Live on June 16, 2023: Our series on The Frontline of Indigenous Agriculture exploring the intersection of Indigenous knowledge and regenerative agriculture to catalyze food system transformation. This series features insights and perspectives from Indigenous agriculturalists working at the forefront of regenerative principles.

Explore The Frontline of Indigenous Agriculture series

Live on May 31, 2023: We've launched four toolkits and resources that encapsulate our current learnings and co-creations to catalyze deep transformation in our agriculture system. Explore the latest tools:

Financing the transition: Findings from our pilot bringing together cotton producers and ecosystems services markets

Policy change: Areas of momentum for the Farm Bill and beyond: A policy education toolkit to advance a just transition to regenerative agriculture systems

Pathways to market: From conventional supply channels to Regenerative Value Networks: A new model for a regenerative marketplace

Social outcomes: Bridging the gap: Including social outcomes in regenerative agriculture standards and certifications

Working together to accelerate the transition to a just and regenerative agriculture system in the United States

The dominant agriculture system in the US today is incredibly successful at achieving its current goals — maximizing profit and driving efficiency from productive land over the short term. Yet agriculture sits at the heart of some of our most pressing challenges: from food insecurity, to diminishing water and soil quality, biodiversity loss, to the increasing vulnerabilities of farmers and communities to climate, supply chain, and economic disruptions.

Farming generates 8-10% of US greenhouse gas emissions, driving climate change that is in turn likely to reduce the yield and nutritional value of staple crops. Our current food and agriculture system also continues to perpetuate the deeply extractive and unjust mindsets upon which the system was built. In 2018, US farmers filed for bankruptcy protection at the highest rate in a decade while Black, Indigenous, and other farmers and ranchers of color continue to face discrimination; 98% of farmland is owned by white farmers, who also receive the majority of financial assistance.

What if we came together to redefine the goals of our agriculture system towards justice, resilience, and regeneration?

A transition toward an agriculture system that is just and regenerative is an essential, if monumental, feat, with a closing window of time to act. We need to fundamentally transform our current system, into one that:

  • restores ecosystems services at the landscape level (soil health, water quality, biodiversity
  • diversifies production systems
  • maximizes nutrition and public health
  • builds connection between consumers and production
  • enables the equitable distribution of value
  • fosters racial justice and social equity.

The Challenge

The regenerative agriculture movement in the United States has never had more momentum, but a number of key challenges remain:

  • Efforts to transition to regenerative agriculture often operate in the same silos as the status quo agriculture system - isolated by commodity or sector, not reflecting the diverse farm landscapes that will make up a regenerative future.
  • Many existing initiatives address only one part of the problem - focusing on using either a soil health or social justice lens - rather than designing for multiple positive outcomes.

To work toward a just and regenerative agriculture system in the United States we need to break down these silos and create new connections among uncommon partners, and rewire the flow of resources and power.

That’s why, in 2020 and with funding from the Walmart Foundation, and subsequently from the VF Foundation and Nestlé, Forum initiated Growing our Future, bringing together over 135 representatives from across the agriculture system, to address the key challenges to accelerating the transition to regenerative agriculture.

Growing our Future US: Our approach

A collaborative platform to enable the system to work differently

In 2019, Forum for the Future diagnosed the current state of play of agriculture in the US and identified a set of leverage points – critical issues that, if tackled, could accelerate the uptake of regenerative agriculture – such as shaping policy, financing farmers’ transitions to regenerative, and strengthening routes to market. 

Following this exploration of the system, Forum launched Growing our Future in 2020 as a pre-competitive platform for collaboration to address those critical levers. Over the past three years, individuals representing farming communities, agribusiness, food service providers, civil society, the public sector, philanthropy, and others have come together in virtual and in-person workshops to align and combine forces; learn from - and be challenged by – one another; and collectively design ways to accelerate the uptake of regenerative agriculture. 

New partnerships and collaborations have sprung from these convenings; farmers have connected with new sources of support and funding; participants have gained a deeper understanding of the complex system they work in, the challenges of others, and their own abilities to drive change toward a regenerative agriculture system. The Growing our Future community has continued to chart the path forward for this work, sharing progress, needs, and challenges to guide the project’s ongoing strategy. Perhaps more significantly, we trust that the new ways of working, connecting, and thinking that are being seeded through the Growing our Future collaboration will continue to ripple outward - driving progress well beyond the boundaries of the project. 

Experimenting and driving action against critical intervention areas

In 2021, the Growing our Future community prioritized key areas of work from our original collective diagnosis and launched four workstreams – small groups of actors from across the system trialling new ways of collaborating and driving tangible action toward ambitious system-level change. The workstreams are: 

  • Financing the transition
  • Policy change
  • Pathways to market
  • Social outcomes

Each workstream was planned to deliver a key output at the end of Growing our Future’s initial three-year strategic plan, in May 2023. The outputs have been designed to share learnings and insights, tools and resources, with the wider system; they are small experiments in new ways of working meant to hint at what might be. These outputs are shared below, in the hopes that they enable and inspire others to “take up the baton” – scaling, replicating, and building on our learning, insights, and new ways of working - ultimately resulting in the re-wiring of the system that’s necessary to achieve just and regenerative outcomes. 

Financing the transition

Financing the transition to regenerative agriculture is essential. Farmers need new forms of finance to enable new types of investment because time horizons, risks and outputs are different, compared to conventional agriculture. In this workstream, we asked, What if businesses and society supported, promoted and remunerated ecologically replenishing and social justice outcomes from our food and fibre industries? and wondered, What if these financial tools reflected the needs of all producers, subverting power dynamics to drive social equity in historically underserved communities?  

Ecosystem Service Markets (ESM) - in which producers can get paid for the quantified and verified benefits provided to society - are rapidly emerging as one potential solution to this challenge. To explore these questions, we’re leading an ESM pilot in cotton growing systems to better understand the barriers and opportunities to using ESMs to enable brands to participate in de-risking the adoption of regenerative practices for cotton farmers. 

So far, we’ve learned that ecosystems services markets play an essential role in promoting regenerative agriculture, but they are not a panacea. Specifically, ecosystem services markets have yet to design platforms in a way that reflects - and addresses - social inequity. As we move forward we’ll aim to use the learnings from this pilot to drive more socially just and agronomically regenerative financial tools for US producers.

Read more about our pilot process, findings, and next steps

Policy change

In the year of the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, policy could not be more important. In this workstream we asked, What if companies and coalitions leveraged their collective resources to advance policy that prioritizes ecosystem health, community well-being, and climate solutions? To explore this question, we are bringing actors together to collaborate on, and take a joined-up approach to, identifying policies that will support the transition to regenerative agriculture and simultaneously advance critical inequities in the system. The work has particularly focused on equipping and educating organizations to understand the policies that would ensure access to policy programs for all food producers, especially historically underserved farm communities.

Through this workstream, we’ve learned that prioritizing thriving communities is integral for the survival of both our ecosystems and communities – it’s not just a “nice to have” in upcoming Farm Billlegislation, it’s a fundamental pillar. If stakeholders were able to work more collaboratively to mobilize resources and join forces with grassroots coalitions, the food system would be one step closer to aligning to goals that are centred on just and regenerative outcomes. We look forward to working with stakeholders across the system to cultivate a unified voice for public policy and advance regenerative systems. 

Read more about our policy work

Pathways to market

The current agricultural marketplace works well for large farms and large buyers focusing on low-cost bulk trade in a few federally subsidized commodities. However, this does not deliver the environmental or livelihood outcomes needed and farmers farming regeneratively have limited market access. This workstream set out to explore, What if we reimagined how regenerative products are sold and bought? And, in keeping with our focus on working differently and forging new connections to reach our vision of a regenerative agriculture system, we wondered, how might reconfiguring relationships be the ‘secret sauce’ for strengthening regenerative marketplaces?

In this workstream we re-imagined the traditional pathway to market as a regenerative value network (RVN) - with the potential to provide a decentralized, collaborative, and regenerative model for the production, distribution, and purchasing of regenerative products, fostering a more resilient, equitable, and regenerative marketplace. Reconfiguring relationships between buyers and sellers from transactional exchanges to collaborative partnerships is a fundamental aspect of RVNs, enabling the alignment of shared regenerative goals and fostering a more resilient and just food system.

Read more the Regenerative Value Network model and our work cultivating pathways to market

Social outcomes

While new benchmarks have been developed to help large buyers assess environmental outcomes and shift their procurement to regenerative agriculture, many largely neglect social outcomes. In this workstream we asked: What if equity, justice, and thriving farm communities were incentivized alongside positive environmental outcomes in regenerative agriculture? What if farm communities were centered in the design and measurement of social metrics?

This workstream has developed recommendations on a just process for incorporating social outcomes into existing and upcoming regenerative agriculture standards and certifications. Through this process, we have uncovered deeper insights and questions about the overall concept of certification: we’ve learned that producers want to see tangible and long-term benefits for their workforce (farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers), positive outcomes in their own local communities, and fundamental shifts in the dynamics between producers and buyers – things that are not easily captured in a metric or standard. Social metrics alone - while a critical focus area in the building out of standards – will not build an equitable agriculture system if the process of adoption, measurement, and enforcement in itself is inequitable.

Learn about our work to advance social outcomes and metrics


Key insights and what next

Regenerative agriculture in the US is rapidly emerging, highly dynamic, and generating significant dialogue and activity. Despite (or perhaps in part because of) the increased momentum, there remains a real risk of a shallow transition: a transition where some solutions scale, but fail to tackle the root causes of today’s challenges; where we tweak around the edges but don’t fundamentally transform our systems. 

We believe that this transition’s success will be determined by two core tenets: that the transition needs to be deep, and so will involve all players in the system; and that it must be farmer-centered and address equity as well as environmental resilience. These principles are part of what make Growing our Future a unique initiative in the regenerative agriculture space. We have intentionally created a “big tent,” a brave and challenging space in which powerful incumbents connect with historically marginalized groups, a space that includes disparate perspectives and divergent views, even as we work toward a shared goal of a just and regenerative agriculture system.  

The Growing our Future community has also adopted four key design principles that have been embedded throughout the project and across our workstreams: fostering connectivity; centering farm communities; addressing power and equity; and supporting mindset shifts. These principles help ensure that our work is simultaneously addressing specific challenges, while intentionally embodying some of the deeper changes we hope to see across the system. Read more about our design principles and the unique ways we’ve integrated regenerative practices into our own work toward a regenerative agriculture system. 

As we move into the next chapters of our work together, we will build on the insights that have emerged from our four workstreams; continue to raise the ambition of mainstream players while pursuing deep, meaningful transformation; endeavouring to elevate equate alongside environmental outcomes, and center farmers, producers, and ranchers while recognizing the key role of all stakeholders in this transition of our agriculture system. 

We’ll continue to host a space for collaboration, co-creation, and shared learning - where community members are supported and challenged to think and work differently - alongside the continuation of our four workstreams. We also recognize that much of the conversation and learning we’ve fostered so far have been broad and generalized, and we need to shift our focus to  “on the ground” change. One of the key tenets of regenerative agriculture, and regenerative practice in general, is the highly contextual, place-based nature of this approach; by definition, regenerative looks different in different places, informed by the people, land, climate, history of the place. We look forward to moving toward co-creating our ongoing work and learning with specific communities around the US, enabling landscape level activations and experimentation grounded in the thinking that has emerged from Growing our Future’s first three years of working with our partners and members.

Join us in accelerating the transition to regenerative agriculture in the US

If you are not yet involved, this is your opportunity to join the Growing our Future collaboration. For more information on becoming a financial supporter or to discuss how you can get involved in Growing our Future, contact Michelle Stearn.

Who’s involved 

Funding provided by: 

Corporate logotype -


“Farmers are in crisis, so for us being comfortable is not an option, we need to coexist in this space together and wrestle with strategies, recognizing discomfort to move forward and eventually come up with a policy structure compatible with boots on the ground.”
– Eugene Pickett, Policy Workstream contributor, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, Black Farmers and Ranchers New Mexico

“The VF Foundation is proud to support Growing our Future’s work, collaborating with a diverse set of stakeholders to help scale regenerative agriculture practices, with a specific focus working with BIPOC farmers and communities. We believe the project’s holistic approach – looking at policy, financing, and innovative pathways to market – will drive positive, systemic change for people and the planet.”
– Gloria Schoch, Director, Global Impact, VF Corporation; Executive Director, The VF Foundation

Further resources 

If you would like to know more please check out:

Key insights: our report ‘What's next for regenerative agriculture in the US? From incremental change to deep transformation to create a just and regenerative future’ takes stock of the dynamic regenerative agriculture system in the US, sets out how the Growing our Future partners are working to ensure a deep and collaborative transition that centers social equity as well as environmental resilience, and shares initial results from its collaborative pilots focused on finance for farmers' transitions, agricultural policy, and pathways to market for regeneratively-produced products.

It calls on agriculture system stakeholders to work across silos and prioritize social equity alongside climate action in order to create a just and regenerative US agriculture system that supports equitable economic prosperity, allowing people and planet to flourish long term.

Download the report

Explore our Case Study: How Growing our Future is accelerating the transition to a just and regenerative agriculture system in the US