Agriculture and climate change

We get asked about our thoughts on the correlation of agriculture and climate change often, and I'm really glad we do, because it's the start to understanding the discourse on a subject that is very polarized. When people ask us our opinion, it means they're thinking and not just taking what they read in the news as truth. The news has a great way of polarizing an issue more than necessary anyway, so we like it when customers ask a source, someone who is working in regenerative agriculture. Maybe it will give you some insight, maybe not, but we hope it helps you understand why we practice regenerative agriculture and why we believe it can help mitigate climate change.

As you probably have read, there have been several articles out there on the web about how agriculture is one of the most polluting industries on our planet and that we should all quit eating meat or eat less of it. Livestock farming in general in the U.S. does contribute to greenhouse gas emissions...BUT...that tag line is not the whole story. Yes, feedlots and confinement buildings filled with hundreds and thousands of animals concentrated in one area, feeding milled corn and soybeans for chickens, turkeys and pigs and corn bi-products for cattle, produce tons of methane gas. It is factory farming. It is hyper efficient and concentrated and it is the result of putting profit over people. When the studies show how climate unfriendly "livestock agriculture" is, they are including the amount of fossil fuels used to plant and harvest the corn and soybeans, distribute the corn and soybeans (export included), make the artificial fertilizer to feed the corn, make the ethanol which creates the corn bi-product, make the chemicals to kill the weeds that are now becoming resistant to the chemicals used on them so harsher chemical cocktails are used (with an increased chance of residual) to grow more corn and soybeans that we already have a huge surplus of in our country so then we force feed animals corn and soybeans so they get fatter faster, then drive them to and stuff them through a huge processing plant with thousands slaughtered inhumanely in a day, all so that we can have cheap meat. On top of all of these practices your hard-earned tax dollars subsidize this method of agriculture. The truth: the majority of U.S. food is produced like this because almost everything in our standard grocery stores has corn or soybean meal in it (and I haven't even gotten to the issues with wheat).

Now, consider this: Farmers grow some grain, but also grow pastures and meadows, maybe even conserving some land and returning it back to prairie, adding diversity into their cropping rotations. Animals are grazed using managed grazing techniques, acting like lawnmowers on large expanses of grasslands. Pollinators and beneficial insects are back, there's more wildlife, prairie birds return to the Midwest, farms are valued for their diversity, food is consumed locally, and we sequester a huge amount of carbon into our soils. Think about what happens when you mow your lawn. You cut the grass and it grows back. It usually grows back fuller and greener, right, versus if you leave it to just keep growing until weeds and seed heads start popping up and the color of the grass starts to turn yellowish and browns faster because the grass went to seed. It reproduced, so now it can die happy. Guess what? Animals are the lawnmowers. Managed well, they clip the top 6 inches of a grass plant off and leave the bottom 6 inches attached to it's root during the growing season. They don't return to that grass until 4 months to a year later. Bison did this in nature on their own. They never came back to the same area for over a year. The plant had time to grow, photosynthesize, capture carbon from the air, utilize it through it's roots and have fungi and bacteria (mycchorrizae) store it for millennia. It's the perfect system and it was created to work in the rhythm of nature.  The world needs animals to do this work. The more emissions we release, the more we need animals to help store them back in our soils. It's this idea of having animals on the land, moving 1-2-3 times per day, and allowing the grass to rest because that is when all the action happens.

So what does it take to return back to diversified agriculture? It takes policy change (i.e. subsidy reform). And guess who leads that charge in a democracy? Consumers like you and me. You vote with your dollar everyday. Money talks and guess who listens when money does the talking? Corporations, and thus the government.

If you want to read more on regenerative agriculture, the livestock beneath our feet, how cows can save the planet, and more topics like this, I have many book and article suggestions for you, just ask. I'm not suggesting that you get on the carnivore diet (though I've heard this greatly helps with auto-immune disorders), I am suggesting you support the farms that have the change you want to see.