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Why Regenerative Ag Part 3

written by

Ben Simmons

posted on

January 16, 2023

I hope you are enjoying our series on "Why Regenerative Agriculture" and it is making sense to you.

A recent article in Meatingplace magazine about industry trends, the author DuBois stated "Notably, regenerative agriculture is a tiny percentage of the market right now, but long term, it could be poised to resonate with consumers, who care about sustainability issues. Regenerative farming has the ability to be something that captures people's purchase dollars, and also imagination." "There is that shopper who is willing to spend a little bit more and is really looking for that cleaner label."

Today, I'll share about the nutrient cycle and what we are doing on our farm to regenerate our soils nutrient cycle.

Remember, last week we discussed the water cycle and showed rain runoff from a 2,000 acre regenerative farm (and my local farm) was basically clear water. However, in the same photo, runoff from a plowed corn field across the road added muddy water to the creek. Think of all the dirt, chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are being washed into our waterways. Why are these farmers NOT required to operate the same as say road contractors who have to put up systems to keep the dirt from entering the waterways?

Our Dec 17th newsletter showed the EPA's Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. Electricity & Transportation totaled 56.7% of the total whereas Agriculture LIVESTOCK totaled 3.7% of which the cow was 1.9%. This is conventionally raised livestock!

However, Will Harris had the same study conducted on his regenerative farm and the study found that his Regenerative Farm SINKS 3.4% of the carbon back into the soil - that equals about 100,000 POUNDS of carbon PER ACRE!!! Verses an emitter or contributor to greenhouse gasses. Since we farm very similar to White Oak Pastures then our results should be similar.

Be aware - there are people pushing governments towards a technology solution because they stand to make a lot of money from the high carbon emitters. The huge amount of money to be made is the reason a natural solution (that is basically free, helps regenerate the soil thus eliminating the need for expensive chemical fertilizers, etc., cleans our waterways and air - and the list goes on. 

Partnerships - unintentional and or loose between groups wanting to make the decision on what you can and cannot eat and the plant based community have vilified the cow who is actually a BIG part of the solution. 

When the cow eats the grass it goes into her rumen - a big fermentation tank full of biology. It is well documented that 70% of what she eats is returned to the soil and is immediately available to the soil microbes. This is where Adaptive Grazing comes in - to help spread the manure across the pasture verses under shade trees and in farm ponds or creeks. Remember this video from a few weeks back?

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The natural Nutrient Cycle is represented by this picture from Dr. Elaine Ingram.

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Remember, Nature is a Complex System. You cannot impact one Ecosystem process without also affecting the others. They ALL work together. The above photo from Dr. Elaine Ingram's work depicts the soil biology responsible for capturing, converting, and making available minerals needed by plants so they can grow. For example, bacteria stores minerals in a fashion not available to plants. It takes protozoa (a predator) to eat the bacteria which releases the minerals in a fashion the plants can use to grow. And, the protozoa needs the fungi to make the route from them to travel.

An example from our farm is on the land purchased in 2018 that we cleared in 2019 and mulched in 2020 (verses digging up the stumps). By late 2021 it was obvious that the soil needed something to feed the plants because they were not growing. So, we pulled soil samples and sent them to Regen Ag in NE. Results showed the soil had plenty of minerals to grow about anything we cared to. However, the biology ratio was way off with 9:1 bacteria to fungi and hardly any protozoa. 

That means all the minerals were "locked up" by the bacteria and thus not available to plants. We needed more predators and supporters.

February 2022 I invited Dr. Williams to my farm for a field day with five other local farmers. Two tools he taught us was how to use a shovel to test for soil aggregates needed to hold air and water in the soil and how to test for water infiltration. Here is a picture of our group. Why is this important? Because fungi & protozoa need aerobic (with air & water) soil to survive whereas bacteria can survive in anaerobic soil (without air and water).

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Since then we have sourced a high ratio fungal & protozoa compost that was applied while planting. Currently, a single application has not produced much results. I'm sure the 10 weeks without rain last fall during application did not bode well for success. My next steps will be to apply compost extract again this Spring as well as invest in broiler litter because it will be readily available to the plants and without plants the soil biology will not thrive. Without plants there is nothing for the cows to eat and deposit their manure onto the soil or decaying plants that improve organic matter - keeping the soil covered and protecting from water & wind erosion, etc. Yes, COMPLEX with a lot of considerations.

Big takeaway from today comes from the documentary "Sacred Cow" - It's NOT the Cow, It's the HOW! Thus, cows born, raised, and FINISHED on pasture is a far superior solution to greenhouse gases and offers us a premium product full of nature's goodness.

Thank you for supporting our Regenerative efforts with your food dollars. It does make a difference.


** Product Availability Update **

Chicken -Restocked Wednesday, December 28th. Next harvest date is February 14th with restock the following day

Eggs - Eggs are still tight. However, I have located and purchased about 650 pullets that have just started laying. They have to be NPIP tested to ship across state lines so we hope to have them on the farm the week of January 23rd. I also hope to bring most of the eggs they lay between now and then with me as well. YEAH!!!

 

Beef - Restocked December 23rd early afternoon. Next harvest is January 3rd with restock about January 24th

     

Pork - Restocked Dec 12th. Restocked sausages January 12th, 2023.

Lamb - Last harvest date was MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14th. Restocked Friday Nov 25th.

More from the blog

Soil Health Academy Reflections

What an honor it was for our farm to have been chosen to host a Soil Health Academy workshop May 21-23, 2024. You can learn more about SHA here. To access a link to SHA's documentary "Destination Regeneration" click here. The final count of attendees was 33. They came from CA, UT, NJ, TX, TN, AL, FL, LA, and MS. Classroom time included learning the actual definition of Regenerative Agriculture which is farming and ranching in synchrony with nature to repair, rebuild, revitalize and restore ecosystem function starting with all life in the soil and moving to all life above the soil.

Food Security @ NGF

When do you give consideration to your Food Security? Maybe at the threat of an impending natural disaster? Or another news headline about bird flu? What about the latest weather warning of a snow or ice storm where folks rush to the stores and buy up all the milk & bread? The fact is, as a nation we are way too dependent on our over-centralized food production system. In some ways it is great at producing quantity - until there is a problem, then it is NOT. Here are a few recent examples: - May 30th Millions of chickens killed in 5-alarm fire at Farina Farms in IL, One of Nation's largest free-range egg facilities - May 30th Iowa Governor signs disaster proclamation order killing 4.2 million chickens - May 30th H5N1 Bird Flu CDC current status 96,565,226 poultry affected - And, the list goes on And, this does not include the massive fires two years ago

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