My friend Jim used to remind me that “when you point the finger at someone else, there’s always three pointing back at you”. I know exactly what he meant. I tend to be judgmental when it comes to the use of words. Take” irregardless” for instance. It gets used all the time and it drives me nuts. It’s one of my pet peeves…
That being said, I have a confession to make. I’ve been misusing the word “sustainable” for the last few months. When I began telling everyone about Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm last year I kept talking about being “sustainable”. I’m sorry, but that’s not completely accurate. Opal’s Farm is not simply sustainable, it’s regenerative. I beg your forgiveness because the difference is huge.
“Sustainable” has become a popular adjective, the new buzzword, especially in marketing. Everyone wants to be “sustainable”. I jumped on the bandwagon, too. Perhaps I heard it so much that I used it over and over when writing about Opal’s Farm. I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of sustainable is:
“Sustainable – adjective
1: capable of being sustained
2a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged
b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods
Merriam-Webster goes on to define “regeneration” as:
“Regeneration – noun
2: spiritual renewal or revival
3: renewal or restoration of a body, bodily part, or biological system (such as a forest) after injury or as a normal process…”
Sustainability implies that we maintain the status quo. That’s not good enough. The soil needs to be regenerated: restored to the vitality nature intended. Commercial and residential development as well as traditional agriculture has failed to address the issue of soil health. Chemical fertilizers and land overuse destroy the soil. It doesn’t need to be sustained. It needs to be regenerated. That’s what Opal’s Farm does.
Regeneration goes far beyond maintenance. It’s the process of revitalizing and rebuilding the soil, making it better and healthier than before.
Healthy soil, built through organic methods, produces healthier plants. In turn, healthy plants produce a better harvest, both in quantity and quality. That goes on to affect the health and vitality of the neighborhoods we serve.
If I make any resolutions this year, I resolve not to use the word “sustainable”, at least when talking about the farm. What we say – whether about ourselves, our society, or even an urban farm – matters. Words matter. This year I prefer to be regenerative: to renew and revive – both personally and for Opal’s Farm. You can learn more about the farm at http://www.unityunlimited.org/opals-farm.html.
As always, we invite you to become a “farmer” and join in the work at Opal’s Farm!