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how and why large scale farmers can and should begin to make a shift

 
Casey Williams
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Thanks for all of your hard work, Eric!

Is this book geared toward those that are interested in holistic large scale farming, or those that are already doing large scale industrial style farming?

I feel that in order to make a major shift globally in the agricultural world, we need to convince those that are already doing mass scale industrial farming of livestock, grains, cotton, etc. to begin to change their practices. Unfortunately, within our current socioeconomic system, there has to be monetary incentive for that to happen (the environmental cost obviously isn't enough to sway them). Do you have any suggestions (or do you give any in your book) about how or why these current large scale farmers can and should begin to make a shift??
 
Feidhlim Harty
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I'd be curious about that too. I've seen in the area of organic farming here in Ireland there is a deep rooted (pun not actually intended) suspicion of organic farming amongst many within the mainstream farming education, training and legislative bodies which really limits the uptake of straightforward eco-friendly methods. The grant payment system is what keeps most farmers going here, so stepping outside of the mainstream puts you at an immediate financial disadvantage from the word go. Surely it is possible to restructure grants to support carbon farming - but getting to those who make the decisions is often the challenge. The madness of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) shows how industry lobbyists tend to outsway public support for the most part. Any thoughts on all this Eric?
 
Eric Toensmeier
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More great questions! I'm doing my best to reach both audiences with this book. On the one hand if conventional farmers with large acreage can shift their production model even slightly back and have a big impact, and sometimes we need to meet people where they are. On the other hand we need innovative farmers (like yourselves) to push as far as we can with the most carbon – friendly models available, and to develop new ones.

I look a bunch at issues around adoption of practices in the book and conclude that while education, access to the right seats and equipment, and so on are very important, the main factor limiting widescale implementation is money. Even just converting from conventional agriculture to organic is a transition that takes several years and involves reduced yields an income during that period. Converting to perennial crops and agroforestry systems is even more challenging. Many countries already have financing systems in place for carbon farming, places like Mexico, Australia, Brazil, and India. One of my goals with the book is to help to spur the creation of more of these financing mechanisms, including government, NGO, and traditional and alternative finance options. We do have a great opportunity with so many people and organizations divesting from fossil fuels, and we need to make it easy for them to invest that money in regenerative agriculture instead.
 
Feidhlim Harty
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Encore! Want to apply to Bernie Sanders as agricultural advisor to the White House?
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Eric, I am glad you mention money!
And reduced yields problems.
I am not angry at bad guys because not so many are so bad.

We cannot (all) live without money, you cannot have a business with no income.
We should even include Monsanto, in thinking how we can help them make the same money while doing a better job, instead of wanting to kill them!

If 10% less production means that the income is not enough, then it means we are all responsible by wanting to pay little for our food.
Just where live, 1 example with traditional raw goat milk cheese:
if people feed goats as they were fed before, the amount of milk does not permit to get an income corresponding to a standardized cheese price.
And by the way, the modern feeding reduces goat's life span, because it includes grains.

So the problem comes from money and more over from very adjusted prices so that we can spend less money on food and more on other things to buy.

(almost) No farmer big or small can go out of this circle with no help to do it.
 
Jim Tuttle
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Coming from an area where grape production is dropping the water table like a rock, and farms are getting more and more automation, I find it hard to believe these business models will change without either collapse of the paradigm, or serious government subsidy. The methods we all embrace and are developing are not suited to debt-based farming, period. They are labor-intensive (at least at first), and do not generally mesh well with large harvester machines. Plus, margins are razor-thin. Multi-million dollar lettuce farms net roughly $45-55K for the farmer, fuel and equipment takes a huge chunk, but still the trend is toward more machines, not less.

I think you'd need to see a major change in the way funding is handled before you'll see any change in methods. Private funding might play a significant role in this, since governments typically move too slow, do silly things and/or end up stomping on the little guys, i.e. OMRI.

How about subscription farming coupled with some sort of GoFundMe project? In fact, why even focus on Big Ag? They will go the way of the Dodo sooner or later. Some things just take time. I really don't think a top-down solution would be the best idea. Unfortunately, that lands us back at education to get the public wanting the produce we grow, not cilantro from Mexico fertilized with raw sewage.
 
Travis Johnson
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I think a lot of people mislabel large scale farmers and stereotype them in ways that are far from accurate.

A case in point is what you guys call Hugels? I saw it on here and thought it was some whacko new age agricultural idea until yesterday. When I checked it out on Wikipedia I actually had a chuckle because we have been doing that for 200 years. I was not laughing at what it is or how well it grows crops, its just a new name for an old farming trick that we have been doing all along.

The same with composting. As a large scale conventional farmer it would probably surprise you to learn that soil testing shows our fields are actually on the high side for organic matter, and yes you can have too much! That is because we spread solid cow manure on the tillable fields and liquid manure on the grass ground. The reasoning is economics. It is costly to move solid manure, but it makes the organic matter go up for tilled land so you can get more of it in. On grass ground, where you are limited on what you can spread, we go with liquid manure because you already get organic matter.

I could go on forever about other practices. Rotational grazing, crop rotation, terraces, ditching and swales. Not to to mention carbon sequestering, earth worm propagation and fuel consumption. As my Doctor even pointed out, indiscriminate use of antibiotics has been greatly been reduced in food that he has noticed a change in local children. We don't give antibiotics to just any animal just because, and the previously mentioned stuff we have done for years, long before it was cool. Heck we even did homestead type stuff like slaughtering our own animals, building our own houses from wood off the farm, and using rock to build things as well...we called it growing up poor that is all.

Large scale farmers really have a bad name when they really should not.

The plain states really give themselves and other large scale farmers a bad name with some of the practices they do simply because they are not diversified enough. They do not have enough livestock producers to provide the nutrients they need to replenish the soil. The ratio is actually given in the bible from God to the Israelite's because they did not have manure or soil testing way back then. Animals poo 85% of what the eat back out, and that goes into the ground. That is a net loss of 15% of what the animals eat off a given area of ground. In six years time that soil is depleted and that is why God commanded them to let the ground rest in the 7th year. It lest the weeds, grass, etc grow, wither, die and then fall back to the ground where it is put back into the ground and process starts again. It was the equivalent of carbon sequestering 9000 years ago.

Considering all the issues that the world of agriculture faces today:

"Feeding a growing planet on fewer arable acres
Global climate change
Resource scarcity
Sequestering more carbon
Reducing off site impact of nutrients and fertilizers
Farm resiliency
Reduce flooding and hold more water in the soil
Increase pollinator and wildlife habitat
Increase farm productivity
Reduce agricultural energy use...the answer is soil health."

I wish those were my words but they belong to Ron Nichols of the USDA-NRCS. (The Resource, a quarterly report of the nations Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Winter 2016 edition)

The real problem is, instead of working together to combat these issues, micro-farmers, small farmers, and large scale farmers are more interested in fighting over terminology when its obvious we all want the same thing. You will never hear me complain about the three sisters method of cultivation for example. I know it is far more productive then three separate row crops, however there is no current way to mechanically harvest such a method of crop rearing...that is what is missing, we need mechanization to make that method profitable. The same can be said for hugels, it can be mechanized and should be. Their are machines that "chunk" wood and obviously we can mechanically harvest many crops on hillsides, but obtaining them when other methods work can be problematic when trying to make that shift.

Often times what I see is the micro-and small farmer being upset at the big farmer, when the reverse is NOT true. We know we need small and micro farms and go out of our way to help them with the equipment that we do have. We also help them in other ways with advice, over-flow of our livestock, and even friendship. It is really sad that such things go unappreciated and instead infighting over terminology prevails.


 
Tyler Ludens
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Travis Johnson wrote:
The real problem is, instead of working together to combat these issues, micro-farmers, small farmers, and large scale farmers are more interested in fighting over terminology when its obvious we all want the same thing.


How do we solve this problem of fighting over terminology?

 
Travis Johnson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Travis Johnson wrote:
The real problem is, instead of working together to combat these issues, micro-farmers, small farmers, and large scale farmers are more interested in fighting over terminology when its obvious we all want the same thing.


How do we solve this problem of fighting over terminology?



We recognize that these "new" ideas are quite old and just have a new name. From there we simply work on trying to implement them instead of trying to generate a name for ourselves by proposing they are new.
 
John Master
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you'll never convince someone of something when their paycheck relies on them thinking otherwise. Not sure if I got the quote exact but that's what I have to remind myself anytime I am talking with someone I know who is directly involved with chem mono ag. For instance, an hour ago I got an ad from "trugreen" telling me that my dandelions (100% edible and medicinal) are weeds and that for only $30 they will send a truck full of poison to come out and take care of the so called "problem". Try telling them that they should just seriously stop and go right out of business. Probably not going to do very much, their business relies on the dandelion=weed mentality. stewardship keeps confused with spray-ardship.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Travis Johnson wrote:

We recognize that these "new" ideas are quite old and just have a new name. From there we simply work on trying to implement them instead of trying to generate a name for ourselves by proposing they are new.


Who are you specifically referring to "trying to generate a name for ourselves" - do you mean the "big names" of permaculture? Bill Mollison mentions in the Designers Manual that there's nothing new in permaculture.

 
Travis Johnson
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John you make a very valid point. You cannot imagine my surprise when I found out that in MN some communities MANDATE that lawns must be sprayed to kill dandelions, I am thinking, 'my word I have ate those since I was a kid'. My Grandmother would have killed me if I had mowed our lawn when everyone else first started mowing them; no we had to wait for "Dandelion Season" to get over first.

As large scale farmers we know the value of dandelions and do not call them weeds at all because we are not that dumb; dandelions are not weeds! In fact at the right time of year they have incredibly high protein levels, and if it was practical we would have fields of the stuff so that we could have high protein levels in our milk and get paid high bonus checks from it. HOWEVER, dandelions have some serious issues. It is a cool season plant so it matures much earlier and is very short. That is another way of saying; the yield...the tonnage per acre...would be very small. It is not economically feasible to have sole fields of the stuff AND pay property taxes upon them (or land rent) and pay for the fuel to harvest such a short crop.

Now don't get me wrong, we do not spray dandelions to kill them in our grass ground even though it is teeming with them, but they do not do us much good either. By the time we harvest for the high protein content of orchard grass, timothy, clover and alfalfa; varieties we specifically plant grass ground for, their protein levels have severely been reduced.
 
Travis Johnson
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Actually Tyler I was thinking more in terms of the smaller scale ideologists who wish to promote their ideas of being new when they really are not. The name you mentioned is doing ALL farmers a favor because he is promoting something people far removed from agriculture has not heard before. Good for him, unfortunately people also lump big farmers into the evil category not knowing the behind the scenes practices that we do. Such as rotational grazing, crop rotation, hugel farming, soil health based ag, swale formations, and margin protection.

I do disagree (respectfully) with Eric in that the biggest issue is with money. In this country we certainly have this notion that every problem we have can be cured by throwing more money at it. I don't believe that, I think it takes creative thinking and then doing; yes a two step process and not just one. I get a lot of flak from people, but honestly when I log off this computer I am a doer and not merely planning, and so is my extended family in growing potatoes, raising beef, raising pigs, and milking cows. We are putting a lot of food on the national food chain everyday and in sound agricultural practices...just with a different name. The real question is, if my family is doing it because we have access to significant land, how can we get like-minded people into agriculture?

The answer to me is simple. The one problem I see from this site alone is access to land, yet as a country we have plenty of it tied up in national forests, national parks, national grass lands, etc. There are places to farm and places not to farm, but I would love to see that public land be availed for use for exploratory use. Land Grant Universities are supposed to be doing this, but here in New England that failed miserably. They make the same claim Eric suggest, beg for a hand out from the tax payers in the form of Taxpayer Approved Bonds and study things to death. Do we really need a multi-million dollar study to find out if sheep gas is really killing the planet of late when they have been domiciled for 9000 years? Here is a case in point, back in the early 1800's several universities in Maine got land Grants that amounted to plots half a million acres in size...yes that was not a misspelling, yet they cut the wood off and sold the land. Today only one college grant has their woodlot and it is not used for research, in fact it is cut for wood. Yep...greed. We keep handing them money and they keep spending it foolishly. As a farmer I know this: too many people claim to want to help a farmer when really we just need more farmers. 1/2 of 1 % is not enough, especially as those fer age! We could very easily verify the best soil in which to farm these public lands and while obviously not every square acre of it, it is insane to think many people wish to farm yet do not have access to land. I say let them test out their methodology without first trying to overcome the burden of mortgage payments.

What do I envision? Taking my family to Moose Point State Park and going for hikes around the East End of the park and along its shoreline, then going to the westerly side, seeing a family merrily toiling away on a new method of growing crops, or a new variety, or using draft animals, etc where we can go up and have a friendly conversation with them, encourage them and maybe even invite them to our farm for friendship, an explanation of how we do things, and just an exchange of ideas. That is what I would like to see. Instead we go to Moose Point State Park and see Park Rangers mowing the HUGE lawn for 7 days a week just to keep up. That is not a prudent use of State and Federal Land. That is not what I saw in Ireland. BUT what I propose does not cost money either, it is merely giving a family a chance to start in agriculture. After a given time, they could take what they have proven to work and get their own land and move on and let others try their hand at agriculture.

When 1 out of 5 kids in this country does not know where their next meal will come from, yet we have thousands and thousands of acres belonging to these same people and can just sit and stare at it; something is amiss.

This is not my exclusive idea by far, but I really wish we as a nation would embrace it. No money needed.



 
John Master
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I wish there was an easy way to grow a lawn that stayed low without mowing. imagine all the wasted time and energy spent mowing everything that we mow. my yard isnt conducive to being fenced or I would get some grazing critters.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Is there a need for a lawn? It seems to me that the lawn care industry could transition to care for edible landscapes.

 
John Master
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3 kids gotta play baseball somewhere. I am all about using more of it for growing stuff but on 3/4 acre most of it doesn't get direct sun so it is unfortunately lawn that gets tall and grass mosquito filled. Also live adjacent to manicured vacationey lake properties and although I don't spray anything like they do I also cant have it look like a dump or they will gripe. Excited to move to a more long term property that is more fitting to what we want. Food forest in the plans. Hard to come by property like we want where we want it though.
 
Jim Tuttle
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Travis, I hope people like you are the future of large-scale operations. Unfortunately, where I am currently in prime ag land in central CA, NO ONE is doing what you are. We have one OMRI-cert'd farm, and they do not even use cover crops. In fact, with the exception of not seeing massive injectors and fert tanks, they are indistinguishable from the surrounding farms.

Soil salinity has been on the rise as long as I've been here, with more and more farmland going fallow due to excessive EC and sodium. There is no rotational grazing, no one does that. All we have are CAFL's with stinking 15 foot piles of manure, or open range with a few cattle over miles of nearly barren hills. Fields full of irrigated alfalfa to feed animals, or acres of irrigated grapes to feed the big corps that own most of them. The grape growers here overhead irrigate non-stop during cold periods, so much so that they flood all the nearby neighborhoods, all while those same neighbors watch their 300-foot wells go dry. These people are why Big Ag has a bad name. This is ag with one purpose: profit.

Consider what percentage of produce in the stores come from CA, then consider what you do is almost unknown here. It's a bit depressing.
 
John Master
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geoff lawton had a great video about permaculture on salty desert soil, one of his greening the desert project videos. Inspiring to see permaculture practices able to flourish in even the most inhospitable places, turning them entirely around if done properly.
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Master wrote:3 kids gotta play baseball somewhere. I am all about using more of it for growing stuff but on 3/4 acre most of it doesn't get direct sun so it is unfortunately lawn that gets tall and grass mosquito filled. Also live adjacent to manicured vacationey lake properties and although I don't spray anything like they do I also cant have it look like a dump or they will gripe. Excited to move to a more long term property that is more fitting to what we want. Food forest in the plans. Hard to come by property like we want where we want it though.


I think some of us could make a huge impact by making beautiful productive landscapes to replace merely decorative landscapes. 3/4 acre is a lot of land. In my experience if there's enough sun for grass there's enough sun to grow a lot of food. I think there's a strong tendency for people to think "if I just get the right bit of land I can practice permaculture" when it's being demonstrated that people practice permaculture almost anywhere.

 
John Master
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would be all about any way to replace sod with something low growing that needs no mowing especially if it was edible. It is my no means a better homes and gardens cover, half volunteer plants, moss plantains etc. but when it gets tall wife says mow it... I actually consider lawnmowing as one form of slavery, some guys really get into their lawnmowing, I see it as time spent doing something I have to instead when I would rather be doing something else enjoyable or profitable. Have been trying to shift it into more of a permaculture lot as we go but its hard to make any big changes (landscape changes, fruit trees nut trees etc) when we plan on moving to something that is already wild in a completely different type of neighbor hood. I way underestimated the amount of insane vanity around here in vacation lake property land.

Lot is narrow with 70 foot tall trees on each side so we get about 4-6 hours direct sun when foliage is on the trees. Not impossible but just one more thing going against me trying to grow food. Cant cut down the neighbors trees...

we have bees, had chickens, last year chickens ruined my garden so this year going to figure out how to keep the chickens out.

ooking for 20 acres and live more off the land but also raise critters, nuts, fruit, veggies etc as primary income, offset food bills to have others do it for me.
.
 
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I watched a really nice 12 minute video about Carbon Farming, profiling three ranchers, in Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and Mississippi, who started sequestering carbon on their land via managed grazing.



Now they spend less money, make more money, and have more free time. They say they are happier because their animals are happier!
 
Scott Strough
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Travis Johnson wrote:

Often times what I see is the micro-and small farmer being upset at the big farmer, when the reverse is NOT true. We know we need small and micro farms and go out of our way to help them with the equipment that we do have. We also help them in other ways with advice, over-flow of our livestock, and even friendship. It is really sad that such things go unappreciated and instead infighting over terminology prevails.


Spot on true! I find this very thing common, at least with the farmers I have dealt with. Many times I have asked for help from a large farmer due to lack of equipment, and many times after offering payment, seen the farmer refuse it. That has happened my whole life.
 
Travis Johnson
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I finally took the time to watch the video and it just reinforces what I have been saying all along. What is now called Carbon Farming we called Rotational Grazing, or Mob Grazing twenty years ago. In practice, we have been doing this for hundreds of years and I can prove so with pictures. All around me I can find rock walls 15 feet apart and parallel to one another. Those are alleyways, built of rock when the pastures were built from 1830-1850. They needed these laneways to move sheep around from pasture to pasture.

Now I can see where larger farmers might be slow to react to this, but for family farms it is only natural. We are cheap by nature and cut out as much expenses as possible just to get by. A few benefits not mentioned was parasite resistance. Its not so big of a deal with cows because they graze much higher off the ground at 6-8 inches, but sheep have very nimble mouths. Because they graze right to the ground they pick up more worms. There is no great natural worming program that works other then chemicals, but since parasites only live for 3 weeks, you can really stop some because the sheep are constantly moving and not going back to those pastures for a few weeks. You also stop that issue if your sheep per acre is not that high. That does not mean no mob grazing, it just means less sheep over the entire farm. For instance, I can graze 10 sheep per acre in set-stocking, but my sheep graze 2 acres per sheep...they have plenty of room to move

It is a bit more expensive to get into with sheep because electric fences do no work well for sheep, and so fencing costs are higher, but my paddocks are permanently fenced anyway and not temporarily fenced. I never had much luck with that. Part of it is that they are electric and sheep have wool that insulates them from the shock, and the overall cost of permanently fencing is cheaper. yes a roll of it costs $180 and is only 330 feet long, and it costs money to produce fence posts, but when it is done, its a fence that will last 30 years too.

Great video.
 
Scott Strough
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Travis Johnson wrote:I finally took the time to watch the video and it just reinforces what I have been saying all along. What is now called Carbon Farming we called Rotational Grazing, or Mob Grazing twenty years ago. In practice, we have been doing this for hundreds of years and I can prove so with pictures. All around me I can find rock walls 15 feet apart and parallel to one another. Those are alleyways, built of rock when the pastures were built from 1830-1850. They needed these laneways to move sheep around from pasture to pasture.

Now I can see where larger farmers might be slow to react to this, but for family farms it is only natural. We are cheap by nature and cut out as much expenses as possible just to get by. A few benefits not mentioned was parasite resistance. Its not so big of a deal with cows because they graze much higher off the ground at 6-8 inches, but sheep have very nimble mouths. Because they graze right to the ground they pick up more worms. There is no great natural worming program that works other then chemicals, but since parasites only live for 3 weeks, you can really stop some because the sheep are constantly moving and not going back to those pastures for a few weeks. You also stop that issue if your sheep per acre is not that high. That does not mean no mob grazing, it just means less sheep over the entire farm. For instance, I can graze 10 sheep per acre in set-stocking, but my sheep graze 2 acres per sheep...they have plenty of room to move

It is a bit more expensive to get into with sheep because electric fences do no work well for sheep, and so fencing costs are higher, but my paddocks are permanently fenced anyway and not temporarily fenced. I never had much luck with that. Part of it is that they are electric and sheep have wool that insulates them from the shock, and the overall cost of permanently fencing is cheaper. yes a roll of it costs $180 and is only 330 feet long, and it costs money to produce fence posts, but when it is done, its a fence that will last 30 years too.

Great video.
You are right, the basic concept has been around a very long time. Holistic management is a planning process to optimize what farmers have known for thousands of years, and most importantly: It adds a capability to adapt to different climatic conditions, including "brittle" environments that did not respond well to standard rest rotations
 
Xisca Nicolas
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May be, a new name is a way to focus on a new purpose?

Carbon farming means to highlight the hurry to keep more carbon in the soil?
The focus is on the aim instead of what is done practically.

On the whole, I very much agree with Travis, and I had seen that there is a definite professionalism in agriculture, and it should not be despised. Still, there is a problem with money, as greed is not illigal....
When greeds begins is not a definite frontiere with the right to make a living. It is so relative!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Scott Strough wrote:Holistic management is a planning process to optimize what farmers have known for thousands of years


I sure wish they'd known about it here in my locale! The carrying capacity has dropped to about 1/5 what it was back when this was prairie.
 
Scott Strough
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Scott Strough wrote:Holistic management is a planning process to optimize what farmers have known for thousands of years


I sure wish they'd known about it here in my locale! The carrying capacity has dropped to about 1/5 what it was back when this was prairie.
That's actually just about right at what Savory is finding. An approximate 5X improvement on that type of biome.
 
Tyler Ludens
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How does Savory restore the lost diversity of plants (and animals)? Many of the prairie plants here have been extirpated and replaced by non-native species such as King Ranch Bluestem. Many animal species have been reduced or extirpated and replaced by domestic herbivores.

 
Scott Strough
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Tyler Ludens wrote:How does Savory restore the lost diversity of plants (and animals)? Many of the prairie plants here have been extirpated and replaced by non-native species such as King Ranch Bluestem. Many animal species have been reduced or extirpated and replaced by domestic herbivores.

Same as all forms of permaculture, biomimicry.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Scott Strough wrote:
Same as all forms of permaculture, biomimicry.


Can you please explain how that works to restore the lost animals and plants? Cows are not bison, there are no wolves, badgers, etc etc. Many types of plants are simply gone. How do the managed grazing systems restore this lost diversity? Looking at pictures and films of managed grazing systems, all I see are grass (usually somewhat short) and domestic cattle. Are there any examples of managed grazing systems which have restored the prairie ecosystem or allowed biological diversity, beyond domestic cattle and their preferred grasses?

You say managed grazing is just what farmers knew all along, but that is not true in my region. If farmers had known it all along, the carrying capacity would not have dropped to one-fifth of what it had been and all that biological diversity would not have been lost. Cows on grass is not the same as a prairie.

I realise my comments and questions might seem off-topic, and I think in some ways they are, because I see large-scale farming, even if holistic, as perhaps a less-bad option, but not necessarily a good option. Large-scale farming implies large-scale land-holdings, which implies inequity in distribution of resources. We say we want to see large-scale farming make the transition to something better, and it certainly must, but I wonder if the better thing might not be large scale, but small scale.

 
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Keeping in context with this thread, best to explain by considering the alternative used by 97% of the current production models, and how large scale farmers can make those changes. First of all most is in corn and soy now. And most that is grown using harsh ferts, pesticides and tillage systems. Right of the bat, converting to a pasture based system instead increases biodiversity significantly. Now for examples of how large scale farmers can transition:
The most important part of this thread is why! best talk I ever saw answering why, and biomimicry (farming in nature's image) solutions how to start:


Start with the first step any and all farmers can do year 1.

Here is the type of presentation that inspired those farmers to make the change:


Next that system advanced a bit more, animals added.:


Next a slightly different version developed by the Aussies:

a similar thing the aussies are doing, but by a dairy farmer here in the US.



And this one I particularly like showing how almost "magically" the biome recovers, even extirpated species from long dormant seeds in the soil:

 
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@Tyler L. : "....that is not true in my region." Proof in point>>>>>

"Maybe the whole world is just acting out the same impulse that brought an 1898 cattlemen's meeting in west Texas to an end with the following unanimous declaration:

"Resolved, that none of us know, or care to know, anything about grasses, native or otherwise, outside the fact that for the present there are lots of them, the best on record, and we are after getting the most out of them while they last."'

But it is hard to be content with the theory that people are bad and will always do the worst. Given the present climate of education, knowing something about grasses may be the greedy course if it means the way to continued prosperity.

The stockmen's resolution might have been in response to newfangled ideas of range management. Conservation in the view of Theodore Roosevelt's generation was largely a matter of getting the right techniques and programs. By Aldo Leopold's time, half a century later, the perspective had begun to change. The attrition of the green world was felt to be due as much to general beliefs as to particular policies. Naturalists talking to agronomists were only foreground figures in a world where attitudes, values, philosophies, and the arts--the whole weltanschauung of peoples and nations could be seen as a vast system within which nature was abused or honored. But today the conviction with which that idea caught the imagination seems to have faded; technology promises still greater mastery of nature, and the inherent conservatism of ecology seems only to restrain productivity as much of the world becomes poorer and hungrier." -- http://www.primitivism.com/nature-madness.htm
 
Tyler Ludens
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That pretty much sums up the attitude, John.

Let's hope it's changing. I do not personally believe people are bad and will always do the worst. I believe people are people and generally try to do the best they know how for themselves and their families. Nobody set out to destroy this region, it is not anyone's intention now to destroy it, it is their intention to get what they can out of it. Though considering the expensive equipment, feed, etc my neighbor needs for his cows, it's hard to imagine he makes much profit. He might do better to transition to wildlife management and sell deer leases. http://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/private/agricultural_land/ He could still keep a small number of cows if he wanted to.







 
Scott Strough
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Tyler Ludens wrote:That pretty much sums up the attitude, John.

Let's hope it's changing. I do not personally believe people are bad and will always do the worst. I believe people are people and generally try to do the best they know how for themselves and their families. Nobody set out to destroy this region, it is not anyone's intention now to destroy it, it is their intention to get what they can out of it. Though considering the expensive equipment, feed, etc my neighbor needs for his cows, it's hard to imagine he makes much profit. He might do better to transition to wildlife management and sell deer leases. http://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/private/agricultural_land/ He could still keep a small number of cows if he wanted to.
That's a good idea. Even better in my opinion would be for someone to introduce him to permaculture carbon farming. He could keep his cows, probably even support more than he has now, yet they would benefit the environment instead of harming it. Then he could sell deer leases on top of that. Very profitable and without harming the environment. A win/win IMHO.
 
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I'm not sure how to counteract the impulse of the rancher to kill everything that isn't cows or grass. He kills the native persimmons because raccoons like to eat the fruit and will even shoot armadillos because they are varmints. Maybe he thinks the cows will break their legs in the burrows? That's why ranchers extirpated the prairie dogs. And of course predators such as coyotes and cougar are not tolerated. Maybe learning about managed grazing would change these attitudes? I don't know. I still see the main focus being on cows and grass and not on diversity. Wildlife management, on the other hand, demands that one preserve and improve habitat for wildlife, which means not killing everything.

And that's sort of the main problem I have with large-scale farming systems. The purpose of them is profit, not production, not diversity. We know that small-scale diverse systems are more productive of food per land unit than large single-product systems. And Bill Mollison points out in a largely ignored section of the Designers Manual, that wild systems are far more productive than domestic systems.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Scott Strough wrote:
And this one I particularly like showing how almost "magically" the biome recovers, even extirpated species from long dormant seeds in the soil:


I haven't yet watched the whole thing but something leapt out at me: How the degraded example property looks almost exactly like Geoff Lawon's farm before he began restoring it, and how that cow farm is in a forest region (forest in background), same as Geoff's. Geoff is restoring his land to forest, with only a small portion devoted to cows. Do the managed grazers transition most of their land back to forest if they're in a forest region, or are they intent on growing grassland in a forest region?

The land improved by managed grazing looks great, and I can see managed grazing being a useful transitional strategy, as it is at Geoff's farm, but, from what you've said, Scott, there's no intention to transition to forest for most managed grazing systems. The climax community is grassland, even in a region where the historical climax was forest. Is it important to try to restore historical climax communities? I'm not convinced it necessarily is, because of the changing climate, but I wonder if a region "wants" to be forest, like mine does, and keeping the trees down takes a lot of work, if it might be best to transition to forest ultimately?



 
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I encourage you to watch Greg Judy's presentation on his grazing operation (the last video of the group above), and how old prairie species are just showing up as the environment changes. Over and over he says things like "this is little bluestem. We didn't plant it. It just showed up."

Cattle are not bison, but their impact on the environment, if properly managed, is pretty darn close. We're not talking about moving the herd once a month, or once a week. They are moved daily, sometimes more than once a day. It is intense, similar to when a herd of bison showed up. Very little space between the cattle.

It takes a lot more attention and thought than the usual, which is to turn them out on a very large piece of land and not move them for weeks, so it's been slow to catch on, but the ranchers/graziers who are doing it are doing well.

One thing about biomes: without the megaherds of bison and antelope, many parts of the old prairie will grow trees, but that doesn't mean that's what the land is "meant" to be. What you're seeing in the Greg Judy video is second or even third growth forest. He's in central Missouri, so on the border between the great plains and the forests of the Ozarks.

The potential for storing carbon in topsoil seems huge, particularly when the topsoil gets to be over ten feet thick. That's what we had in the prairies (before the plow showed up) and that's what (I believe) we can have again, if we can get more farmers to follow Greg Judy's lead.
 
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