Tag: regenerative ag

Shade = More Production at Idyll Farms

The increased production possible with Shade Haven mobile shade systems has perhaps never been as obvious as it is at Idyll Farms in Northport, Michigan. This regenerative farm grazes 120 Alpine dairy goats, whose milk is turned into award-winning cheeses in a farmstead creamery. After adding a Shade Haven SH600 to its grazing plan, Idyll was able to double the time its goats are on pasture on hot summer days.

“In the last two years, we were only able to graze two to three hours, because the goats were getting heat stroke,” says farm manager and head cheesemaker, Melissa Hiles. “Since we got the Shade Haven, we are able to graze 6+ hours per day, which is awesome!”

Melissa Hiles

That extra time on pasture impacts the amount and quality of the milk. “It does help production,” notes Hiles. “I check my solids and fats and proteins. Since I’ve had my Shade Haven, I’ve seen my fats, proteins and total solids go up.”

Hiles has also observed better pasture health. “I’ve seen a difference in the density of the forage wherever the Shade Haven has been.”

The grazing plan

Idyll Farms is committed to regenerative agriculture and managed grazing on about 150 acres. After grazing goats for 11 years, Hiles determined a two-paddock-per-day mob grazing pattern works best. A side-by-side Ranger pulls the Shade Haven through the paddocks.

Hiles loves having the Shade Haven in the pasture, and the goats do, too. “They absolutely love it,” notes Hiles. “There is always one that is on the platform and refuses to get down – so she is queen of the Shade Haven.”

The goats tend to stay close to the Shade Haven – something Hiles plans to use to her advantage. “We are going to try to just move the Shade Haven and not the fences for a couple of days. We hope maybe the Shade can save us a little time while we are short staffed.”

Say goat cheese

The 500-acre Idyll Farms started with two goats and a desire to make cheese. Today, the farm’s herd consists of 120 milkers, 15 kids and ten bucks.

Hiles first made cheese on the farm 11 years ago, and her cheese quickly gained recognition. In 2022, Idyll Farms cheese won 7 awards at the American Cheese Society contest and two Best of Class awards at the World Champion Cheese Contest.

The Chilly Billy, Mont Idyll, and numerous spreadable cheeses, are sold at stores throughout the country. Details on the cheese and purchase locations are listed on the farm’s website. For those needing a quick goat cheese fix, there’s even a goat cheese vending machine on the farm stocked with a variety of Idyll Farms cheese.

Thanks to the Shade Haven along with the farm’s regenerative practices, the goats will continue to give an abundant supply of milk to produce these artisanal cheeses. “We want our pastures giving back to the milk,” notes Hiles. “The Shade Haven keeps the goats healthy and on pasture, and they produce better quality milk because of it.”

An Artist’s Vision: Transforming Land Through Regenerative Ag

Shade Haven customer and successful artist, Brenda Smola-Foti set down her paintbrushes in 2017 to focus on the 33-acre farm she purchased in the Willamette Valley near Carlton, Oregon. Committed to farming regeneratively, Smola-Foti has transformed the nearly unfarmable land into a sustainable multi-species masterpiece – Tabula Rasa Farms.

To fulfill her vision for Tabula Rasa Farms, Smola-Foti first had to resurrect land damaged by years of soil erosion and runoff. In a region that annually experiences three to four months with very little rainfall, her biggest challenge was water infiltration and retention.

To enhance water security on the farm, she hired Elemental Ecosystems to repair erosion zones and construct a stock pond and spillways to capture the rains that fell during the rainy season. The process and progress of the water restoration project is documented on the farm’s website.

Enter Shade Haven

Today, the repaired lands of Tabula Rasa Farms support 75 Devon-Dexter mix beef cattle, 100 pasture-raised heritage hogs, and pastured free-range poultry. The livestock are grazed rotationally, a practice that builds the water-retaining capacity in the soil. Smola-Foti says her focus on water retention and rotational grazing go hand in hand – both enable her to get more rotations on the land.

The farm’s three Shade Haven mobile shade systems keep the livestock healthy and on pasture. Two SH1200 Shade Havens are dedicated to the cattle, while the farm’s SH600 keeps the hogs cool and productive. “One pasture where we pasture hogs doesn’t have a lot of trees. We use the Shade Haven there,” says Smola-Foti. “The hogs love it!”

“Summer is pretty hard on animals – especially here in the Pacific Northwest where summers keep getting hotter,” she adds. “We did a lot of research with Joel Salatin on how to move the animals, and how they need shade. If you get them away from the trees, you can better manage the manure.”

For Smola-Foti the Shade Haven is not just a pasture management tool, it keeps her animals comfortable and gaining weight. That’s important to her and her farm’s bottom line. “I love having the Shade Haven in my toolbox. It lets me put the shade where I want it. When we get those really hot temperatures, I can feel good about my animals being outside, because I know they have shade.”

Integration and interconnection

Smola-Foti’s farm supplies beef, pork, chicken and organically grown vegetables to Humble Spirit, the restaurant she launched last year in nearby McMinnville, Oregon. Additionally, the farm’s products are sold direct to customers and to other restaurants through her farm store and online marketplace called Source Farms. Other like-minded regenerative farms in the area also sell their products through Source Farms.

Tabula Rasa Farms is in Oregon’s wine country, a region that draws a lot of tourism. Smola-Foti’s husband Frank Foti joined her on the farm in 2019, expanding her vision of the farm to include more agrotourism and hospitality. The couple added guest accommodations at a nine-room Bed and Breakfast and at the original farmhouse. Tabula Rasa also hosts farm tours and other programing throughout the year. When guests see the Shade Havens in Smola-Foti’s pasture, it is an undeniable symbol of her commitment to regenerative agriculture and humane treatment of her livestock.

In 2022 Smola-Foti and her husband launched The Ground, showcasing products and experiences in the Willamette Valley, primarily centered around regenerative agriculture.

“More and more people are starting to understand the importance of regenerative agriculture on climate and health,” says Smola-Foti, who proudly refers to her farm as a “learning lab,” since many of her farm hands go on to start their own regenerative farms.

Though she knows her art will call her back someday, Smola-Foti says she is content managing and fine-tuning the farm she loves. “Right now, the earth is my canvas.”

The Smallest Living Things

Shade Haven is part of the radical change needed in our food system. Lewis Family Farm in Essex, NY, is one of many farms using Shade Havens to improve animal welfare, boost soil health, and focus on the smallest things that are critical to human health.

Watch & Listen
Shade Haven customer, Sandy Lewis, owner of Lewis Family Farm, speaks out against the overuse of antibiotics and the importance of caring for microbiomes.

Better Soil, Better Grazing

Getting the Shade Haven ready for another grazing season

Tennessee Beef farmer and rotational grazier John Abe Teague looks forward to implementing new regenerative farming strategies in the 2020 grazing season.

“We are embracing regenerative agriculture to improve our grasslands, heal our land, increase forage diversity, and improve the health of our soil and livestock, while keeping more of our dollars on the farm instead of paying for inputs,” says Teague.

Two Shade Haven mobile shade systems are part of Teague’s regenerative plan. “I tell people the only reason I am able to farm our land and raise cattle is because of Shade Haven,” he says.

“After acquiring the first Shade Haven in 2015, we developed more infrastructure with paddocks and spring fed water tanks in each paddock, enhancing our ability to improve cattle rotations,” adds Teague. “Annually we have taken soil samples, drilled seed, and clipped our fescue/orchard grass pastures preventing endophyte toxicity and to keep the farm attractive.”

Making changes

While his farm has definitely benefited from rotational grazing, Teague was inspired to do more after attending the 2019 Regenerative Soil Summit in Greeneville, Tennessee, and spending time on Ray Archuleta’s farm in Seymore, Missouri. There Archuleta and fellow regenerative ag experts Gabe Brown and Dr. Alan Williams taught Teague how to use Adaptive Stewardship to restore the functional biodiversity of the soil.

“The soil biology must be a priority. That is where it all begins,” notes Teague.

Teague leased an additional 20 acres in October with plans to improve the grass density and rotation. He drilled his pasture land with a mixture of Marshall Rye grass, Kentucky Fescue 31 and Orchard Grass, and will add 2-3 lbs. per acre of Ladino clover in March. He plans to seed a sacrifice field, where he wintered his cattle, with Ladino Clover, red clover, Fescue 31, Orchard Grass and some brassicas.

Teague also intends to reduce his herd of 42 Angus cattle, keeping the highly productive cows and replacement heifers.

A second Shade Haven SH1200 purchased in late 2019, enables him to better utilize his property and move the weaned calves into rotation grazing away from the main herd, providing less competition and better grass diversity.

“My twin Shade Havens allow me to utilize all the grass resources on the farm and not just where the cattle choose to eat,” adds Teague.

Mobile shade also fits Teague’s vision of raising livestock humanely. “God put us on his earth to have domain over the animals, and it is our responsibility to raise them humanely,” he adds. “That means giving them the three basic needs of life – grass, water and shade. But we do so in a manner that recognizes stewardship of both the land and the animals.”

Shade Improves Pasture Fertility in NC



Jerseys and Sheep with Shade Haven at Reverence Farms

Diversity reigns at Reverence Farms in Graham, North Carolina. Suzanne Nelson Karreman and her husband Hue operate this 400-acre farm with a focus on building soil and improving the pastures where dairy cattle, beef, sheep, pigs, horses, chickens and turkeys graze. To help them accomplish their goals, they utilize two Shade Haven mobile shade structures.

“It is one of my favorite tools. It is very easy to use, and I really couldn’t ask for a more effective fertility tool than the Shade Haven,” says Suzanne.

“We can target specific areas that have a lot of weeds or have low fertility and put the shade mobile on those spots,” explains this rotational grazier. “In the next rotation, the grass is a different texture, deeper in color, thicker and there is a wider diversity of plants where the Shade Haven has been.”

There is a hierarchy of forage consumption on Reverence Farms with the 60 mama Jersey cows getting the best grass. The farm’s 300 sheep graze paddocks with forage that the dairy cattle won’t or shouldn’t eat. That includes Kentucky-31 fescue, prevalent in the area.

The first of the farm’s SH1200 Shade Haven structures, purchased in 2015, is used to cool a herd of 35 Jersey bulls and bull calves – part of the farm’s impressive Jersey bull genetics program. The second Shade Haven, added last year, alternates between the other livestock as needed and is used frequently with the St. Croix sheep, a Caribbean hair sheep breed raised for meat.

While the farm has ample trees and shaded areas, Suzanne appreciates the ability to graze anytime on pastures without shade. “So we can keep fertility on the pasture,” she adds.

Observing how the different types of livestock use the Shade Haven, Suzanne notes that their breed of sheep don’t need shade as much as the cattle.  “The sheep use it and like it, and when it is hot, they will be under it, but the cattle are drawn to it like a magnet. You can move the cattle around the farm just by moving the shade.”

An added benefit is parasite control. “By always putting them on fresh ground, you are exposing the manure to sunshine the next day – because you’ve moved the Shade Haven,” she explains. “It is much easier for the manure patties to get burned out by the sun. In that way it is a health improvement for the cattle in terms of the level of fly pressure.”

Shade Haven is proud to be part of the success at Reverence Farms, which sells its products through its website and delivers to local drop points. Reverence Farms also has its own café which buys the farm’s beef, lamb, chicken, pork, turkey, eggs and will soon carry ice cream made with milk from the farm’s Jersey cows.

Learn more about Reverence Farms at www.reverencefarms.com.


Author Chat: Stephanie Anderson on Regenerative Ag and Grazing

In her newly released book, “One Size Fits None: A Farm Girl’s Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture,” Stephanie Anderson answers the question, “What might a better version of agriculture look like?”

We’re happy Anderson took time away from her book signings and classroom at Florida Atlantic University to share some insight on regenerative agriculture.

Q: What needs to happen for farmers to start thinking differently about how they farm?
A: It starts with being honest with yourself and open to taking a new direction. Change is difficult no matter what you’re talking about. But any good farmer who cares about the land has to know that agrochemicals are not right—the soil looks different, things are changing, pastures don’t look the same. It is hard to admit that you are on a course that isn’t the best. I think about my Dad [a conventional farmer]. He is such a kind and wonderful man. For many years he was very stubborn about it, but now he is starting to be more open after he read the book and his neighbors are starting to talk about it. My brother as well. It takes thinking and self-reflection.

Q: So you think people are starting to change?
A: I think so. Things like cover crops are way more mainstream than it used to be. Rotational grazing is coming back instead of this conventional grazing model. We are also seeing some positive changes on a bigger level. General Mills, for example, just bought a bunch of land in South Dakota not far from my family’s ranch. Many thousands of acres that they will turn all regenerative. Something like that could make a huge difference.

Q: What is grazing’s role in regenerative agriculture?
A: Grazing plays a huge role. One of the number one issues on our grassland right now is desertification. Grasslands are becoming deserts, nothing is growing. The soil is not able to hold water properly under the conventional model, because the native grasses start to recede, woody plants come in, and that reduces the carbon content of the soil over time, which contributes to further degradation of the grassland. Our prairies historically were home to the bison and that was a huge part of the prairie life cycle – having this really high-impact time on a piece of land and then a long period of rest. So the more people can replicate that in those areas, the more we will be able to restore all of that grassland. It is just so key to capturing carbon and trying to slow climate change – trapping and storing carbon underground rather than releasing it. I think grazing is very important on the grassland and as more farmers incorporate grazing on their fields. That is another huge potential that is open to farmers. Bring livestock back to the farm in a way we haven’t seen for many years.

Q: Can you comment on how important it is to have tools like the Shade Haven available?
A: We live in a technological age. We have to embrace the tools that make sense, that contribute to further and true sustainability and reject those that don’t. Products like Shade Haven, portable electric fencing, and well systems that run on solar are all awesome tools that can help make the process easier. Just practically in areas like the high plains, there just isn’t a lot of shade. People need that for the health of their animals. Unfortunately, we live in an era of increasing temperatures with global warming and climate change. I think tools like Shade Haven will be more important than ever to keep livestock safe and mitigate risk.

Q: Rotational grazing and regenerative agriculture can be profitable – as is proven by Gabe Brown, the example you write about in your book. How do you convince conventional farmers that they can be profitable with regenerative ag?
A: It can be an uphill battle, because for so many decades they have been sold on the idea that high-intensity industrial farming, specialization, further mechanization will lead to greater profits. We know that hasn’t happened for farmers. We know that farm consolidation is a huge problem. We know more farmers are going out of business than going into business. But still a lot of people think, ‘how can I be profitable without my pesticides, without my Ivermec or without my growth hormones?’I think it comes from sharing stories. That is one of the most powerful things. Farmers and ranchers that I know don’t like to be talked down to, especially from policy experts, people who act like they may know better. They prefer neighbors telling stories. That is one of the reasons I wrote the book, too. To give people access to some of those stories. I think seeing evidence of that can help convince them that it can be profitable. Also, asking farmers to be realistic about their finances. I know a lot of farmers rely on a lot of government programs. As Gabe asks – once you take those out, are you making money? And if not, how can you insure your bottom line if those programs go away? That appeals to their financial common sense, that practicality that most farmers have can hopefully convince them and be a powerful message.

Q: How do you respond to the argument that you can’t feed the world without large scale agriculture? A: I hate it when people say that, because it gets to people’s fears. Of course, people have reason to be scared of such a thing, but it is a message that big ag used to justify the scaling up… I think we have to look at what we are producing per acre. We know that regenerative grazing, this high-intensity, short-duration grazing allows for so many more animals, such a higher stocking rate per acre. You can stock your pastures at such a higher rate. It’s the same with your cropland. You can grow multiple crops and also produce forage for your livestock. So there is multiple levels. Michael Polin mainstreamed the term stacking – seeing the farm as a layered enterprise. That will allow us to feed the world, no problem.

Q: Do you feel optimistic about the future of farming after researching and writing the book?
A: I do. I believe in my heart that farmers and ranchers are such good people. I know that from living in a rural community for 18 years and then working as an ag reporter and still having such close ties to rural communities and rural people. I still identify myself as rural even though I live in a city now. I do think good people will take the right steps. I see it in younger farmers like my brother. He is 27 and he is working at changing the acres that my Dad has allowed him to manage, and other farmers are doing the same. It is so exciting to see that. I see more universities offering programs to help educate people about regenerative practices. That is a good sign as well.

“One Size Fits None” is a must-read for anyone who cares about agriculture. Ask it at your local bookstore. Also available on Anderson’s website and on Amazon.