Four simple tools for measuring progress

They don’t cost much, either

By Allen Williams

Interest in regenerative agriculture is growing exponentially. With the rapid rise in almost every conceivable input cost coupled with ongoing weather extremes, we are seeing more farmers and ranchers express significant interest. The flood of inquiries is often overwhelming.

This interest is coming not only from farmers and ranchers here in the U.S., but from farmers around the world. Weather extremes continue to be the norm. Drought in the Extreme to Exceptional categories continues in many areas in the western U.S., while others are experiencing flooding conditions.

For all of us, the time to reinvigorate our regenerative efforts is now. We simply cannot afford not to.

The question for all of us is: “Are we doing enough, both on our own farms and to persuade our neighbors to make positive changes?”

In order to know where we are and to track our forward progress, we need measurement tools that allow us to quickly, easily and simply make progress. Within Understanding Ag, we use four simple tools to monitor our soils and conditions on a routine basis.

Anyone can use these tools. Anyone can afford these tools. They do not require collecting samples and shipping to a laboratory and waiting days or weeks for results. They do not require ongoing expenditure.

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Regenerative ag aims to go mainstream

By Joel McNair

Organic and grassfed production practices have done great things for thousands of farmers and ranchers. Millions of consumers have benefited, too.

But looking at this from a broader perspective — and I think most organic and grassfed people do look at things this way — there’s a big problem here:

Very few acres are being farmed and ranched as organic and/or grassfed.

The things we want to achieve in terms of bettering people and the planet aren’t getting done. Indeed, by most reports the overall picture here is getting darker by the day.

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Catching up with some innovators

Karremans sharpen their focus at Reverence Farms

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Saxapahaw, NC — At Reverence Farms, (see Graze article, March 2019) they’re not just building soil and dairy genetics. They’re building community.

Whether it’s former dairymen in the area who pitch in to help, graziers across the country calling with questions, customers who come for pastured meats, or the employees who keep the farm moving, for Hubert Karreman and Suzanne Nelson Karreman it’s about the people more than anything else.

Honing in on the farm’s purpose has meant scaling back some of the farm’s diverse enterprises. Hue and Suzanne closed their restaurant, scaled back the pastured hogs and sheep, quit raising meat birds, stopped raising as many veal calves, and pivoted from raw milk sales to a creamery market.

The shifts were made for a number of reasons, including feeling they were spread too thin, difficulties in convincing customers to pay what it took to give restaurant help a living wage, and a concern that catering to vegetarian restaurant customers by using vegetable oils was compromising their vision of offering the healthier animal fats that are served at the Karremans’ own family table.

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Diving deep into grassfed health benefits

Allen Williams

By Allen Williams

While those of us involved in the grassfed world are very aware that the meats we produce are different than those those coming from grain-fed animals, most of us don’t fully comprehend the breadth of those differences.

This month, I want to summarize what’s been discovered by a large number of research projects over a period of many years. As you’ll see, this goes far beyond the differences in levels of CLAs and omega-3 fatty acids that are commonly understood by grassfed producers.

Hopefully this information can be of use when you’re talking with your customers.

New research performed by Stephan Van Vliet of Utah State University along with the Bionutrient Food Association, found that in comparison to grain-fed, grass-finishing increases a wide variety of health-promoting compounds in meat while improving animal health.

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Focusing on quality food — and life

Seasonality important to Jako Farm

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Hutchinson, Kansas — Quality of life is a major focus for the King family as they direct market a variety of grassfed meat and dairy products in central Kansas.

“The farm is here to work for us and not us for the farm,” explains Daniel King, who manages Jako Farm with his wife, Robyn. They took over the business from Daniel’s parents Ken and Judy in 2015.

To that end, Daniel and Robyn implement an array of time- and labor-saving measures started by his parents that include a seasonal milking schedule and once-a-day milking, nurse cows, frozen milk and more.

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Figuring the dollar value of fodder and pods

Trees can offer much more than shade

By Austin Unruh

In looking to add trees to a grazing operation, the first thing on most people’s minds is shade.

Shade helps growing animals gain weight faster, give more milk and conceive at higher rates. The value of shade is quite well established.

Yet a grass farm needs more than just shade. Among those needs is supplemental feed at times of year when forages are in short supply. For most folks that means winter and the peak of summer.

For summer, tree leaf fodder can be an alternative to hay. Leaf fodder can come from trees that have nutritious, palatable leaves, grow back readily, and put on a lot of leaf biomass. Mulberries are probably the best at this, followed by willows, poplars, black locust and others.

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