Drought update, apprenticeships, grass farming hitting the big-time and more ….

We have written at length about our ongoing drought situation in SW Colorado and the Four Corners region in general. This drought put our farm operation in peril last summer, but we survived. Unfortunately, many farmers and ranchers in the region did not. The good news is that, as of this writing, the snowpack in our basin (from which most of the farm’s water needs are derived) is the fattest it’s been in several years and stands at 122% of average, the highest in Colorado. This bodes well for water resources this spring and summer. It  looks like we’ll be turning snowflakes and the sun into the food again this summer.

Keep that snowfall coming!

A snowy scene with the Dolores Range in the background.

Apprenticeship positions are filled for the 2019 season!

We have filled our two apprentice positions for the 2019 season. Thank you to all who applied. This year we partnered with the Quivira Coalition as part of their New Agrarian Program. We will be mentoring Cary and Caroline Conwell from Denver, CO. for an intensive 8-month apprenticeship here at the farm. We plan to teach them many of the skills and practices related to organic and regenerative agriculture.

If you’re reading this and are interested in visiting and working on the farm this summer, we encourage you to go to the WWOOF website and fill out an application. Through WWOOF we are offering a series of one-month minnimum stays here at the farm.

Regenerative Agriculture

A fabulous book fell into our laps this winter. The title is “Call of the Reed Warbler,” by Charles Massy. What makes this book so powerful for us is that it lends credence to the agricultural approach we’ve been pursuing the past 17 years. The book is full of  hope and inspires us to do more, much more.

In a nutshell, the book explores in-depth the concept of “Regenerative Agriculture.” This word — regenerative — has become a buzzword. It’s the latest iteration in the word progression from organic to permaculture to sustainability. We don’t like buzzwords. Every word, every description for all the various farming techniques in existence should stand on its own as a test of time. So yes, there is a bit of hype associated with the premise of the book. But in these times — when we’re faced with rapid climate change, the beginning of the Sixth Great Extinction, the continued degradation of our soils, the lack of nutrients in our food, the continued poisoning of our blood cells from chemical contamination, and the epidemics of cancer, obesity and diabetes (among other diseases) —  this book comes along and provides hope. Hope that through regenerative agriculture, we can turn things around.

Regenerative agriculture goes against the very grain of our dominant industrial food model. Essentially, it’s what human beings practiced long before we turned to the so-called “Mechanical Mind” for our salvation. Regenerative agriculture advocates for organic growing practices and the integration of livestock into holistic “living organism” farms. As a result, our soils will be regenerated, biodiversity will once again become prevalent, toxins and pollutants will be reduced, aquifers will be recharged, healthier food will be produced, external inputs will be reduced, and social capital and ecological knowledge will be enhanced. At the same time, because livestock are intensively rotated on grass pastures, we will begin sequestering vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere thereby reversing some of the ill-effects of climate change. Sound too good to be true? No, not really. Not when you realize that we’re already experiencing first-hand, all of these things here at Indian Ridge Farm. Massy features many regenerative farmers in his book who are all revolutionizing the way we grow, eat and think about food.

His message is powerful and it’s getting some attention.

We’re seeing more and more articles in the media related to intensive rotational grazing, or holistic management. In fact, we just received the new issue of Yes! magazine. Inside there is an in-depth story titled, “The Climate Solution Right Under Us,” with the picture of a farmer holding a clump of grass grown on healthy soil.

“Regenerative farming practices — such as composting, incoporating animal grazing, diversifying crops — prioritize soil health. Fertile soil stores more carbon. This sequestration solution is not just for agriculture. A recent study found that better management of forests, grasslands, and soils in the US could absorb as much as 21 percent of the country’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.” — Yes! Magazine

It used to be that we would simply advocate supporting local agriculture as the primary means of reducing your carbon footprint. While that’s still very true and worthy, we’ve learned so much more since our humble beginnings. Little did we know then that intensively rotating livestock on grass pastures, such as we have on Wrights Mesa, we can actually sequester carbon at a rapid pace by improving on the very health of those pastures.

All this discussion also fits very handily in the great food debate of our time. The mainstream media has fixated on the fact that Americans eat a lot of meat and that consuming this meat is contributing to our climate change problem. We read books along these lines, there’s documentaries along these lines, there’s news articles everyday with opinion pieces along these lines. There is some truth to this argument. But the meat in question is from livestock that is raised industrially, that is, mostly in feedlots. We agree. Feedlots and their associated need for chemically-induced, fossil fuel-dependent, monoculture grains grown throughout the midwest and now to all corners of the globe are contributing vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and adding to the great climate change challenge.

But rarely mentioned is that there is an alternative — regenerative agriculture.  Through regenerative agricultural practices, and by consuming the healthy meats and animal fat byproducts of grass-fed animals, we can truly reverse the ill effects of climate change. Human health also improves. Some soil scientists take the position that carbon sequestration in grass pastures, is the best, quickest chance we have to immediately reverse course. The solution, truly, is “right under us.”

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