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Archuleta’s Message Inspires: Get the Ecology Right, the Money Will Follow

Author: Gillian Pomplun | Published: August 8, 2018

Nationally-known soil scientist Ray Archuleta presented a practical road map for restoration of farm profitability to about 200 farmers gathered at the Tainter Creek Watershed Council’s ‘Reducing Costs and Flood Impacts on the Farm’ events.

The program was held Wednesday, July 25 and Thursday, July 26 at Woodhill Farms in rural Vernon County. Tainter Creek Watershed Council members Brian and Laura McCulloh own Woodhill Farms, located in Franklin Township.

The retired 32-year career soil scientist with USDA-NRCS with an ag school background had a straightforward message for the assembled farmers.

“We got it all wrong,” Archuleta was quick to say.  “In our western scientific tradition, we utilize the principle of ‘reductionism,’ which is breaking things down into parts to study them.

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6 Reasons Why the Practice of Silvopasture Will Help Save Modern Farming

Author: Steve Gabriel | Published: August 4, 2018

Adapted from “Silvopasture: A Guide to Managing Grazing Animals, Forage Crops, and Trees in a Temperate Farm Ecosystem “(Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018) by Steve Gabriel. All rights reserved.

In addition to the range of benefits silvopasture offers to individual farms, this practice also brings a number of promising benefits to the larger society and global community. These can provide good incentives for government, industry and society to better support and encourage silvopasture as a practice.

1. Wildlife habitat and forest restoration

Farming itself is largely responsible for the fragmented chunks of forest and hedgerows we see littering the rural landscape today. Silvopasture can erase the stark line that is so often drawn between field and forest. Lands lack structural diversity, which is critical for birds and migrating animals. Ideally, we need grasslands, shrublands and deep forests to support the widest range of species. The inclusion of silvopasture into the farm landscape can greatly enhance the structural diversity of vegetation, which in turn supports a greater diversity of wildlife.

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The Park City Council Considers Using Animals To Reach Their Netzero Goals

Author: Melissa Allison | Published: July 20, 2018

The Park City Council has some big goals to eliminate the city’s carbon footprint. Staff’s latest find includes putting cows and horses out to pasture.

Two years ago the Park City Council signed a proclamation to have a zero carbon impact by 2022 for city operations. City leaders instructed staff to look for new ways to go green. Since then, the city has increased its use of solar, collaborating with Rocky Mountain Power to build a solar farm. The city also added electric buses to its fleet.

At Thursday’s meeting Environmental Sustainability Manager Luke Cartin told council about a new idea – using animals to graze the city’s open space.

By using cows, horses and other animals to graze on the city’s open space, they’re allowing nature to step back in and as the animals churn the ground with their hooves, the natural order of things will return.

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Soil Farmers: How A Renewed Focus On The Land Is Building More Resilient Farms

Author: Brian Kaufenberg | Published: June 26, 2018

Peter Allen wants to bury a fence.

Tucked within the rolling landscape of the driftless region, on a farm outside of Viola, Wisconsin, a barbed wire fence runs along the spine of a ridge separating a strip of pasture from the valley below. The noticeable three-foot drop between the fence and the field is the result of years of soil washing away while the field was being used as conventional cropland.

“When we got here, this soil was in really bad shape; it hardly grew anything and there was no topsoil left, it was all just sand subsoil,” Peter Allen recalls in a January 2018 episode of the television show “Outdoor Wisconsin.” “So we immediately brought the animals in, […] planted about 30 different species of native prairie grasses and flowers and then a bunch of trees in rows, and then we ran chickens here behind them. And now, just two years later, this is some of the best forage we have on the farm, right where we ran the chickens through.”

As Allen’s animals—cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens—graze the forage, they return nutrients and organic matter to the land, slowly rebuilding what’s been lost—adding between a quarter of an inch to an inch of soil per year, he says, and slowly restoring the savannah ecosystem once native to the area, a mix of trees and prairie. The livestock are key to this process, providing the cornerstone to a farming system that now yields perennial fruits and nuts, annual crops like corn, and pastured beef, pork, and chicken.

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PastureMap Brings a High-Tech Approach to Sustainable Grazing

The startup company co-founded by entrepreneur Christine Su hopes to improve grazing practices while helping ranchers increase their bottom line.

Author: Shana Lynch | Published: June 8, 2018

Americans like their burgers. In 2016, they ate an average of 55.6 pounds of beef per person, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up from 54 pounds the year before.

But beef producers face criticism for their product’s impact on the environment—from land degradation to high greenhouse gas emissions caused by manure storage, feed production, and even the way cattle digest food. Through her startup PastureMap, entrepreneur Christine Su hopes to improve those practices while helping ranchers increase their bottom line.

PastureMap helps ranchers raise climate-friendly beef. The software platform helps them manage their grazing land and strategically graze their herds in a sustainable way. “If you let your cattle run all over the place and continuously graze, they’ll overgraze,” Su says. But strategic grazing can prevent soil erosion, improve soil nutrients, and even reverse emissions by sinking carbon into the soil, she says. This is called regenerative agriculture. “It raises food in a way that heals the land rather than further extracting from and eroding it,” she says.

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A Well-Balanced Agro-Ecological System Is Needed

Author: Bryan Simon, Land Stewardship Project | Published: May 22, 2018

It’s not the cow or the sow, but the how. I hate to break it to all the conscientious consumers who have bought into the idea that completely avoiding meat is the answer to our planet’s environmental woes, but they’ve been misled. That’s right, I’m calling you out, Beyonce, Brad Pitt, Al Gore and others who are coaching fans to become vegan to save the planet. Such a message, while well-intentioned, misses the mark. Animals are not the problem; the problem is how they are managed.

Animals provide valuable goods and services, like nutrient cycling, habitat diversity, clean water and soil health, but only when integrated with the land.

Unfortunately, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have removed animals from the land, and the consequences are evident: a rapidly changing climate, polluted water, soil loss, rampant pest problems, and barren landscapes devoid of wildlife. Then there are the social costs: CAFOs are highly extractive and exploitative. They put small- and mid-sized farms out of business, and leave rural communities diminished.

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Producer Gail Fuller Offers 8 Lessons From His Career in Cover Crops

Author: Amy Bickel | Published: May 22, 2018

Unlike his conventional counterparts, Gail Fuller doesn’t focus on maximizing yields.

The Emporia, Kansas, farmer thinks differently than the age-old mantra that, with 10 billion people expected on the plant by mid-century, farmers must feed the world.

“I’m sorry if you are buying into that crock,” Fuller says bluntly.

Instead, Fuller made the decision to base his profitability and success on the health of his soil.

“Soil is life and life is soil,” he said to a crowd at his annual Fuller Field School in Emporia last month. “We have 60 years of topsoil left and that was as of 2012. If we continue this current production model, we might not be able to feed the world by 2050 because we might not have all the soil left to do it.”

Lessons from Gail

Fuller started the school seven years ago to educate others about regenerative ag, a concept growing across rural America. He wants his soil healthy and full of life—from microorganisms like nematodes, protozoa and mycorrhizal fungi working unseen below the earth to the beneficial insects and livestock above.

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Bless This Mess: Syntropic Coffee Farming Takes Root In Brazil

Author: Juliana Ganan | Published: May 10, 2018

When I first saw João Pedro David’s farm, it was hard to understand. For me, having grown up the daughter of a monoculture-conventional coffee farmer in Minas Gerais, Brazil, David’s land looked more like a forest than a farm, with some Yellow Catuaí coffee trees dotted here and there.

But with time, David made his case, and explained the symbiotic relationship between coffee and the various species of fruits and vegetables native to our Mantiqueira region he had chosen to carefully plant here.

David’s vision for his Sítio Travessia farm is systemic and soil-focused—the ground here is always covered with mulch and organic material. And so it makes sense that it carries the look of a forest, which, after all, is really just an organic system of constant, dynamic soil-enrichment, with each species in an ecosystem contributing to the health of the whole.

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The Savory Institute’s Land to Market Verification Aims to Regenerate 1bn Hectares of Land

Author: Elizabeth Crawford | Published: March 27, 2018

After decades of a slow build, the regenerative agriculture movement is finally taking off, thanks in part to the Savory Institute, which has launched the Land to Market verification program, which is designed to help stakeholders not just sustain the environment, but also improve it.

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Native Knowledge: What Ecologists Are Learning from Indigenous People

From Alaska to Australia, scientists are turning to the knowledge of traditional people for a deeper understanding of the natural world. What they are learning is helping them discover more about everything from melting Arctic ice, to protecting fish stocks, to controlling wildfires.

Author: Jim Robbins | Published: April 26, 2018

While he was interviewing Inuit elders in Alaska to find out more about their knowledge of beluga whales and how the mammals might respond to the changing Arctic, researcher Henry Huntington lost track of the conversation as the hunters suddenly switched from the subject of belugas to beavers.

It turned out though, that the hunters were still really talking about whales. There had been an increase in beaver populations, they explained, which had reduced spawning habitat for salmon and other fish, which meant less prey for the belugas and so fewer whales.

“It was a more holistic view of the ecosystem,” said Huntington. And an important tip for whale researchers. “It would be pretty rare for someone studying belugas to be thinking about freshwater ecology.”

Around the globe, researchers are turning to what is known as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) to fill out an understanding of the natural world. TEK is deep knowledge of a place that has been painstakingly discovered by those who have adapted to it over thousands of years. “People have relied on this detailed knowledge for their survival,” Huntington and a colleague wrote in an article on the subject. “They have literally staked their lives on its accuracy and repeatability.”

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