On May 8, 2019, the VF Foundation—along with the Timberland and Wrangler brands—announced $150,000 in grants to researchers at seven U.S. universities, including Arizona State University and Michigan State University, who are conducting the first comprehensive research into regenerative ranching practices.
Such research is much-needed, though long-delayed, considering that the regenerative agriculture (both farming and ranching) trend was documented seventeen years ago in Storm Cunningham‘s 2002 book, The Restoration Economy, which had an entire chapter on the subject.
Through this multi-year, interdisciplinary research, teams will evaluate if regenerative ranching yields meaningful improvements by comparing its impacts with those of continuous ranching practices.
Initial, isolated studies of regenerative farming practices are promising, indicating these techniques could lead to significant environmental, social and economic benefits.
Ranchers and farmers who use regenerative ranching practices mimic the natural movement of herd animals by intensively grazing dense cattle herds in relatively small areas before moving them to other similarly-sized areas.
Such grazing allows for more rest and re-growth of the grasses not in use, which can lead to better food for livestock and healthier soil, as these grasses pull carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground. In theory, this makes the land more productive with greater resistance to both drought and heavy rain.
“The Wrangler brand was born out of the American West way of life, so it is important to us to support farmers and ranchers in the challenges they face such as land productivity, development pressures, and loss of biodiversity,” said Tom Waldron, Global Brand President, Wrangler.
The systems-based research project focuses on 12 interrelated topics including soil carbon and water, greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock well-being and resilience. Of interest to both the Timberland and Wrangler brands is the farmer well-being portion of the study, which focuses on the aspects of ranching that are likely to yield financial benefits for farmers, potentially leading to rapid adoption and future scale.
This robust socioeconomic study will be linked with the ecological data gathered to provide a holistic view of the social and environmental opportunities.
“As we look to the future, one key element of Timberland’s sustainability strategy is moving beyond minimizing negative impact to strategically create social and environmental benefits within our supply chain,” said Jim Pisani, Global Brand President, Timberland.
“We’ve only begun to truly understand the environmental, economic, social, and humane benefits of regenerative grazing. We are energized by the prospect of a net-positive leather source, and incredibly proud to be leading the way in supporting this important research,” he concluded.
The Timberland and Wrangler brands are working to pilot a leather supply chain based on traceable hides from U.S. farms using regenerative practices, with the goal to launch leather product collections incorporating leather from this supply chain in 2020.
VF Corporation established the VF Foundation in 2002 for charitable, scientific and educational purposes. The Foundation supports organizations working in the arts, community services, education, families and children, health care, environmental sustainability and science.
Photo via Adobe Stock.