I first read Joel Salatin over six years ago in his classic book Salad Bar Beef. Joel’s passionate writing and infectious attitude about farming has changed a lot in my life.
One of the most profound aspects of his message is about healing the land. Farming does not have to be a ‘gimme gimme’ approach to managing the land; it can take rough, worn out farmland or neglected overgrown acres and put them into production with models of management that improve the soil, heal the environment, raise nutrient-dense, healthy food, and make a farmer a living all at the same time!
Our neighbor allowed us to start grazing his pasture that adjoins us on the west two years ago. He had grown crops on it many years ago and now it has been bush-hogged twice a year since. The land was not abused by any means, but the pasture grass was thin fescue and wildflowers, not a stitch of luscious crabgrass or bermuda to be found. Just this year, Larry has allowed us to add broilers to his land, and with this wet spring the land is improving by leaps and bounds!
We graded off some really rough terraces last fall and planted winter rye and crimson clover over the whole pasture. This has been some good grazing for the cows this spring – I even pulled one stem of ryegrass straight & tall and touched my chin with it! Previously, his pasture would mature at about two feet to thirty inches. But the real healing has come underneath the ryegrass, after the cows really laid down a lot of the tall ryegrass as soil-building thatch and after the broilers have been moved through. Check out these pictures for a glimpse of fresh crabgrass coming through the heavy thatch.
Can you see the heavy stripes of nitrogen from the chicken manure directly around the trough feeders for the broilers?
There’s a lot to managing the animals in a way that heals the land but the rewards are awe-inspiring. I didn’t plant any crabgrass and I didn’t pay for ammonium nitrate but the proof of God’s healing mechanism at work is in the luscious grass and all the fresh, fantastic milk our Jersey girls are making!