Regenerative agriculture and a more-than-human ethic of care: a relational approach to understanding transformation

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Springer Nature
A growing body of literature argues that achieving radical change in the agri-food system requires a radical renegotiation of our relationship with the environment alongside a change in our thinking and approach to transformational food politics. This paper argues that relational approaches such as a more-than-human ethic of care (MTH EoC) can offer a different and constructive perspective to analyse agri-food system transformation because it emphasises social structures and relationships as the basis of environmental change. A MTH EoC has not yet been applied to regenerative agriculture, yet other literature on regenerative agriculture suggests that care may be present in these spaces and calls for the need for social science analysis of the regenerative movement. This paper uses a MTH EoC lens to reveal a diverse array of ways in which power is and can be deployed for change in the regenerative agriculture movement in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Globally, regenerative agriculture tends to be analysed through positivist, scientific approaches that focus on biophysical markers of ecological improvement. Yet, a relational approach reveals how engagement in regenerative agriculture is creating significant shifts in mindset towards more holistic and relational understandings of biological and social ecosystems. A regenerative mindset framework is suggested as a method of understanding the connection between a regenerative form of thinking, being and doing for farmers. Interviews suggested that this shift in farmers’ socio-ecological relations is crucial to the transformational potential of regenerative agriculture. This paper argues that relational analyses such as the MTH EoC approach used to analyse regenerative agriculture in this research, refresh the way we analyse agri-food system change. They also are critical to guiding and supporting on-the-ground socio-ecological shifts that are necessary to see agricultural transformation.
© The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agriculture and Human Values, 2022, available online at: Keywords: regenerative agriculture; ethic of care; New Zealand; transformation; more-than-human.
Seymour, M., Connelly, S. Regenerative agriculture and a more-than-human ethic of care: a relational approach to understanding transformation. Agric Hum Values 40, 231–244 (2023).