observations, looking at systems in all their functions.” 

Permaculture takes into consideration more than just soil and how plants grow, but the whole relationship of landscape, climatic factors and the ethics of money and livelihood. 

Regenerative ag

Robert Rodale, of the Rodale Institute, created the concept of regenerative agriculture in 1971, and in 2017, launched the Regenerative Organic Certified Program. The Rodale website defines regenerative as a measure of soil health, animal welfare and social fairness. They further define regenerative with seven principals. 

These include increasing diversity of plant species, business, people and culture; protecting soil cover to end erosion; purity, without chemical fertilizers and pesticides; permanence, more perennial plants, businesses and individuals who are successful; peace, lack of weeds and pest interference with growing systems; potential and progress. 

For more information, visit

Sustainable ag

The University of California Davis offers a program in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. 

They define sustainability as, “Meeting society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”  

The goal is to integrate several objects such as a healthy environment, economic profitability and equity. Breaking this down into smaller components, sustainability encompasses food security, conservation tillage, cover crops instead of fallow, integrated pest management, soil nutrient management, postharvest management and several other farming and ranching practices. 

More information can be found at

Organic and natural ag

On Nov. 22, 1982, the Food Safety Inspection Service published policy memo 055, which defines the term “natural” – which may be used on meat and poultry products – as not containing any artificial flavor, coloring ingredients or chemical preservatives or any other artificial or synthetic ingredients. The product is also minimally processed. 

However, “all-natural ingredients” can include a meat product with natural additives. Outside of the federal definition, any claims of “natural” must be defined by the seller. 

The National Organic Program (NOP) is a federal-regulated program with stringent standards for land stewardship, fertilizer, pesticides, seeds, harvest and post-harvest methods. Detailed recordkeeping by the producer is critical to certification. 

Organic certification has created market recognition among consumers creating a strong demand and better prices for the farmer or rancher. The NOP seal is federally protected, with fines for using it outside of the program or fraudulent use, protecting registered NOP farms. 

More information can be found at

In closing, there are many other programs a farmer or rancher can join – several of these agricultural practices are being used today by producers within the state and across the globe. 

Catherine Wissner is the University of Wyoming Laramie County Extension horticulturist. She can be reached at cwissner@ or 307-633-4480.

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