"Is your farm Regenerative?"
Good morning Family Cow Tribe!
One of you emailed recently with a question for us...
"I was watching 'Kiss the Ground' about soil conservation and regenerative farming techniques. The first thing that popped to my mind was if the farm we order our milk from also practices Regenerative farming techniques."
Our answer was a resounding, "Yes! Everything we do is based on regenerative farming principles. We believe it is our responsibility to dress and keep the land as God told Adam in the garden." Genesis 2:15
The question got me thinking... Maybe it's time I write to explain regenerative farming and how we improve soil health on our farm.
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic farming approach designed not just to sustain soils, but also to regenerate them with improved soil health over time.
I believe it all can be summed up with three main principles.
Good stewardship of soil biology, careful management of rotational grazing, and a healthy respect for the systems of nature God has put in place.
On our farm, we avoid all chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. These chemicals destroy microbial life below the soil and harm beneficial earthworms, ants and beetles.
Not only do we protect our soil biology from chemicals, but we also feed the stomach of the earth with diverse cover crops.
This picture shows our farm land dressed with an 8-seed-cover-crop specifically designed to improve soil health.
Five of the species are legumes to pull nitrogen from the air and transfer it to the soil by way of their root nodules. Then the entire crop will be composted back into the soil to build organic matter.
With these farming practices we can eventually increase soil organic matter by 3-4% to store an additional 50,000 gallons of water per acre!
See it all in Dad's Giving Back to the Earth photo story.
Rotational Grazing is another important part of our plan to regenerate soil health.
Rodrick's Amen Acres farm had sandy, depleted soil when we bought it a few years ago... Now with the help of our Grass-fed Beef Cattle and rich compost, the farm soil is full of microbial activity and building more organic matter every year.
Here's how it works.
For the first year or two the cattle eat mostly hay brought in from our other farm land. This gives the soil a shot of manure fertilizer and the bonus of trampled hay to build organic matter.
Once the grassland has become fully established, the Rotational Grazing process is quite a bit different.
With the soil now increasing in organic matter and teaming with microbial life, our responsibility is simply to practice good stewardship and continue building the soil each year.
So... we look to nature and try to mimic the herding and movement patterns of ancient ruminates like the American Bison.
Our milk cows, beef cattle, pastured pigs, laying hens and meat chickens are all rotated across grassland... section by section. This gives each piece of pasture time to absorb the manure fertilizer, rest a few weeks, and regrow before the animals are back around again.
Rotational Grazing done right has been scientifically proven as the best soil building and carbon sequestering method the world over. In fact, 100% Grass-fed Beef managed properly, can actually have a net negative carbon footprint.
The third part of our regenerative farming is respect for the systems of nature God has created.
We don't use herbicides to kill "weeds." In fact, we accept and encourage biodiversity in our fields. The wide range of beneficial plants helps block out the ones we truly don't want.
Too many thistles? Weed eat them off and plant thick grass so they don't have room to grow back. It works!
Competitive exclusion even applies to us.
Read Dad's full analogy in Fence Rows and Gut Health.
Another part of nature we focus on to regenerate soil health is the life cycle. We use wood chips, offal from our butchering, cow manure, and straw (all "dead" things) to make some amazing, life-giving, soil-building compost... teaming with life.
We also respect nature by working with the seasons even when it does not conveniently fit your food buying habits. :)
People like to eat chicken year round. The problem is, truly pastured chickens and turkeys are only raised during the warm months so they can be moved to fresh grass and bugs twice a day!
This means a lot of extra work to stock up enough birds in the freezer each summer to last until spring. Right now our chicken page shows how well we planned last year... or didn't.
Seasonality affects cows as well. We often have LOTS of fresh Raw Cow Milk in spring and summer when cows are calving and the grass is lush.
We appreciate your help to balance out the highs and lows of each season to make farm life flow smoothly.
True regenerative farming is beautiful to watch in action. And the results are truly amazing.
But as with all good farming practices, greenwashing is a serious problem in today's world.
Many industrial companies portray themselves to be organic, regenerative, and pastured when the reality is far from it.
If you suspect greenwashing, ask these three main points of regenerative farming to find the truth.
Are they free of all chemical use? If not, pesticides and herbicides will kill soil microbiology, and chemical fertilizer runoff can contribute to toxic algae blooms.
Are cows, pigs and chickens being regularly rotated to fresh grass? If not, animals will damage soil without giving it time to rest, recuperate, and regrow.
Do they work with the cycles of nature? If not, you may be supporting Industrial Organics. Think: CAFO barns with climate controlled temperatures and artificial lighting.
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You are the hero in our regenerative farming.
Your support helps us reinvest in soil health across the hundreds of acres we manage regeneratively.
And remember: Regenerative farming not only improves soil health, but it also improves the nutritional value of the food grown there.
Healthy soils produce healthy foods to make healthy people.
Thank you for helping us produce these nutrient-dense, immunity-building, gut-healing, truly pastured foods!
God Designed it. We Respect it. That Explains it!
P.S. Again, thank-you for supporting our farm! Working together... and only working together, we can heal our soil health, our personal health, our quality of life, the quality of our animals' lives, plus the social fabric of our communities... one bite at a time.