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What is the meaning of regenerative? Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin gives his perspective

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, owner and founder of Regeneration Farms LLC, and founder and president of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, talks about what regenerative means to him, and how his experience farming in the Guatemalan rainforest informs his life today.

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Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin is leading a regional deployment of his patented regenerative poultry system, and managing systems development, infrastructure and farms operating under it.
Noah Fish / Agweek
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Regenerative — a buzzword in agriculture at the moment — is more than just a word to Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, owner and founder of Regeneration Farms LLC, and founder and president of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance.

Agweek Podcast: Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin
Fri Sep 23 00:59:10 EDT 2022
Agweek Reporter Noah Fish catches up with Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, owner and founder of Regeneration Farms LLC, and founder and president of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance (RAA). Haslett-Marroquin talks about what the word regenerative means to him, the progress of RAA, and then touches on details from his book, “In the Shadow of Green Man: My Journey from Poverty and Hunger to Food Security and Hope"

“The ancestral origin of this concept — not a word, of course, but the concept of regenerative thinking — is really not too much about what the word means to a lot of people coming up and using it, with no real deep knowledge of origin and purpose and so on,” said Haslett-Marroquin. “For us, it really defines a way of thinking, a way of being in this world, a way of relating to all the other living systems on the planet.”

He said the word regenerative is being currently being used by people who are taking advantage of its growth in popularity.

“The word right now is mostly being tagged into something somebody's doing, and so, regeneration, regenerative seems to gain people's attention,” he said. “And since most people don't know what it actually means, then it's very easy to manipulate it and to use it as a way to colonize this space that is sacred to some of us, that is ancestral to some of us — and it means a lot more than just doing no-till or cover crops or some minor little detail on the line. It's really more than that.”

To achieve a true regenerative system, Haslett-Marroquin began the nonprofit Regenerative Agriculture Alliance in 2018, with “layers and layers of scaffolding” to be added at “critical pivoting points.”

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“There's two sides to this — one is the codification of ancestral knowledge that results in models of production, in this case, center on poultry, that allows us to codify that energy transformation that we were talking about,” he said. “In that space, we’re engaging the canopy of trees, because chickens are jungle fowl, the bottom line where the chickens roam on the ground level, and then below the ground, where energy is also transformed.”

Within that poultry section are layers of three critical energy transformation points of the planet, said Haslett-Marroquin, which are photosynthesis, the action of animals, and what happens in the soil when it’s healthy.

“Those layers allow us to codify not only the practices that we're going to implement there, but also the enterprise sectors that may emerge as we do those practices,” he said. “So that's one side of the equation, where we now have poultry production as an enterprise, grain production as another enterprise sector, and also agroforestry byproducts like hazelnuts, elderberries and timber, which are enterprise sectors.”

Haslett-Marroquin said what he learned working on his family’s farm in the Guatemalan rainforest still informs his farming practices today.

“Pretty much everything I need to know about what I do today, I learned it in the rainforest,” he said. “I didn't need to go to university here to learn about all of the native species that dominated the landscape before the colonization process started, and then destruction of the ecology began in full force, and all of those skills and ways of knowing and learning were forged in the rainforest.”

He continues to cultivate those skills in Minnesota, he said, through meditation and observation.

“On a regular basis, I go into this 14-acres of woods on the new farm — and it's my favorite space — and I go in there, and I know the humidity increases instantly, the second you walk into there, the temperature drops by 15-20 degrees instantly, even the atmospheric pressure pressure changes,” he said. “I can sit there and have pretty much the same sensory effect that I used to have in the rainforests, when before radios, cell phones and even weather stations existed, we learned to feel the weather so that we knew if we had to look for shelter.”

Noah Fish is a multimedia journalist who creates print, online and TV content for Agweek. He's also the host of the Agweek Podcast. He covers a wide range of farmers and agribusinesses throughout Minnesota and surrounding states. He can be reached at nfish@agweek.com

He reports out of Rochester, MN, where he lives with his wife, Kara, and their polite cat, Zena. He grew up in La Crosse, WI, and enjoys the talent from his home state like the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Packers and Grammy award-winning musicians Justin Vernon and Al Jarreau.
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