Words are nice to write, but sometimes it’s a kick to post photos of what’s been happening around here this spring. As they say, a picture is worth a thounsand words. Enjoy!
Have we totally lost our minds?
Recent news had a corporation producing artificial meats going public. You heard that right. Artificial meats. Food created in a laboratory, by men and women wearing white lab coats. What’s the company’s valuation? Almost $4 billion!
We too had to do a double take when we first heard of the concept of an “artificial meat” about a month ago. We were incredulous. This plant-based product is supposed to look like meat and taste like meat. It also “bleeds” like meat with beet juice to simulate real meat’s red blood. Fast food companies are getting in on the act, too, offering plant-based Whoppers and the like. There are also startup companies pushing “cultured meats”, where animal muscle cells are produced through tissue culture in a factory or laboratory.
How does a company get valued at over $3.5 billion for a food product that’s essentially untested? That produces food in a laboratory, a process that has NOTHING to do with agricultural sustainability and regeneration?
This product’s apparent newfound popularity falls in line with a new myth being perpetuated by some folks that beef production is what is partly responsible for climate change, and that if we all switch to a plant-based diet, we can save the world.
Let’s state at the onset that we’re all in favor of Americans cutting down on their consumption of industrial meats. Notice we said “industrial” meats. (More on that in a moment.) And we’re all in favor of Americans being able to make whatever food choices they want for themselves. We’re not about to argue we need food czars dictating what we can or can’t be eating. If you want to eat processed, artificial, genetically modified foods, go for it!
But my goodness. Have we gone mad when we consider the direction “food” is going in this country? Do we really want laboratories producing food for us? Is this where veganism is taking us? Back into the laboratory, disconnected from nature and handing the industrial food industry easy pickings?
As you know, we’re advocates of Regenerative Agriculture. This is an eco-friendly form of growing food organically with livestock on grasslands that essentially seeks to regenerate the soils, the watersheds, hydrology, the diversity of the micro-biome and animals, birds, insects, as well as plants and trees. It’s the antithesis to the don’t-eat-meat-to-save-the-world crowd. Regenerative agriculture is ultimately about nutrition and our own health. It’s a ground-up approach to agriculture that steers away from the ill-effects of industrial agriculture, where a mono-culture has essentially destroyed the very things regenerative agriculture is trying to reclaim. We don’t advocate eating food out of food factories, from large corporations that are exploiting scarce arable lands and human labor for profit.
The methodology practiced in regenerative agriculture believes that as we heal nature, we heal ourselves. That improving grasslands actually sequesters carbon, diminishing the effects of climate change. Some soil and climate scientists have posited that globally improving grasslands with livestock is our quickest, best bang to reverse climate change. Regenerative agriculture is a system that works with nature, not against nature. As an irony to all ironies, it’s a method of growing food that acknowledges that domesticated agriculture got us into this mess and it’s agriculture that will get us out.
One commenter criticized veganism this way. “It’s a capitalist industrial dream,” she commented. “Your reality is boxed products, ultra-processed fake foods that are completely disconnected from nature. In the upcoming battle for the future of farming, the real power belongs not to the often naïve vegan militants, but to that old enemy of farmers: the industrial food processing giants.”
Is that where this is taking us? Is the $4 billion valuation of a food company that produces fake beef the beginning of the demise of regenerative agriculture? Are we content following the path of the same food system that’s been in place for the past 50 years or so that is partly responsible for many of our ills?
In the recent issue of Sustainable Farming, authors Frederic Leroy and Martin Cohen wrote, “The danger here is that the political arguments being advanced right now —meat and dairy bad, new scientific foods good — are dangerously simplistic and could have catastrophic consequences for human health and the environment. It is high time that we start spending more of our energy on improving the food system using truly evidence-based interventions instead of losing ourselves in ‘one-size-fits-all’ planetary solutions that overlook most of the ecological, physiological and cultural diversity.”
Imagine if the $4 billion valuation could instead be invested in Regenerative Agriculture. Just imagine. With that we may actually get on the right track toward making constructive change, while at the same time improving on the health of our fellow beings.
“Nature has her own religion. Gospel of the Land.” — Pearl Jam
We all struggle, one way or another, to improve upon our lives, to strengthen our relationships and communities, to nuture our children and to make positive contributions to better the planet. Life, as we know it, is full of choices. Everyday, we decide — if we’re conscious — how to organize our day so that we can look back on it knowing we’ve done our best to further positivity.
So it is that here at Indian Ridge Farm we’ve been thinking a lot about Regenerative Agriculture and how it fits into the larger realm of our society and into our ability to continue making positive change. With this said, we’re excited to announce some changes that affect you, our consumer —our most valued asset and resource. The farm continues to evolve after 17 years of commercial operation. We continue to grow in dedication, commitment and passion for improving our soils, our ecosystem, our natural habitats, our hydrology, our immediate farm community and our grasslands. Please read on as we ask you to further your commitment to our farm.
Regenerative Agriculture (see recent post) essentially seeks to make amends for the damage to the environment, to domestic livestock, to the soil and to the health of us humans created by our Industrial Agriculture model. The principles of Regenerative Agriculture is exactly what we’ve been doing here on the farm during the last 17 years. Instead of fighting Mother Nature, trying to modify Mother Nature, trying to compete and “outsmart” Mother Nature, Regenerative Agriculture implies being in synch with nature and working with nature, not against her.
These are trying times. We face serious challenges as a human race to even survive the harm we’ve wrought. Climate change. Soil degradation. Chemical poisons in our food. Polluted air and water. Diseases that are now immune to treatment. A political system that seems intransigent to change. The list goes on. But there is hope. There are solutions. Regenerative Agriculture, and the choice you make to support farms that are vying for sustainability and resiliency is how you can make a huge difference in your own lives and by at the same time improving the environmental health of Planet Earth, our home.
We say, be a part of the agricultural solution, not the problem. Industrial agriculture got us into this mess and Regenerative Agriculture will get us out of it. That’s the paradox in this whole discussion: agriculture is both the problem and the solution.
For starters, support your local organic farms at every chance you get. By doing so, you’re reducing your demand for food grown in an industrial setting that is loaded with pollutants, labor abuses and excessive fossil fuel usage. By supporting local farms, you’re keeping your hard-earned money in the local economy instead of shifting it to some anonymous corporate behemoth. By supporting local farms, local communities are strengthened. By supporting local farms, you’re reducing your carbon footprint.
The second immediate action you can take is to choose organic food as often as possible. The data is overwhelming: poisons in our food are literally killing us, through diabetes, eating disorders, heart disease and cancer.
On the one hand, it’s awesome that the City Markets, Walmarts and other large box stores of the world offer consumers more organic food choices. That certainly wasn’t the case when we started the farm 17 years ago. It means there is growing demand for healthy, organic food, and there are soils out there somewhere in the world that are no longer being poisoned by chemicals. There are now other new food upstarts as well: Blue Apron, Whole Foods (now partnered with Amazon), Natural Grocers, Trader Joes.
But buying organic food from these food suppliers is a double-edged sword. Think about your own carbon footprint when you’re supporting one of these large corporate entities: the shipping costs (barges, ships, trucks, delivery vans) to get the food to the stores; the excessive packaging (read: plastics); the mileage you put in to go to Montrose or elsewhere to make your purchases; the labor that is being exploited by what are now in many cases large corporate owned organic farm entities, many of them situated in developing countries; the fossil fuel used by these large farms to grow the food, and so on and so forth.
You have an amazing opportunity to join us here at Indian Ridge Farm — through our newly revised CSA program — to support a resilient, local organic farm. We’re recommitting ourselves to a CSA program as our main model to market our food. We felt this is the most meaningful way to develop a relationship with our consumers, our friends, the supporters of the farm. And yes, Anne LeFevre, our gardener extraordinaire, is bringing back the produce CSA! We’ve devised our diverse CSA program with flexibility in mind. Essentially, you can order chicken, eggs, broth, pate in quantities dictated by you for the weeks when you need it. We’ll even store some winter storage birds for you (if you haven’t already purchased your ownl freezer at home) so you can have them into the cold winter months.
For more information, please click here on this website. Signups will be available by Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
Do it as if your life, and the life of the planet, depended on it. Because it does.
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!
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.
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.”
We are honored and excited to announce that we’ve been selected as mentors for the Quivira Coalition’s “New Agrarian Program!” This program links experienced and knowledgeable farmers with apprentices who want to learn all there is about farming as a prospective career. This will be our 17th season of successful farming operations here at Indian Ridge Farm. Our operation is focused on pastured poultry (broilers, layer hens and turkeys), but the farm is integrated and holistic, including intensive rotational grazing, carbon farming, poultry processing on-farm, composting, bio-diversity, multi-species stacking, bio-intensive nutrient-dense vegetable production, high regard for the health of all our micro-organisms and solar energy as a means of mitigating our use of fossil fuels.
Apprentices can link here for more information about our apprenticeship program for the 2019 season! The upshot is we are now taking applications. You can also read more about our apprenticeship program on this home page by going to the “Work Opportunities” button. The 2019 apprenticeship program could be just the right step for an aspiring farmer who wants to hone in their skills and then possibly commit to a long-term relationship with Indian Ridge Farm. We will be happy to discuss this possibility with the right candidate.
This website will also give you a lot of detail and images about the farm and our passion for farming.
We just returned from an intensive Regeneration Workshop sponsored by Quivira Coalition, Holistic Management International and American Grass Fed Association that was held in late October in Albuquerque, NM. Although we’re currently still putting the farm to bed for what we hope is a long, snowy winter, our energies are already focused on our next season of farming that begins in April, 2019 here in the Rocky Mountains. The conference presented many interesting speakers and experts in their fields, which has truly re-energized us. We’re also keenly aware of the importance of farming as a means of connecting with Mother Earth, providing healthy nutritious food for the regional population, adding to the economic vitality of Wrights Mesa and beyond, and, mitigating some of the ill-effects of climate change through the carbon sequestration that is inherent in grass farming. The time for local, sustainable farming is now!
We hope you can join us. Are you ready to take the plunge?
Forecasts that painted a rosy picture for the prospects of a strong monsoon season never materialized this summer. That means the region continues with its “exceptional” drought conditions, the highest rating. One indicator of just how dry its been is the fact that Grand Junction is currently on track to record its driest summer ever, in over 100 years of record keeping. Between June 1 and the time of this writing (Aug. 20), the city has recorded a scant 0.22″ of precipitation, according to the National Weather Service. We’ve had more rain than that, of course, but if Grand Junction has had record dryness, one can safely assume that the near-desert-like conditions are no different here in the San Miguel Basin.
Finally, an article published this morning in The Guardian newspaper shed light on why conditions haven’t changed over the past year or so, when this severe drought actually began. The monsoonal flow is basically being steered away from N. America by a resilient high pressure airmass that is wobbling between the Ohio River Valley and the Great Basin. This is the same pheomenon we experienced all last winter. The jet stream is being shunted to our north and the normal air flows have been disrupted to the point that we’re seeing very little sub-tropical moisture in this neck of the woods. The reason for this is, believe it or not, due to the warmth and the ice melt clear up in the Arctic, which is resulting in mostly static conditions in the entire northern hemisphere. You can read more by clicking here.
The good news? The Predicition Center has just updated their forecast for the months of August/September/October, and again put us in the high likelihood that we’ll see wetter than normal conditions. At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it!
Nevertheless, the modus operandi here at the farm this summer has been “The Glass is Half-Full.” We’re still farming! We’re still producing amazingly nutritious food! We’re still healthy! Our customers are happy! The landscape is still beautiful! We haven’t run out of water! (You get the point. Gratuity for what we have, not wishing for what we don’t.)
Yes, the wildfires have been awful, affecting our air quality to the point where it’s unhealthy to breathe too deeply (i.e. exercising in this smoky haze); the pastures are mostly brown; the rain gauges are mostly empty, day after day; the national political scene continues on a self-mutilating downward spiral; and the prospects for the future — is this the new normal? — can appear bleak. But that’s not going to let us down! Remember, the glass is still half-full.
In that vein, we wanted to share a few photos of life on the farm during this epic drought.
Although drought conditions are as severe as anyone has seen in these parts, going back several generations, we’re looking at the glass as being half-full not half-empty. At least right now. Of course, we are all anxiously awaiting the arrival of the North American Monsoon, which the weather service says is supposed to be above-average for our region. The monsoon is the best chance we have to help break the drought.
Through hard work, a team effort, and all the planning and development we’ve instituted on the farm following the instructive drought of 2002, the farm is still able to produce nutrient-rich, healthy food for our neighbors in the region. The following images were taken recently, in part to share farm news with our devoted customers, but also to chronicle the extreme conditions by which we all find ourselves.
As of the end of May, 2018, Julie and James Thorneycroft became the proud new owners of the bakery, situated in a beautiful historic building in downtown Norwood. They acquired a profitable, turnkey operation and are off to a flying start. Don’t worry. Most of the products you’ve grown accustomed to since the bakery’s inception are still being produced — the granola, the breads, the pastries, the pizza dough. Julie has a background in the kitchen and is a long-time regional resident. Prior to owning the bakery she ran her own catering business and was responsible for starting the Happy Belly Deli in Norwood. She plans to introduce some of her own product ideas in the near future. She was able to continue to employ the same staff that had been working there prior to the change in ownership. You can find Julie vending in two Indian Ridge Bakery booths at the Telluride Farmers Market, every Friday during the summer season from 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Oak Street.
The bakery was moved to its downtown location two years ago, 15 years after its modest start in our home at the farm. Barclay began baking commercially, primarily doing wedding cakes early on, about 30 years ago. The Thorneycrofts purchased the business only; the real estate continues to be owned by us.
Barclay explained her reasons for wanting to sell the bakery. “I wanted to focus more on the farm, on my home and on my family,” she said. “With all of the growth in our various enterprises, and the hands-on demands of everything we do, we were stretched too thin. I get to farm with my hubby again. We’ll continue to provide the highest quality eggs and nutritious pastured poultry to regional residents. We’re also keeping our booth space at the farmers market. The other reason for my wanting to sell is that our oldest daughter, who was born with a rare chromosomal disorder (Smith-Magenic Syndrome) needs our continued care and nurturing. Her condition won’t change. I became her legal guardian several years ago, and there are some demands and responsibilities associated with that. We want the best for Ali! I’m also getting more involved with the international support group that exists to support those involved with SMS. This change will give me more time to focus on that.”
We wish Julie and the gang all the best! Congratulations!
For the best in grass-fed meats, please fill out your 2018 orders now! You can reserve winter storage chickens for your freezers after the growing season ends; you can order lamb by the side, raised by our neighboring ranchers on Wrights Mesa’s healthy grasslands; you can reserve a turkey for Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season; we even have a few sides of pork available this year. Need stew birds for making stock? They’re available too. Check it out!
Please click here for the 2018 form.
Springtime is a busy time here at the farm, but the pace is definitely mellower than the rigors of farming in the summertime, when we’re harvesting animals, going to farmers market, etc. But we thought we’d give you a peek at what going on right now. It’s a pretty amazing time of the year. We’re already nurturing lots of LIFE here: plants, animals, micro-organisms (i.e. the soil), each other, the wild, the grasses, the pastures.
If you’re in the ‘hood, come out for a visit sometime soon! We’ll try to put our work down and say “howdy.”