WE PRACTICE HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT HERE. WHAT IS THAT YOU ASK?
Holistic management in agriculture restores the land by recreating the way animals evolved to interact with their environment. This approach was developed and popularized by ecologist, farmer and environmentalist, Allan Savory.
BECAUSE HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT RESTORES THE SOIL ECOSYSTEM NATURALLY, WITHOUT THE NEED FOR CHEMICAL TREATMENTS, IT OFFERS LONG-LASTING BENEFITS:
INTEGRATING OUR ANIMALS WITH THE ECOSYSTEM
Nowhere in nature will you find an ecosystem of only one species of animal consuming only one source of food! It simply doesn’t happen: instead, you’ll find a wide variety of species with symbiotic relationships. And that’s how it is here: our cows, sheep and pigs interact with the land, plants, bugs, wildlife – and each other – in unique ways, just as they would in the wild
Cattle and sheep are herbivores: they evolved to roam the grasslands in herds, consuming a wide variety of plants while aerating the soil and leaving their manure behind, in just the right amount. They were not meant to stay on the same patch of ground for too long, or their waste would overpower the surrounding ecosystem.
We rotate the animals through a series of small paddocks so that they graze off all of the forage evenly, applying manure (fertilizer) before they are moved to their next paddock. The previous paddock is given time to rest and re-grow with added vigor before the herd visits it again. By managing the grazing time of our herd on each paddock, we build the health and fertility of the land while eliminating the need to haul manure off farm.
We often graze the sheep right alongside the cows because they prefer different plants and graze in different ways. This ensures that more of the plants are eaten in each paddock, using each unit of land for maximum efficiency, while maintaining a better ecological balance among plant species. Sheep will eat weeds that the cattle won’t touch and this comes in handy when we get a weed outbreak: we don’t need to worry about applying herbicides, the sheep will take care of it!
There’s another, gut-level benefit, too: because gastrointestinal parasites from goats or sheep cannot survive in the stomachs of cattle and vice versa, multi-species grazing may reduce internal parasite loads.
Finally, we’ve found that the presence of our cows helps to deter predators from attacking the sheep. While the sheer bulk of a cow may slow small predators down, however, we also have a livestock guardian dog, who protects both the sheep and the cattle.
Our pigs also have a unique job here: clean up crew! Throughout the growing season and especially as the garden winds down they gobble up all of the garden waste.
We are also involved in a neat program that links grocery stores with farmers so that we can feed the excess to livestock as opposed to having it fill up our landfills and so huge amounts of produce, bakery and dairy products are added to their ration.
In the spring we put the pigs into the shelters that the cows and sheep used all winter that were bedded down with plenty of straw and hay. These packs of leftover hay, straw and manure can get pretty huge by springtime and we would normally use a tractor or Bobcat to clean up the mess. Instead, we send in the pig and they have a grand old time rooting through the piles and turning it into rich compost, which eventually ends up fertilizing our gardens.
The pigs live outdoors year round in a 6 acre pasture so they are always foraging grasses, legumes and roots out in the pasture and we supplement all of that with a grain mix we grow and mill on farm giving them a very diverse diet that they love and it all helps with waste reduction.
They’re not the kind of celebrities who make a big fuss, but our bees are the secret star of the Farm One Forty show: if they were not buzzing about, busily pollinating every flower in sight, much of the food we eat and the diverse plant populations that feed our livestock and delight our souls simply would not exist.
It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without bees, but such a world is becoming possible: many studies have shown a decline in bee health and population, likely due to pesticide exposure, loss of habitat and climate change.
A few years ago a friend of ours, Ross Phillips, was keen on raising bees but didn’t have the space in the city where he lives so he asked if he could bring a few hives out here. Of course we were excited about the idea because we knew the benefits of having bees around but didn’t have the expertise to get into it ourselves. Ross started with 3 hives here and we are now up to about 10 hives. The bees pollinate our pastures and gardens and we receive a double benefit as they provide a handy by-product: delicious, raw honey, which we use both as sweetener and as medicine.
BOTTOM LINE? OUR BUSINESS IS BUILT ON THE WEB OF LIFE.
We’re super excited to be getting back to the old-fashioned way of farming, where all of the animals played a role in sustaining each other and the land, as well as the people. The old-time farmers knew about those relationships and used them for millennia, but modern-day practices of specialized industrial farming have gotten away from that natural symbiosis and the results are evident around the world.
Our own experience, and emerging science, is bearing out what the old farmers knew: when plants and animals are given a habitat that is appropriate for them, they will flourish naturally… and the land, water, and climate will flourish as well. We’re committed to helping create that future on Farm One Forty, and we hope you’ll come to experience it!