EPISODE 4: Access to Grazing

Market demand continues to swell for ethically raised, pasture-based livestock, poultry, eggs and milk. These products fetch a major price premium over the conventional, confinement raised alternative, and present the possibility for small scale producers to make a livelihood. Young graziers are joining the fray to meet that market appetite, inspired by Joel Salatin, Jim Gerrish and the incredible soil-building potential of grass-fed animal husbandry.

For farmers who build their own low-cost infrastructure: hen houses, portable electric fencing, moveable pens and pig enclosures, the need to own land is no longer first priority. They can improve the land they’re on through grazing, by virtue of the animals’ manure, but also from the intensive management and impact of animals, creating a state change in the pasture itself, promoting plant growth, diversity, and increased organic matter. These are measurable outcomes with benefits to landowners, soil microorganisms, the grazing animals, and water quality.

For landowners, the benefits of leasing grazing land to graziers are many and include a tax benefit for “agricultural use”, as well as the joys of enlivening pastures with contented mother cows, tick-eating hens, and young entrepreneurs.

For the farmers, it is a balance of managing a small business without clear title or much solid infrastructure, often on multiple parcels, and negotiating for fair terms and solid tenure with absent or risk-averse owners. These kinds of partnerships are increasing, particularly in areas adjacent to urban centers, where price pressure for recreation, second homes, winegrapes, and leisure activities has priced farmers out of the market for ownership. When both parties manage the relationship with care and work together, making decisions that are best for animals, place and people, its a win-win solution for local food sovereignty.

 

 


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EPISODE 3: Adaptive Seeds


The industrialization of agriculture has resulted in a staggering loss in the variety of crops raised to feed and clothe our population. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that between 1900 and 2010, 75% of the world’s crop biodiversity was lost. This includes both plant varieties and domesticated animal breeds – both the result of thousands of years of thoughtful stewardship by farmers and pastoralists.

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A loss of diversity in any ecological system is associated with a reduction in resiliency, this is the case in agriculture as well as ecology. We can mourn the lost sturdy landrace cattle and sheep able to withstand high alpine or desert conditions, as well as the little blue potatoes tolerant of drought and blight, or we can embrace the challenge to reverse the trend.

The solution to the problem of monoculture and monopoly practices, is the emergence of new producers, new varieties, active breeders and active savers of open pollenated varieties. That is what we learn about in this video. Adaptive Seeds is a new company run by two passionate young farmers, and it’s just one of the dozens of new start-up seed companies committed to rebuilding our agricultural biodiversity, and especially regionally adapted varieties.  To expand the genetic diversity and choice of seeds available to farmers and gardeners alike, is to expand production of a wide range of healthy varieties available to farmers and eaters. Adaptive Seeds has led the way by saving, preserving, growing, breeding, and distributing seeds from around the world, but especially those adapted to the unique growing conditions of the pacific northwest where they live and work.

 

 

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NGOs:

 

Getting into this field:

  1. Learn to Farm: Find a job here
  2. Learn seed saving techniques, preferably through work with an experienced mentor.
  3. Become a professional or amateur seed saver focused on regionally adapted seed varieties.
  4. Become a contract vegetable seed grower for FedCo, Johnny’s, High Mowing or other seed house.
  5. Grow up your own seed company. (i.e. small grains, indie seed grower/merchant)

 

You can take seed breeding courses and read books by elders in this field including:

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