Regenerative agriculture is a term used to describe practices that try to restore the soil’s organic matter and ultimately improve soil health. Bottens Family Farm has been using regenerative practices to do their part to save the Earth since 1996 when they began using no till farming. Then, in 2014, they began using cover crops and finally they integrated livestock back to the land in 2017. Keep reading to find out why soil health matters to our planet and how these regenerative practices improve:
Soil that has not been disturbed or tilled contains more carbon and more diverse microbes, but once it is tilled for farming for instance, the carbon is released into the air and the microbes’ habitat is damaged. Regenerative practices, such as no-till farming, build organic matter back into the soil and protect the carbon and microbes, improving soil health.
Planting cover crops is another regenerative practice that improves carbon capture. This practice doubles the carbon content of no till alone. Here at Grateful Graze, planting cover crops not only acts as a way to improve carbon capture but also is a form of grass for our livestock that is filled with dense nutrients, perfect for finishing our steers on before we send them off to be processed.
Speaking of livestock, they too are helping the cause through management intensive grazing (MIG), which moves cattle between different areas of pastures for periods of time to stimulate the growth of perennial grasses that capture carbon and are home to millions of diverse microorganisms and healthy bacteria. MIG grazing helps offset the majority of the carbon emissions related to its livestock production on the ranch and much more.
General Mills conducted a study to measure its carbon footprint in an attempt to reduce the amount of carbon they produce by working with White Oak Pastures, a grassfed operation like Grateful Graze, located in Bluffton, GA. The results concluded that beef raised by White Oak Pastures could have over 111% fewer emissions per kilograms of beef when compared to that of conventional beef. It also indicated that White Oak Pastures captures enough carbon in its soil to offset as much as 85% of its carbon foot.
All of these practices also capture carbon from the atmosphere and then store it in the soil. An excess amount of carbon in the atmosphere is not good because it is one of the causes of issues like global warming and long droughts, which is why, with the amount of carbon in our atmosphere exponentially increasing, regenerative practices just might be a necessary solution.
No-till farming, cover crops, livestock integration, and other regenerative practices also improve water quality because they reduce soil erosion which then increases water infiltration. What is water infiltration you ask? Well, essentially it is the water on the surface’s ability to enter the soil. Water infiltration is important because, when water on the surface enters the soil, the soil acts as means of filtration or filters pieces and chemicals that you do not want to drink out of the water naturally. This causes the water you drink from the ground to be cleaner and of higher quality than that of areas that do not practice regenerative farming.
Regenerative practices have also had the ability to bring more biodiversity back to the land through grazing livestock. As mentioned before, MIG grazing stimulates the growth of perennial grasses, which help store carbon and are home to millions of microorganisms and healthy bacteria that are good for the soil. At Grateful Graze, we have already seen the effects that regenerative agriculture has had on the land and its organisms as native grasses that were thought long gone have started to grow back in recent years. Not to mention, large flocks of birds have begun following the cattle and sheep through the pastures and fields like they used to do before agriculture came to the Great Prairie.
Regenerative agriculture improves carbon capture, water quality, and biodiversity which ultimately improves the soil health, but did you know that soil health is extremely important to your own health? We eat animals and plants, animals eat other animals and plants, plants acquire an abundance of their nutrients from the soil, and the soil needs us to take care of it so it is able to support the cycle of life. To understand the connection between us and the soil, we have to investigate the source that links us, specifically animals and plants.
According to Dr. Stephen van Vliet, a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a member of the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute, health-promoting plant nutrients are higher in grass fed meat than grain fed meat. There is no doubt that any meat provides various essential nutrients, including iron and proteins, but grass fed meat especially has shown several chemicals comparable to that of plants that are known to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and cardioprotective effects that are not associated with grain fed meat. Grass fed also has high riboflavin and thiamine concentrations and more favorable fatty acid compositions and less saturated fat and cholesterol.
Even though there is no knowledge presently that directly links production practices to human health, there is a connection between the richness of diets, nutrient density, and metabolic processes. Here at Grateful Graze, we understand this and try our hardest to guarantee that our livestock is obtaining diverse forages and cover crops to ensure that your meat contains nutrient dense, so you will be able to achieve healthiness.
You do not have to solely eat meat to acquire nutrients from the soils. Many health professionals recommend walking on the soil barefoot to improve your health. I am not lying! Something so simple like your skin coming into contact with the soil is a great way to connect with healthy microbes and strengthen your immune system and thus improve your overall health. These reasons are why you should support regenerative agriculture as it improves the soil’s health which is important to your health!