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Regenerating Soil: A Structured Approach

This is the first in a series of how-to blogs where we dig into the process of restoring unhealthy soils. First and foremost, we look at the backbone of a healthy soil: its structure. Why is structure so elemental, and how could mainstream agriculture fail to protect it? There’s no magic wand, but we take a look at a few regenerative solutions that can kickstart repair.

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Regenerative Agriculture – a Grounded definition

‘Regenerative agriculture’ has slipped into the modern lexicon. In conversations about sustainability and the environment you’ll find it there right alongside ‘nature based solutions’ and ‘circular economy’. In a general sense, people are increasingly aware that it offers a means for confronting our most pressing threats – from the climate crisis and overpopulation to ecosystem collapse. Regenerative agriculture could be a solution. But what is it?

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Regenerative agriculture by Grounded
People standing in the large expo hall.

The Langkloof Honeybush Company Takes on the World Tea Expo 2021

Grounded’s very own Langkloof Honeybush Company is on a journey of making niche teas from a small and little-known tea-growing region in South Africa, and already our budding company is making big news.

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Dispatch from Zambia: The scrappy business of building a regenerative farm

When doing business in Africa, the how is as important as the what. Never has this core value been tested more than with our work in the Simalaha region of southern Zambia, where, since 2017, we’ve sought to establish a culture of regenerative farming amongst local subsistence farmers. Committing to a process rather than a short-term, outcome-oriented approach means growth is incremental. It means good relationships are as valuable as any other business metric. It means that the smaller targets along the way to the big goal tend to shift – often. It means progress is hard to measure.

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Aerial image of Simalaha region of southern Zambia.
Honeybush tea decoratively displayed in silver spoons.

The many flavours and functions of the honeybush plant

Honeybush is at the centre of some exciting innovation in the food, cosmetic and nutraceutical industries. And as both niche and well-known brands develop tea infusions featuring honeybush as their key ingredient, increasingly, it’s becoming a fixture on the international tea market. Entrepreneurs are busy experimenting with new applications, and science is uncovering potential health properties, and a flurry of honeybush products are appearing in the global marketplace, boosting the profile of this historically overlooked plant.

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A Spicy Proposition: Using Regenerative Agroforestry to Promote Livelihoods and Preserve Habitats in Tanzania

Tanzania’s spice industry flies under the radar compared to some other regions, but the country has unique advantages for growing perennial spices that provide amazing opportunities for commercially sustainable, social and environmental impact. Now, with a greater emphasis on farming in harmony with nature, the country is getting an aromatic whiff that spices can be a driver of economic and landscape change, combatting habitat loss and preserving precious biodiversity. But there is still much to be done.

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A woman walking through a spice crop plantation in Tanzania.
Three people carrying a large bag of dried herbs.

Breaking down the big engine of agri-business and dreaming up a new way

Small to medium-scale farmers have to be super-human to perform within the current system (built by and for the big guys). We believe there’s a better way, which can value exceptional products and unique stories by connecting smaller producers to the right markets.

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The Grounded guide to sourcing goodness

As we attempt to repair the broken connections in our food systems and prove that fair and transparent value chains are more than a fantasy, we rely on a set of standards to help steer us. Grounded’s sourcing guidelines are a benchmark-bible for us and the farmers and businesses we work with; they reflect our values and commitment to our customers.

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A man's hands holding a bunch of lavender.
Aerial view of farmers working in their crops.

Farming forward: pathways and promise for smallholders

On the surface, Grounded’s projects vary hugely, landscape to landscape – from cultivating regenerative spices in the rainforests of Tanzania, to pioneering the honeybush tea industry with farmers in South Africa. No matter how diverse the opportunity or tailor-made our approach, when it comes to working with farmers and businesses, we’re seeking wholesale transformation for the long run.

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In conversation with a master: honeybush tea and the alchemy of excellence

This week we chat with Mingwei Tsai, Cape Town tea merchant, hospitality industry tea service trainer, and Grounded partner behind the five signature honeybush blends from the Langkloof Honeybush Company (LKHBCo).

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Honeybush tea: Conversation with a master on the alchemy of tea blending
Zambia’s Simalaha Community Conservancy

Thinking big and starting small in Zambia’s Simalaha Community Conservancy

Working with the principles of regenerative agriculture and learning to fail small in one of Africa’s most vital and vulnerable landscapes.

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Regenerative Agriculture, explained

We’re delving deep into the mysteries of regenerative agriculture with long-time partner and new Grounded team member Daniel Fourie. We learn how a little soil knowledge goes a long way to empowering farmers, and that stretchy definitions apply when it comes to understanding what regen. agri. actually is. Daniel tells us his approach to collaboration, and what thrills him most about transforming farming systems (spoiler: nothing is wasted).

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Regenerative agriculture, explained by Daniel Fourie
Essential Oils in Baviaanskloof, South Africa

Baviaanskloof Part III: The untold challenge of regenerative farming

Although the essential oil project we helped kickstart in the Baviaanskloof has transformed agriculture for a community of farmers there, it has failed to translate into significant income. Today, the farmers in the Baviaanskloof are still struggling.

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Honeybush sustainable harvesting and cultivation

We speak with Evert Greeff, Operational Manager of the Langkloof Honeybush Company, which is Grounded’s answer to supporting the emerging honeybush tea industry. Evert helps us parse the difference between wild harvesting and cultivation, and tells us why, when it comes to being mindful consumers, asking questions really, really matters.

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Honeybush sustainable harvesting and cultivation
Back to the Baviaanskloof feature image

Back to the Baviaanskloof: Attempting to fix what failed & fighting for regenerative agriculture

Even with the farmers’ profound generational knowledge and a variously skilled, highly committed international team, there were huge holes in our plans to bring economic and environmental change to a region facing all the challenges of agricultural transformation in this era.

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The Baviaanskloof Part I: A community embarks upon soil restoration

Enfolded in mountain ranges from north to south, the Baviaanskloof is South Africa’s largest wilderness area—a remote hardscrabble landscape, home to both humans and wildlife.

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Baviaanskloof soil restoration
What is so great about Honeybush?

What is so great about Honeybush?

Elzanne Singels, our resident botanist, tells us what is so great about honeybush.

For hundreds of years, people have thought honeybush to be an exceptional plant with healing properties. The Khoi and the San peoples, indigenous to South Africa’s Cape region, used the leaves medicinally—for everything from boosting immunity to treating respiratory illnesses like asthma, tuberculosis and pneumonia.

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What happens in our soils, and why do we care?

When you pick up a handful of dirt from your garden you are holding more living organisms than there are people on Earth. Underneath your feet is another world of living organisms—eating each other, fighting for resources, working together to survive. There are the microorganisms like fungi, bacteria, protozoa and nematodes, and then there are bigger ones you can see with your naked eye, like earthworms and ants. Everything you see above the ground—all the grasses, plants and trees—depends on what exists below the surface.

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What happens in our soils, and why do we care?
In conversation with Grounded co-founders

In conversation with Grounded co-founders Thekla Teunis and Gijs Boers

We chat about a chance meeting in Zambia and the unexpected career move that made it possible. They reflect on six years of digging deep into regenerative agri, the “big glue” that holds them together, and what success looks like in an ever-shifting landscape. Along the way, we hear their hard-won wisdom about self-care and an epic football metaphor.

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Getting Grounded:
Restoring connections between you, me and the stuff we consume

We’d like to share some of the amazing things we’ve learned about how our food system works. We invite you to think with us on what we like about it, and what we think should probably change. We’ll share our experiences, and we’ll be honest: this is not a story about turning the world from brown to green overnight. It is not a story about making farmers rich and consumers happy through some kind of miracle product.

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