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Summit convenes regenerative ag leaders in natural products and beyond

With the third Regenerative Earth Summit just weeks away, founder Seleyn DeYarus reflects on a movement that has gone from showing up in casual conversation to one that is a key focus of the natural products industry.

In 2016, Seleyn DeYarus started picking up on new terminology being used at Natural Products Expo West. People were talking about “regenerative agriculture.” Yet, as this new terminology was emerging she also witnessed a lot of confusion and pushback within the industry to this new concept. After confirming with colleagues that regenerative agriculture was indeed significant, DeYarus, executive director of At the Epicenter—a nonprofit aimed at fostering conversation and collaboration between leaders and influencers of sustainably minded businesses—identified that a forum was needed to facilitate deeper consideration and discussion on the topic outside of the busy-ness of a trade show. And so, the Regenerative Earth Summit was born.

The first Regenerative Earth Summit: Food + Climate + Culture took place in 2017 and provided a forum for ideas to be exchanged, and confusion and concerns to be vented and addressed. “There is little doubt that it was a significant turning point in the industry conversation about what the opportunity of regenerative ag is for the organic and food industry at large,” DeYarus said.

From there, the second Regenerative Earth Summit focused on Food, Fiber + Climate. With Patagonia CEO Rose Marcaro as keynote speaker, the summit drew speakers and thought leaders from food, fashion and lifestyle apparel companies with an organic or regenerative mandate such as Patagonia, Timberland and prAna, Danone, Applegate and Lotus Foods. Body care and dietary supplement leaders, investors and activators joined the mix, too.

“Because there is agriculture in the food and fashion space, we thought these two industries would benefit from talking with one another and creating the potential for collaboration,” DeYaurus said. “It was a very powerful convening that was out of the normative for both industry sectors because they don’t usually crosspollinate. It was extraordinarily significant to reorganize ourselves around how we address such large systemic damage to our planet.”

One of the notable takeaways for attendees from last year’s summit, DeYarus said: relationships.

“From talking to brands like Timberland, the summit was instrumental in galvanizing their trajectory to make regenerative a part of their business,” DeYarus said.

Brands such as Applegate and Eileen Fisher concurred, noting that they were able to connect to other industry insiders who were helpful to their pursuit of upping their own game on the sustainability front.

“I am consistently amazed and energized to see so many thought leaders from across the regenerative movement convene for a great purpose. Whether you’re just getting started on a regenerative path or seeking motivation to make the next leap, you’ll find inspiration at the Regenerative Earth Summit,” said summit attendee Tina Owens, senior director ag funding and communication at Danone North America.

This year, Regenerative Earth Summit: Soil + Water + Climate is expected to be no different, with leaders from Lush North America, Patagonia, The North Face, MegaFood, Dr. Bronner’s, Eileen Fisher, Charlotte’s Web, Danone, Timberland and Alter Eco, to name just a few, already signed up. This year’s Summit will focus on "Soil + Water + Climate,” with practitioner and author Tieraona Low Dog, MD, providing insights to how the health of the planet and waterways is affecting the health of people, while well-known food activist and finance specialist Robyn O’Brien will talk investing and how to shake up Wall Street for a better future. In addition, farmers, ranchers, environmental leaders such as Savory Institute and American Sustainable Business Council, supply managers and investors will all take to the stage to lead discussions over the course of this two-day event.

“It is a two-day event. We are not going to solve the world’s problems, we can’t put that pressure on a summit, but what it is and does well is bring key people together who are already deeply committed to the regenerative agenda or they know it is of value and they want to know more about it to figure out where it fits and how they fit into this larger constellation of effort," DeYarus said. "It provides a context in a well-structured two days, to deepen and help extend and open relationships. That is how we will heal the planet through our relating, cooperating and collaborating."

While people have attached many nuances to the term regenerative agriculture, at its core, it still is a holistic approach to agriculture with a focus on farming practices that build healthy soil, mitigating topsoil and water runoff and countering climate change through carbon sequestration, restoring and maintaining biodiversity. With the focus on soil, many people believe regenerative starts with organic and builds from there to ensure clean and healthy soil. From here, regenerative agriculture has become a stepping-off point for businesses to focus on building supply chains and business infrastructures that work to support ecosystems, biodiversity, people and the planet.

“The work in front of us is to help move people’s comprehension that we are not separate from each other and this living planet. For our species and others to thrive, we have to change this fundamental relationship to one that is regenerative versus extractional, relational versus transactional and interdependent versus independent. It’s a leap, but it’s a necessary leap,” DeYarus said.

This year’s Regenerative Earth Summit: Soil + Water + Climate will take place Oct. 29-30 at University of Colorado’s Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex, in Boulder, Colorado. In addition, there is a Pre-Summit Leadership Day on Monday, Oct. 28, intended for supply chain decision makers and investors, agriculture producers and specialists to get tactical, while addressing drivers and barriers to growth involving regenerative agriculture. For more information, check out At the Epicenter.

The Regnerative Earth Summit is an Esca Bona programming partner thanks to these underwriters:

Fodder podcast underwriters logos 301Inc, Giannuzzi Group, Healthy Lifestyle Brands, Whipstitch Capital             

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