Everyone wants clean air and water… but the soil is just as critical to our well being.
The soil is one of the world’s most important resources. It is also finite – degradation is not recoverable within human lifespans. The soil is the foundation of plant biology, and plants form the basis for health, environmental quality, and overall human well being. Our society is completely dependent upon soil’s ability to retain water, nutrients, and life.
There is, unfortunately, a finite amount of arable land in the world, and in at least 168 countries the formation of deserts and soil erosion is a serious problem. We are losing 24 million tons of soil annually through erosion alone. This is a dump truck filled with soil dumping into the ocean about every 10 hours. 30% of agricultural land in the world is now irreversibly damaged by erosion, salinization, compaction, chemical pollution or nutrient depletion as a result of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
But there is a solution! Enter the symphony of rotational grazing. It is the only way to build and maintain productive soil, and ensure the land’s long-term ability to provide vital “ecosystem services” – degrade waste, clean and hold water, support vital microbial activity, and ultimately enable life on earth.
How does it work? First, our cattle eat the top 8 inches or so of grass and leave behind manure with high carbon content. Chickens follow, scratching the cattle manure for bugs and incorporating it into the soil while depositing their own high nitrogen droppings. The result is perennial pastures that explode with growth just a few days later, and a soil that builds a few millimeters deeper each year. The benefit to the farmer is that they essentially get a whole new farm for free in a few years time, as a result of a pasture that is twice as productive in producing feed.
The benefit to all of us is that we begin to rebuild healthy soil right here in New England and New York, preserving our soil’s ability to support healthy life and communities for decades to come. We think this is a worthy undertaking and an important aspect of why we are committed to our own foodshed.
Photo: Our chickens in Litchfield, NH, raised by Steve Normanton