We employ a very unique production model, one that is designed to be different from status-quo farms and ranches in this area. We have embraced the holistic approach to ranching first championed by Alan Savory, whose 2013 TED talk on reversing desertification of the land has become one of the most widely viewed talks of all time. We have eliminated cash crops, choosing instead to plant diverse cover crop blends that we graze. By using holistically managed planned grazing on both the cropland and the native range we are beginning to see benefits in all parts of the operation, including more forage growth, better rain infiltration, and fewer required inputs.
How it works specifically is this: we rotate the cows (eventually sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry) through the ranch, moving daily at optimum. Because we graze cover crops as well as native pasture, we rotate in a variety of ways, with the goal being to graze in a different pattern every year. This rotation, along with the herd action created by a mob of cows kept in close proximity, does remarkable things for the soil and for stimulating plant growth. We still have a lot to learn about the effects, but it’s clear it jumpstarts regeneration of the soil. Our focus has shifted from “per acre” production to soil health. Avoiding artificial fertilizers and chemicals, coupled with this type of intensive grazing, is the key to fixing soil health, which in turn is the key to fixing many other problems in agriculture and other industries.
This production model is regenerative for our environment, allows me to operate in sync with nature, and maintains a high quality of life for everyone involved in the operation. Profitability potential is also very high, partly because input costs are very low while forage production is actually increased.
We also believe regenerative agriculture is the right thing to do. Contrary to popular belief, it appears that we can truly sequester carbon and regenerate the land fastest by using grazing animals managed in a way that mimics mother nature. It’s not the cow, it’s the how, to put it simply. Yes, we will completely agree that the industrial agricultural complex (including the feedlot-based beef system) has proven to be a bad way to feed the world. But a regenerative approach to the problem allows the cow, properly managed, to become the hero. Our goal is a truly integrated, diversified system that includes many different forms of naturally raised pasture proteins, including beef, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Combined with a hospitality enterprise capable of bringing in people through camping and other ventures (people who are especially interested in and tuned to the regenerative agriculture approach), we should find ourselves with the ability to sell a large amount of ranch-raised protein directly to the consumer.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the holistic management framework in our operation and lives. We are attempting to redefine the direction of food production, and will continue to explore ways to help our operation to become more sustainable/regenerative through adding additional enterprises. The holistic approach is also responsible for numerous changes in our personal lives in 2018. We were given the challenge of accepting parent roles for a niece and nephew and decided that we needed to accept that responsibility, despite the significant changes that it has caused in our lives. Holistically speaking, we are attempting to do “the right thing” for ourselves, our operation, our families, and our communities.