The basics of regenerative grazing: Understanding Ag.
Photo from Understanding Ag.
Gabe Brown was not trying to fix climate change when he started his journey into regenerative agricultural more than 25-years ago.
Brown stated to CNBC that he was simply trying to feed his family and keep the banker away.
Brown was born in Bismarck (N.D.) and attended college to become an agricultural professor. He then married his high school sweetheart who was from a farming family. They moved back home as they were able to work on the farm which was still using traditional farming methods. Brown bought part of the farm after eight years from his in-laws.
Brown’s North Dakota farm faced three years of hailstorms and one year drought between 1995-98. Brown was faced with the challenge of making his land profitable. He also didn’t want to invest in fertilizer or other chemicals.
It was a journey of learning. Brown explained to CNBC that she became a true student of the natural world and its ecosystems. She also learned how ecosystems work.
Brown is the current owner of his Bismarck ranch, which covers 6,000 acres. He also manages a consulting firm. Understanding AgThe company consults with 32 million farmers across North America.
Gabe Brown discovered regenerative farming as a means to save his farm nearly two decades ago.
Photo credit to Gabe Brown
Brown did not set out to fight climate change. However, regenerative cattle-grazing can be a method of sequestering carbon dioxide which is crucial for limiting global warming. When cattle graze on land, they eat plants that have been exposed to carbon dioxide. The cows stop grazing the land after grazing. This gives the soil a chance for more carbon dioxide to be absorbed by the roots.
Dan ProbertOregon Rancher, and Marketing Director for the Ranching Collective. Country Natural BeefRegenerative cattle ranching is the practice of moving cattle around from one paddock or another almost every day. After eating the grass, the cattle move to another paddock. They take a lot of time in each paddock to let it rest, then restore it so that it grows back.
The cattle are kept tightly herded in bunches and sometimes moved up to twice a day. The land then is allowed to recover and rest for one year, before they return,” Probert explained to CNBC.
The process of sequestering more carbon is better than feed cows from monocultural crops like corn, because they are seasonal and slow growing. They also don’t do photosynthesis when lying fallow.
Dan Probert inspecting the soil at his Oregon farm.
Photo by Dan Probert
The carbon that is sequestered by regenerative farming practices can vary depending on how well the farmers are grazing their cattle, and what variety of plant species the land has. According to Understanding Ag, the annual range of carbon sequestered is between 2.5 and 7.7 metric tons per acre. Allen Williams.
Comparatively, southern pine forestsThe sandstone formations have been recognized as a potential carbon sink and are expected to sequester between 1.4-2.0 tons of carbon per annum.
Country Natural Beef is the non-profit organization that Probert collective works for. Sustainable Northwest and a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable TrustYou can quantify the carbon impacts of regenerative farming more accurately by sampling soil now, and then comparing it to samples in the future.
Regenerative agriculture refers to a way of farming cattle and not a particular prescription. Bobby GillFrom the Savory InstituteA non-profit organization in this space. It is founded upon the contributions of Allan SavoryHe is a pioneer in his field and began his work in Zimbabwe’s 1960’s.
Gill said that he has been banging on the drum for over a decade, and is still developing his methods. Gill said that he often was the only one banging on the drum, which was frequently,” Gill explained to CNBC.
Savory’s groundbreaking message was that farmers should prioritize soil health, and that they need to graze their livestock according to natural patterns.
This group doesn’t emphasize environmental issues in raising cattle. However, activists do. frequently criticized.
Gill stated, “Someone who is a fifth-generation farmer…it suckers to be called the flyover state or have people point fingers at them saying that ‘Climate Change is because you’re responsible: it’s your fault.'” These conversations should be infused with empathy, understanding and compassion.
Savory Institute instead talks with farmers about regenerative farming as a way for them to make a profit, support their families, and feel proud of the land they have.
The Savory Institute is not considered a kook anymore. In 2009, the Savory Institute was founded. It currently operates 54 centers in the world. They have trained over 14,000 people and helped to manage more than 42 million acres.
Will Harris didn’t set out to combat climate change by getting into regenerative farm in Georgia. He did not even realize that the climate was changing.
Harris is currently in his fourth generation managing his 2,300-acre Georgia farm. White Oak PasturesThis article provides some insight into the history of agriculture in recent times.
Board of Directors of White Oak Pastures – Front Row, From Left to Right: Jean Turn; Jodi Benoit; Will Harris; Jenni Harris and Amber Harris. Back Row: Brian Sapp, John Benoit.
White Oak Pastures
Harris said that agriculture became industrialized during the period after World War II.
Europe was hungry. Harris explained that Europe was in desperate need of safe and cheap food. “The Industrialization, Commoditization and Centralization Really Did That… It made food extremely cheap and abundantly wasteful. Also, it made food boring, very predictable.”
Monoculture farming was introduced by factory farming. This is where one product can be grown on each piece of land. Factory farming also introduced chemical fertilizers and tillage as well pesticides.
Harris was not a fan of any of this. He said that he was financially doing well, but didn’t like some of the business practices.
White Oak Pastures, which uses regenerative agricultural practices to grow its crops, can be found on the left. On the right, you will see conventional industrial farming practices.
I was just disenchanted by the excesses in that agricultural system. It was all I could do to get rid of it. It was as simple as quitting using the technology “products” that didn’t interest me and ceasing doing what I hated. It wasn’t my intention to move the farm in any direction. “I was simply moving to the other side of what was bothering me.”
This was not an easy feat. Harris explained that Harris takes two years to rear a 1,100-pound cow. But, Harris claims, with modern industrial farming techniques, Harris can raise a 1,400 pound animal in just 18 months. However, Harris can sell more meat to high-end customers because of the higher quality.
Harris explained that while his margins are shrinking as foreign farmers enter the “grassfed” market and get into the U.S. markets, Harris claimed that the cost of steak does not include the value of his land.
Harris stated that Harris did not believe it was possible to measure the decline of non-depreciating assets on a balance sheet.
“As an expert in regenerative land management for 25 years, I can assure you that it is impossible to regenerate desertified, degraded land without the help of animals.”
Additionally, his daughters and spouses are returning to the farm with him, which is a sharp contrast to many farming families that have children who leave for different professions.
“I’m pretty certain that my daughters would have stayed away from me if I continued to farm industrially.”
Regenerative ranching can bring cows to adulthood faster, but ranchers will be able to use their land more effectively.
Probert stated that 1,000 head was the ranch he owned five years back, and now there are 1,200 heads on the same property.
The only cost to convert a farm from a traditional grazing system to regenerative is education. Williams points out that this can be tax-deductible.
Farmers don’t know this.
They have the false impression that it is expensive and they will take big financial hits in the initial years. Williams stated that this is completely false. Williams explained that once farmers implement regenerative farming, there is no need for them to purchase synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or fungicides. Their input costs fall.
Informational seminars for other farmers on the merits of regenerative farming and agriculture have become an independent business.
Williams, a sixth-generation family farmer with farms in both Mississippi and Alabama, spent 15 years in academia teaching at both both Louisiana Tech University and Mississippi State University before he pivoted to teaching the practices of regenerative grazing and agriculture to farmers in the field — literally.
Allen Williams, a sixth-generation family farmer and founder of Understanding Ag. He teaches another farmer how to regeneratively graze.
You cannot put into practice what you don’t know. Williams stated that someone must be available to train and teach you.
Probert explained that spreading awareness about regenerative agriculture means being a shining light on your own farm, which makes many farmers nervous.
Probert assumes leadership of the farmer collective he belongs to because he believes it is crucial for the survival and growth of the industry.
We can’t survive on this island. There are 100 ranches spread over six million acres. Probert explained that our product marketing relies heavily on Portland, San Francisco and Seattle.
We will continue to work together to overcome this divide between urban and rural. This is something we are not going to allow ourselves to do. It’s up to us to communicate our story, and to make everyone feel great about what they eat.