The Way Farms Should Be
The farm of the future is the old McDonald farm with a few different twists.
We may not live on a farm, but we can grow where we live.
It is all about the soil!
by David Proctor
June 11, 2020
Urban Farm Lifestyle Magazine Published Weekly
Recently we have seen a breakdown in our food system.
The USA has always been known for innovation, efficiency, and the ability to “Feed the World”. Until now!
Our Innovation of herbicides like Roundup and pesticides has put our country in battle with nature. A battle that not even the USA can win. Nature is just too powerful.
Our efficiency in monoculture crops has us producing huge quantities of uneatable food and crops that are mostly used as a basis to produce laboratory food.
We need to look at what might appear to be inefficient agricultural practices such as multispecies on a farm, no-till farming, along with no bare soil by having cover crops, not using herbicides and pesticides.
This is done by having farms that convert solar power, through plant photosynthesis that then will feed the soil microbes. The soil is what makes plants resistant to attack by pests and disease.
When plants are eaten by ruminants the cycle is complete. The ruminants trample plants and if managed properly, will only eat part of the plant and promote root growth.
The trampled vegetation will serve for soil building and help with water retention.
The ruminant’s manure will in turn help to fertilize the ground, which will also promote plant growth and helpful insects such as the dung beetle. This will put carbon back into the ground and help with global warming.
The pasture-raised ruminants will be a healthy nutrient-dense source for protein in our diet.
This all comes about by working with nature, not against. Using managed or flex grazing will have the ruminants being moved on a daily basis.
This will give the forbs a chance to recover. All this inefficiency has little to no imputes, no large infrastructure, no big tractors, and implements, just a very cost-effective way to build soil and raise food.
The type of farm we need today may not look like what we are used to seeing when driving out in the country. But it would look very familiar to our grandparents.
Polyface Farm is an example of how we need to move our agricultural industry to this model.
From a very early age, I always wanted to farm. The problem was if you have the money that it takes to farm, why would you farm.
I use to read Successful Farmer when I was young and staying on the farm. The magazine would feature all the large and back then high-tech equipment that the farmer could purchase to become successful. The magazine would show silos, confined feedlots, and confined hog operations.
Almost every farmer was and is up to his eyeballs in debt, just trying to make a living and never seems to be able to get ahead. With all the expenses that it takes to buy equipment, buy seed, plant, and fertilize the crops, veterinary bills, medications for livestock, there is just no getting ahead.
They are in the Real Estate market, surviving by land inflation.
Their only solution is to specialize and produce more. More cattle, more chickens, more hogs, more land for more row crops, more everything.
But who really gets ahead? Is it the business that sells the equipment, that sells the seed, that sells the fertilizer, the Sell Barn that buys the cattle, hogs, etc.
The farmer is the only entrepreneur that “buys at retail and sells at wholesale.”
I wanted to see a farm that is truly successful, that is not up to their eyeballs in debt, produces diversity in food, and is producing healthy food. I saw that farm a few years ago; The Polyface Farm, that is run by the Salatin family in Swoop Virginia.
I went to the “Intensive Discovery, July of 2017, which is a two-day intensive seminar that covers topics ranging from processing chickens and rabbits to moving cattle, electric fencing, pasturing pigs, and sawmilling.”
Group Picture At Polyface
I was amazed when I got out of the car, the farm had animals, I could hear them, I could see them but I didn’t smell them. What was going on here, how can this be?
I can remember when I took a motorcycle trip from Missouri to Minnesota. I rode through Iowa, I couldn’t believe the smell, it was terrible. And here, this farm had hogs and I couldn’t smell them. What was being done differently? Everything is the answer to that question.
As an urban farmer, I wanted to see what ideas I could bring back. I can’t have cattle, hogs, or sheep, but I can have up to four chickens. So, I decided to see how they raised their chickens.
They do not keep their chickens in little cages or cubicles, they are able to move around, and have plenty of fresh air and grass to eat. Some are kept in what is called a chicken tractor.
The chickens run around and eat bugs and grass, then are loaded back up in their movable home to the next location.
Others are kept in a movable pen that is moved by pulling a wire rope and the whole pen is moved along with the chickens to fresh grass. The difference in the accommodations is for laying hens and broilers.
Where I lived, a chicken tractor would not be applicable, but the movable shelters might be something to try.
The chickens would be protected from predators and have coverage, then in the evening could be brought into a chicken house.
I also saw where they have rabbits and the chickens run around under the rabbit cages.
Some of the rabbits were out in a grassy area that allowed them to eat the green grass and still be protected. The difference here is what the rabbits are being used for, for meat or producing young.
Each of the locations that had animals was set up for a specific reason. Some locations were set up to accommodate the different age groups of the animals, whether it be little chicks, or chickens laying eggs or chickens to eat, broilers.
While others were playing their role to help in the symbiotic relationship with the other animals. These different but important roles of the animals are what makes this farm unique compared to conventional industrial farming.
Rabbit Cages With Chickens Underneath
The farm of the future is the old McDonald farm with a few different twists. I know you’re thinking that can’t be. There is no scale to that type of farm, no specialization, no way you could make a living. I saw differently that day.
This family is not only making a very good living but a healthy living, without chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and all the other “cides” that go along with conventional farming.
I hope to learn and practice these techniques on a small scale and hopefully try them on a little larger but maintainable scale.
This is the type of example in agriculture that we need to follow, so when pandemics and food shortages occur, they will be elsewhere and not in this country.
The Polyface Farm, if you would like to read more about their methods go to http://www.polyfacefarms.com/ where you will find books and seminars about what they are doing. Joe Salatin has written several books and is a well-known speaker on the subject of eco-agriculture.
Check It Out!
I have really enjoyed this book, you may too.
YOU CAN FARM | THE ENTREPRENEUR’S GUIDE
TO START AND SUCCEED IN A FARMING ENTERPRISE
by Joel Salatin
Once you stop using herbicides and pesticides, you are organic.
We are not here to conquer nature but to work with nature.