Building Productive Soil With Animals

The idea of using animals to grow abundant plants is a bit counter-intuitive because almost everyone has probably witnessed the effects of overgrazing. Imagine any kind of fenced-in animals and it doesn't take very long for the ground to become barren of vegetation and start looking like a desert. There has also been a lot of backlash against CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) as pictures and videos have gotten out about horrid conditions with unhealthy animals slaughtered for human consumption. 

But the idea of plants and animals coexisting in healthy ways makes perfect sense if you think about the way creation was designed. It's just a matter of observing nature and learning from it. 

For example, the Great Plains of North America had some of the richest, most fertile soil in the world. Where did it come from? Plants and animals coexisting in healthy ways over time produced all that soil. We can learn from this to build fertile soil on our own land. 

Before the Great Plains were dotted with farms, they were dotted with bison herds. Those herds stayed pretty compact because of predator pressure, and they were constantly on the move to greener pastures. 
If we zoom in on what was happening under their feet, we learn some important lessons. They would graze the easy pickings, poop and pee everywhere, and trample everything into the ground. But the next day they were on to the next spot.

What they left behind was a trail of fertility. They weren't there long enough to destroy the plants, just prune them. The trampled organic matter, poop, and pee provided food and water for composting in place. And then everything would spring back to abundant life! The cycles continued and soil was built. 

Elephants did the same thing in Africa. But a few decades ago some people thought the elephants were destroying vegetation and creating desert. So there was an effort to kill off thousands of elephants. But the more they killed, the worse things got. Another one-size-fits-all government "solution."

Now that we know and understand how animals can actually increase soil fertility, how do we steward creation -  and animals specifically - in ways that accomplish this? Some animals are better at this than others. At Sabbatical Ranch we're using chickens and next week I'm teaching a webinar all about it. I've also started an Agriscaping Homestead blog (shorter posts than I write here) where I'll be sharing everything you need to know about homesteading the Agriscaping way (check it out and subscribe here).
Chickens are often called the homestead “gateway animal” because they’re so easy to care for and they can provide eggs and meat. But they can also do work for you such as pest control, make compost, spread mulch, build soil and more. Backyard chickens can be managed to dramatically reduce the amount of processed feed you have to buy while creating healthy, happy, fit birds. Learn more by attending our free live webinar. Can’t make the time? RSVP and get the replay.
The process I described above generates resources rather than depleting them. Any approach to private land use can be regenerative or degenerative. It only makes sense to do things in regenerative ways. This wise stewardship makes the best use of resources, creates healthier outputs, and makes a more profitable enterprise. Regenerative agriculture is the next big thing beyond organic.

“I’m from the government and I’m here to help”

Ronald Reagan said those are the most terrifying words in the English language. There are innumerable examples illustrating this point, but none are more relevant to the discussion than the National Organic Program run by the USDA. 

A lot of people with good intentions put enormous amounts of effort into pushing into existence the National Organic Program in 1990. Many of those folks are now highly disappointed in what the USDA has done with "Organic." But you should expect nothing different when you have a government run as a democracy, which has increasingly been the case over the last century. America was setup as a republic where the rule of law prohibits the government from violating people's God-given rights - instead its job is to protect them. In a democracy, there are no such restraints and the government does whatever the most powerful factions want.

In the case of the USDA and numerous other unconstitutional bureaucracies, they have a mutually beneficial revolving door open to corporate bigwigs who serve a stint at the agency before returning to lucrative rewards. While employed by the government they help write industry regulations - purportedly to improve things with government oversight - that ultimately benefit themselves while hurting little guys and stifling new competition.

Now the global agri-corporations have turned the National Organic Program into a massive cash cow for themselves while making it increasingly difficult for others to compete. So now the list of new chemicals allowed keeps growing, produce is allowed that's not even grown in soil, and CAFO meat and eggs are allowed. All these allowances have flooded market shelves with pricey "Organic" options. They get the same certification label that producers dedicated to original organic practices get, and consumers don't know the difference. But the free market is beginning to produce new private certifying organizations to help consumers make better-informed decisions.

The solution is not further government controls of the food supply - we've seen how disastrous that has been in other countries. Most people would be shocked to learn that almost all US farmers receive taxpayer subsidies of some sort. And all that money comes with government controls. All this government intervention in the free market transformed America from a largely agricultural society with plenty of local food production (ie. food security) into a nation of unhealthy consumers disconnected from the food supply and highly dependent on amoral global corporations. The unconstitutional, incompetent, compromised USDA should be abolished.  

I can assure you that Sabbatical Ranch will not use the power of government to force our neighbors to subsidize us. Nor are we going to seek to enroll in any other government programs. We will do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. If our neighbors choose to voluntarily help us produce food that is chemical-free, nutrient-dense, and forage-fed, through donations, volunteering, or purchases, it will help us accomplish our goal of helping others.  

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