Originally called the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative, this program supported student-led research projects around how to inspire, support and finance regenerative agricultural practices.
Building on what we’ve learned and the successful projects we’ve supported to date, we are revising the program into a “lab” model. The Regenerative Agriculture Lab will design and supervise 3-4 independent study projects with external organizations, businesses and actors who are deeply engaged with regenerative solutions that support a just and thriving agricultural community and food system for both people and the planet.
The RAL will engage with deeply challenging questions facing agricultural communities and producer-consumer networks today, encouraged by the prospect that regenerative approaches may hold the promise of reversing long-standing patterns of social, economic, and ecological exploitation. The Regenerative Agriculture lab will explore and support work such as:
- community and farmer-driven approaches that are climate resilient and employ just practices for workers and people
- viable and equitable food and agricultural business models
- reparative finance and investing practices
- systemic and Intersectional agriculture related solutions to the climate crisis
These will be semester-long, partner-focused projects to help these external partners unpack questions and further their impact. These will be held in the Fall semester for graduate and professional students across Yale. The RAL will be led by Tagan Engel, Resident Fellow at the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. A faculty member with expertise in the subject area will also advise on each project.
The students will actively work within their cohort, engage with external partners, and meet with CBEY mentors on a weekly basis. We will then seek to publish and disseminate select successful efforts at the close of the project cycle, to inspire decision-makers to adapt business, organizational and investment models to fit a regenerative approach.
A team of students to dig into a specific question they’d like to unpack or an issue they are facing
Support from staff and faculty at the Yale Center for Business and the Environment
The opportunity to come to Yale and talk about their organization and their work as part of a speaker series on regenerative agriculture and just food systems
Exposure to a real-world issue that an organization is facing in the regenerative ag space
The opportunity to work in a group of 2-4 students to tackle that issue
Guidance from mentors at Yale
The opportunity to create a public-facing document to help others learn from this work
Course credit as an Independent Study (3 credits YSE/4 units SOM)
Our application has closed. Please consider applying for this opportunity in the Fall of 2024!
Work with Grupo Trimex, the largest wheat milling and flour manufacturing company in Mexico to draft a farmer-centric, regenerative agriculture framework to formalize and guide their sustainability initiatives. This project involves reviewing existing interviews and data from farmers, conducting additional interviews, and an examination of current agriculture and workers' rights practices and goals. Students will develop an easy-to-read guide with a spectrum of regenerative practices and approaches that meet farmers where they are at and recognize the good work previously done. This guide will also prioritize changes that address the climate crisis and farm worker well-being.
Mar Gutierrez, Sustainability and Social Responsibility Manager for Grupo Trimex and Yale School of the Environment Alum, will be the industry advisor on this project. Spanish-speaking students are encouraged to apply (although Spanish language skills are not a requirement).
Black Farmer Fund
Support The Black Farmer Fund in their community-driven reparative capital investing process. Students will learn and participate in the Fund’s due diligence process, gathering and analyzing essential information to help determine investment readiness and needs of potential northeast Black farmers or food entrepreneurs. Learn practical skills and innovative approaches to investing that work to repair the harms of generations of systemic racism and support the Black Farmer Fund in nurturing Black community wealth & health through this work. In addition to engaging in the Fund’s due diligence project, students will write a reflection article about this work and process as an educational tool for other students and the public.
Investment Director, Charles (Chaka) Wade will be the Black Farmer Fund advisor on this project.
Work with West African food and economic development company Yolélé to create a regenerative business model for permaculture and agroforestry in Mali centered around the climate-resilient grain fonio. Chef Pierre Thiam has successfully built Yolele over the past 5 years to create economic opportunity for smallholder farming communities in West Africa; to support their biodiverse, regenerative, and climate-resilient farming systems; and to share Africa’s ingredients and flavors with the world. With this new agroforestry work, Yolele plans to diversify and expand the indigenous crops they support and distribute to include fonio, baobab, moringa, nere, and others. Students will create a business plan for this agroforestry expansion that builds on the agricultural planning and local economic development framework already in place.
Chef Pierre Thiam, Co-founder and President of Yolélé Foods will be the industry advisor for this project.
CBEY Resident Fellow Tagan Engel and a faculty member from Yale will also support/advise on each of the projects listed above.
As corporations and investment firms alike have taken an increasing interest in funding efforts to mitigate humanity’s impacts on climate and biodiversity, projects that utilize ‘regenerative’ agricultural practices have recently received unprecedented attention and capital.
But you might not guess this from what’s happening on the ground. The problem is not just that some farmers and investors see the regenerative agriculture movement as a greenwashing exercise. Numerous investors who see opportunity in the growing demand for broad, structural change in our food system are struggling to put capital to work, while at the same time many established farmers cannot readily find partners to finance their regenerative transitions. A new generation of firms who seek out farmers as partners, not clients, have stepped into this gap and are developing innovative ways to overcome challenges and unlock opportunities for farmers to invest in their land.
Through literature reviews and in-depth interviews with investors, corporate buyers, and farmers, our project seeks to clarify what makes investments in regenerative agriculture 'work' for both farmers and financiers. How can farmers who want to invest in a regenerative transition, taking up-front risk to improve the long-term health of their farms, connect with capital providers? Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, how can these firms meet farmers where they are and build tailored financial solutions? And, perhaps most importantly, how can this process bring historically marginalized farmers back to the table as partners in a shared future?
Getting these first steps in the regenerative transition right could result in a watershed movement in American agriculture while getting it wrong will almost certainly have dire economic and environmental consequences in the future.
From seaweed farming to oyster cultivation, our coasts represent some of the world’s most dynamic and vital regions of food production. As climate risks and development pressures rise in coastal ecosystems, there is increasing attention from both researchers and policymakers on the potential of oyster aquaculture and kelp cultivation as opportunities to mitigate the effects of climate change, while providing nutritious food sources and enhancing natural resources. Onshore, similar efforts to bolster resilience on coastal land-based farms through improving soil health, cover cropping, and other conservation agriculture practices have gained significant traction in recent years. Comparatively less discussed is how these regenerative approaches on land and at sea can be effectively integrated for regenerative approaches in coastal foodscapes.
From gathering seaweed to use as fertilizer on farms to burying crushed oyster shells as a soil conditioner, marine food sources played a key role in nutrient cycling for coastal farmers in New England. This sea-to-soil connection faded from common practice in the 20th century with the rise of chemical fertilizers and commercially available mulches. Our project will focus on the coastal foodscapes of New England, drawing on the already well-established shellfish and algae aquaculture industries in Maine and the burgeoning southern New England sector, to re-establish this connection. Our research will explore the relationship between regenerative practices on land and at sea, the historical use of and future opportunity for effective integrated approaches, and the policy priorities at the national and regional levels that would be required for systems change in coastal foodscapes. Ultimately, we aim to frame how to effectively couple aquaculture and agriculture businesses as a holistic, systems-level approach to regenerative practices along New England’s coastline.
Student research team: Kelly McGlinchey, Ryan Clemens, Ivan Morales, Violet Low-Beinhart