www.montereycountynow.com june 20-26, 2024 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY 11 If you think about it, Monterey County is a microcosm of California. It features some of the state’s major environmental features: ocean, mountains and fertile soils. The combination contributes to the state’s biggest industries, agriculture and tourism. And like California, the county attracts people from all over the world to live and work, as well as create and dream. One group called Regenerative California did think about it, and is launching a pilot program to create a new statewide economy, starting in Monterey County. The nonprofit’s team is charged with creating smaller pilot projects to demonstrate locally that a regenerative economy—one that regenerates the Earth’s finite assets rather than extract and discard as if infinite—is the pathway to a healthier future for the planet and its inhabitants. It’s not a new concept—the idea of a regenerative economy has been talked about since the 1970s, when some economists rightly predicted that old economic ways would lead to a collapse. “We can all agree that there are more natural disasters, more fires, more droughts,” says Kristin Coates, Regenerative California’s CEO. The Monterey County pilot program came about after the state’s tourism bureau, Visit California, hired the UK-based JLL, a global real estate and investment company, to create 10-year sustainable travel strategies for each of the state’s 12 regions. The fledgling Regenerative California was in turn hired to look at sustainable tourism on the Central Coast. The group is exploring the interplay between all the county’s main economic drivers, its governments and organizations and how they can work together to solve challenges, like the lack of housing as one example, and ultimately create a new economy. “How do we get out of our silos?” is one of the questions they’re asking, Coates says. There are groups working toward similar goals, but they often do it on their own. The group is focusing on four industries: agriculture, tourism, construction and the “Blue Economy,” referring to sustainable uses of ocean resources. Last year they spoke to over 100 people from all parts of the local economy, asking what participants saw as challenges and needs. Themes like housing, health, education, energy, water and transportation were common. From there the group zeroed in on several potential pilot projects in the areas of affordable housing, kelp restoration, better food access, transitioning small farms to regenerative agriculture and building public awareness. At 7pm Saturday, June 22, the group is hosting a free screening of the 2023 documentary Common Ground about pioneers of the regenerative agriculture movement, followed by a discussion with members of the ag industry, including Braga Fresh in Soledad. The event takes place at the SandBox, 440 Ortiz Ave., Sand City. “We want to get conversations started,” Coates says, adding it’s not to villainize those pursuing traditional methods, but asking the community to consider transitioning to an economy that creates healthy soils, food and environment. Next-Gen Monterey County serves as a pilot toward creating a new economy for California. By Pam Marino Soledad-based Braga Fresh employs regenerative agriculture, using techniques to sequester carbon and improve soil quality. Encouraging the technique is one focus of Regenerative California. NEWS “We want to get conversations started.” BRAGA FRESH