When we tell people we meet that we’re farmers, we almost always get an intrigued response. After all, it’s a profession that’s on the decline these days. The questions start to roll. We’re always asked, “what do you raise?”. In most of these interactions, we only have about 90 seconds to describe what we do. The response goes something like: “we provide grass-finished beef, pasture-raised meat chicken, free-range eggs and chemical-free vegetables and fruits”. After all – this is what we sell to pay the electric bill!
The REAL answer to that question, however, is that our primary crop is grass. Our animal production system is nothing without our pastures. If we’re able to get past that first 90 seconds of sound-byte description, we’re able to explain the differences between a biologically diverse, pasture-based system and the conventional mono-culture, feedlot system.
Right now, we’re not going to un-pack the significant differences between grass-finished and grain-finished beef or pasture-raised chickens instead of barn-raised. There’s plenty to read and watch with a quick search of Google. For now, let’s just say that there’s a MASSIVE difference to the environment, to the animals and to our health.
We have amazing pastures, and we’re not gonna be shy bragging about that fact! We’re also proud to not use fertilizers, herbicides, planting, tilling or any of the other practices that require high-cost equipment or harm the environment. The single most valuable tool on our farm is animal MANAGEMENT. Our cattle, laying hens and meat chickens move to fresh grass every day. We’ll talk later about how this is good for the animals. For now, we’ll focus on why it’s good for the land.
All animals have a number of things in common:
They pee and poop
In a “conventional” farming model however, animals are prohibited from moving. This causes a major problem with the eating, pooping and peeing parts. All that pee and poo is concentrated in one area. It begins to pile up and cause a whole host of environmental problems and animal health issues. If that’s not enough, the farmer needs to use expensive machinery to move the putrefied, stinky manure to another place. We’ve been taught to accept that horrid smell as just “fresh, country air”. That stench is a direct result of improper waste management.
Our approach is to manage the animals MOVEMENT so they do the work of harvesting their own food and then spread their pee and poo across the land. By re-introducing that final animal instinct, MOVEMENT, back into the farm equation, our pastures thrive. There’s no water pollution, no flies to bother the neighbors and no stinky aromas wafting into the air. Our grass grows better for the next round of grazing and it starts all over again. It’s a beautiful, virtuous cycle of environmental improvement through animal movement. Healthy grass means healthy animals. Healthy animals means healthy humans. Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of this team! (if you have kids, you know the tune!)
Next time we’ll discuss how healthy grass makes for healthy animals. After that, maybe we’ll dive into the topic of how healthy animals make healthy humans??? Let’s see.