The power of regenerative farming is that it’s decentralised, community led and guided by the unique, local needs of the land. This makes it hard to scale production, and prohibits a cookie-cutter approach to planting and harvesting.
These could also be seen as drawbacks, but not to Jade Miles and the team behind Sustainable Table. They revel in the patchwork of colours, businesses and characters that make up the regen ag community, and they want to help unite them.
The team have been working their land and building their communities for decades, but with the launch of the new Sustainable Table website, they’ve also unveiled the Regenerative Map, as well as a directory of business and projects that are looking for funding or investment.
OnImpact spoke with Jade about why now is the time for regen ag farmers to come together, how investors can get involved, and what she will be talking about at the Impact Summit.
Pathways to Change
Regenerative agriculture is about change, but it’s often about doing less, rather than more. It’s a reaction to the destructive nature of modern, mono-crop farming systems. And of course, it’s embracing the knowledge of land stewardship from the past, and bringing it into the future with the lessons and technology we have available today.
The updated and expanded approach from Sustainable Table is working to unite and empower the many disparate players in the space.
“We’re rebuilding the food, farming and fibre system for people and planet. To get there, we have three different areas of focus.” Jade says.
“The first element is funding. So we’re working with those who are values aligned and who have funds to contribute. We’re asking them to come to the table, and we’re working out how to best direct that capital in a way that delivers the most impact.”
“Then we’re educating investors and the broader industry; and we’re doing that by connecting them. We are bringing all the right players to the table so that we can build a bird’s eye view, a really comprehensive bird’s eye view of who’s where, what they’re doing, where are the gaps and the opportunities, and who are the investors, of all sorts, that can come to the table to support that.”
The final piece is communication. They’re defining terms, and painting a vivid picture of the future that is possible if we all work together.
“And to unite all of that, we’re also focussed on telling their stories. We want to leapfrog each other’s knowledge by developing language that makes sense between industry and investors. There’s a massive chasm there at the moment.” Jade says.
Leadership for Ecological Change
Jade and the Sustainable Table team are leading a major community building exercise. They’re uniting regional excellence and creating a united national industry. While the majority of our agricultural players are influenced by the behemoth supermarket players, there is a powerful group of growers and conservationists at the other end of the spectrum.
“We are trying to lead. We’ve had this emerging local food and regenerative ag food system that’s grown over the last decade or two. It’s still in its infancy, and because of that, there’s not been any progress at a national level.” Jade says.
“And so the time really is now to put that voice in place, inline with our operational team, our board and our advisory group. It’s a powerful group that have been working in this space since its origins in Australia – and so the relationships are long and deep and trusted.”
It’s a business challenge as much as a biodiversity and ecological one, but that doesn’t mean we need to depend on the inflexible economic systems that have given rise to mono-culture and centralised decision-making.
Sustainable Table don’t want to own the term regenerative agriculture, they’re even hesitant to apply a strict definition. Instead, they want it to represent a paradigm shift that’s led by the community.
“The time for a new paradigm of investing is now. We want to move away from economic growth being the main indicator for success. Now, we’re seeing transformational ecological, social and cultural change collide with what’s happening on the ground and in the dirt, and at the investment level.” Jade says.
It’s clear that capital is required, and the role Sustainable Table is playing is to be a central repository for a directory of opportunities. Investors can review it, and farmers can use it as inspiration for projects to build, as well as those that need support.
“So that is a project that we have spent the last 12 months doing that has been led by Tanya Massey, who’s one of our industry development managers. And she has done about 60 interviews from leading practitioners, thinkers and investors right across Australia and actually overseas as well.” Jade says.
“There are honestly projects that sit across all sectors, all geographies, and all the communities of our country. And opportunities from $100,000 to $100 million, and everything in between. So Tanya has defined, or identified, about 65 projects that will sit on our directory.”
“Basically, they have told us what sort of funding they’re looking for, and what sort of outcomes they’re trying to drive. Some are impact investments, some are blended. Some of them are matching other existing funding pots they’ve already got their hands on, or others have been operating for a long time and have working capital of their own. All derivatives are available.”
As mentioned earlier, this model is committed to side-stepping the status-quo of business and investment interests. They’re pragmatic, and they know the utility of working capital, but that doesn’t mean its profit at all costs, it doesn’t mean they’ll accept funding from anybody, and most importantly, it has to contribute to the community.
“Most important to remember is that there needs to be a relationships. The key thing that came out of the research (over and above everything) is that relationships are absolutely everything.” Jade says.
“So we need to come at this collaboratively. We need to come at it with humility, so that we can really value those that are on the ground doing the work and really see their knowledge for what it is, and not assume that they can’t continue without finance. Lots of them can, they just can’t do it at the pace that we need given the calamity of the impacts from climate change.”
At the summit
Jade is on a mission, and she has a lot of energy to spread the word. Lucky for you, she’ll be at the Impact Summit on 30th and 31st March in Sydney.
“I’m really excited to speak at the summit. I’m on a panel, and they always go in whatever direction the audience takes it in, so who knows! Come on down and see.” Jade says.
“I’ll be keen to talk about launching our roadshow that’s going right around the country, to present the RIFF, which is the Regenerative Investment for Food and Farming Roadshow. The aim is to kick start conversations about what it looks like when we’re brave enough to align our investments with diverse projects at the community level, that’s where change sits.”