A Short History of Regrarians: Regrarianism Explained
By Darren J. Doherty,
The development of the Regrarian system and philosophy has at its roots the late, great P.A. Yeomans’ ‘Keyline Scale of Permanence’. A few light bulbs went off in my mind over many years working as a regenerative broad-scale production landscape designer & developer. This culminated in my origination and development of the word and concept ‘Regrarian’. The first of these was through my pedagogic musings which were leaning to assembling a clearinghouse of ecological & economic design and planning methodologies. This followed the 2007 world tour that my family & I undertook, where we delivered a series of ‘Keyline Design Courses’ across the Americas, the EU and Australia. We described this tour at the time as our ‘interview with the planet’.
The big takeaway at that time was that there was a methodological blinkering that was undermining the potential of both people and the landscapes they manage to prosper as they could. My response to this was the origination and delivery (over 2008/2009) of the ‘Carbon Farming Course’ and ‘Carbon Economy Series’ by some key figures including Kirk Gadzia, Dr. Elaine Ingham, Joel Salatin and myself. For the first time the range of cutting-edge methodologies that these people teach were brought together in a pedagogical whole. The base concept for these courses would be lead off by Holistic Management, helping to frame the contextual basis of any production enterprise. This was followed by a Keyline Farm Planning workshop, dealing with the geographic and water systems + the general layout of a production landscape. Then we ran a Fertility Farming module which focussed on dealing with soil and fertility management issues. The final workshop in this series was a Polyface Farming module which delved into production system integration, processing, marketing, and distribution systems.
Following this and yet another successful tour came more musings and resulted in us engaging with several young Australian families culminating in my origination of the RegenAG brand and workshop series with these families (Taranaki Farm, Milkwood Permaculture & FreeRange Permaculture). This series was effectively a direct copy of the Carbon Farming/Economy Courses we ran in the US in 2009. In 2010 the RegenAG Workshop Series was a runaway success, thanks in large part to the organisational and marketing skill and energy of the participating families, and the Australian Federal Government’s ‘Farm Ready’ climate change in agriculture adaptation program that sponsored the attendance of 100’s of participants. During this time I started to refine my thoughts around the further application of the RegenAG brand to my existing concepts of methodology integration.
In 2011 I was invited by Australia’s foremost Holistic Management Certified Educators (including the late Bruce Ward & George Gundry, David Ward, Helen Lewis, Brian Marshall, Brian Wehlberg, Ian Chapman, Paul Griffiths and others) to teach a private Keyline Design Course in Orange NSW. This group had identified Land Planning as being a weak link in their consulting and training programs. In preparation for this Ian Chapman (also a Keyline practitioner/trainer of some time) and I had a discussion around the program for this 3 day workshop. Ian said that he used the Keyline Scale of Permanence (KSOP) as the basis for his trainings and this proved a landmark moment for my development of a new platform. Following this very successful Orange workshop following the KSOP, I then developed a whole new approach to expand on the KSOP completely. Just as Holmgren & Mollison in the 1970’s (Permaculture One), along with Jacke & Toensmeier in the late 2000’s (Edible Forest Gardens) had done in their books, though in both of these cases their adaptation of the KSOP had not been defining to the point where it framed their raison d’être.
Following this Orange workshop was the development of what I called at the time the ‘Regen10’. In this I added to Yeomans’ KSOP 8 topics the topics of 9. PolyMarketing & 10. Energy. I also changed the emphasis of the following:
1. Climate to include social, economic and governance realms
2. Geography (from 2. Land Shape in the KSOP) broadening this topic to include society
4. Access (from 4. Farm Roads in the KSOP) to include utilities and smaller scale systems
5. Forestry (from 5. Trees in the KSOP) as a broader description of plant and animal systems
What then followed in late 2011 was our promotion and delivery a number of RegenAG workshops across the EU following the new Regen10 platform, including the first RegenAG Advanced Design Course or ‘RAD’ at the Cowdray Estate in the UK. This workshop series was attended by some of the brightest land management and ecological design practitioners from across the EU.
Whilst on this EU tour, following discussions with my wife Lisa Heenan and I , we put forward an offer to demutualise RegenAG Ltd. to the Australian families involved, thereby privatising RegenAG into our ownership. Joel Salatin had suggested that we should franchise RegenAG earlier in the year and this and our own increasing desire to manage the brand I originated more closely brought us to this point. This offer immediately precipitated a torrid series of exchanges and resulted in us leaving RegenAG in Australia altogether in late 2012. The other families involved had worked extremely hard in developing the RegenAG brand and to them our offer was completely unacceptable and fair enough, however it was how we wanted to be involved and we stood by this decision. Upon our return from the EU Tour we all suffered from the effective demise of RegenAG Ltd. caused in large part by our departure from the group and the ructions caused. This forced a very creative and introspective space within the our family for some months, resulting in the generation of some new brands such as TransitionAG, and our incorporation of HeenanDoherty Pty. Ltd.
By July of 2012 Andrew Jeeves and I had started work on the manuscript for a book around what was still called the ‘Regen10’. By November of 2012 I had coined the word, ‘Regrarian’, and this changed everything for us had finally come up with a concept and name that was uniquely there own and so followed the change from the Regen10 to the ‘Regrarians Platform’ and so on. The word ‘Regrarian’ and the Regrarian Platform were formally introduced in the same month at the Carbon Economy Series conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico during a packed evening talk.
Regrarianism & the Regrarians Platform
Regrarianism per se is a philosophy as opposed to a methodology and actively encourages the regenerative development of production landscapes, communities and economies across this planet. It does so by encouraging a participatory, self-determined approach measured by the social, ecological and economic context of the individual and enterprises involved. In other words Regrarianism is about people making their own minds up and the use of any tools (or methodologies for that matter!) is up for grabs provided that those regenerative social, ecological and economic contexts are deliberated upon and activated.
Quite simply the 10 element Regrarians Platform is the framework for the whole Regrarian philosophy. Lisa, Isaebella (our daughter and Regrarians Ltd. Director) and many others have discussed this all over many years. Our preference is to not be stuck or defined by any particular methodology. From our perspective the Regrarians Platform is a process by which active and logical consideration is given to any number of topics within the domain of these 10 elements.
Regrarians is a brand that we’ve chosen (& trademarked + trade by) to use to best describe ourselves and our aspirations and that of those who are using the Regrarians Platform as a planning and decision making framework.
The Regrarians Platform has been in operation for nearly 5 years, initially by us and now by many others who have completed our trainings or follow our work otherwise. The elegant simplicity and thoroughness of its process is what attracts most to its use. You start at the atmosphere and brain and end up with thermodynamics and deal with pretty well everything else in between. The only matters we don’t delve into specifically are religions, spirituality and esoteria, though of course these will be an influence to the context of any individual or enterprise applying the Regrarians Platform as a planning and analysis process.
Other Philosophies and Methodologies and Regrarianism
Comparisons between Regrarianism and other philosophies and indeed methodologies are only natural and will no doubt continue. As Regrarianism is a philosophy not a methodology, it is only fair that the Regrarians Platform process alone be compared with other methodologies. The Regrarians Platform and Permaculture for example are commonly co-joined as being synonymous. Permaculture ethics and design principles are certainly listed by us as being worthy of note and consideration within the platform, and are listed as such in the 1. Climate section of Ecological Design Principles for that reason. But then so are many other ecological design principles and aligned processes and methodologies developed outside of the Permaculture movement.
Permaculture itself is without an holistic decision making matrix and so for that we look at frameworks such Holistic Management to deal with this. We don’t contend that Permaculture is a ‘theory of or for everything’ and neither is Regrarianism or the Regrarians Platform. Much of the rest of the Regrarians Platform is about considering an ever increasing number of system elements, remedies, strategies, analyses and techniques that are categorised within the 10 elements of the platform. Therefore it would be fair to say that the Regrarians Platform contains an almost infinitely sized clearing-house of elements, strategies etc. and that Regrarianism is the philosophical basis to which these are applied.
One thing is certain, we will be drawn into making comparisons with other systems. However we’d like to minimise the self-centred intellectualisation of our framework/philosophy, as what we are seeking to do is actually very bloody simple. If others wish to spend the time then that is up to them, but we won’t be spending too much time in this space. Rather we’d prefer to work on strengthening the number of proven elements, strategies, remedies etc. in our clearinghouse and present these to those who hire us, buy or read our materials or complete our trainings.
This is an unfinished document and we’ll be adding some more material to further explain Regrarianism with a particular focus on the expanded modus operandi of the Regrarians Platform, as its the doing bit that we believe is particularly important.