Tag: Regenerative

Regenerative Agriculture is Trending

By Vince Hundt

Being a seventy-year-old Wisconsin farmer, trending is not a word that I use very often. For most of my life, a “trend” was a noun, generally about hairstyles and the length of skirts, but it has recently become a verb. That’s life: the language changes, people change, the climate changes, agricultural practices change. We wake up one morning and the world is a different place.

Bad trending

When I was born in 1951, there were 168,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin, and they were essentially all “organic” and almost all of them depended on grazing for a good part of their forage. Wisconsin was covered by a lot of small farms with grass and hay and clean water. Today Wisconsin has 6,500 dairy farms, only a few hundred of them are organic and those few are pretty much the only ones that do any grazing at all. Not by coincidence, during that same time period Wisconsin saw its lakes, rivers, and groundwater go from friendly, clean, clear, and drinkable to darkly poisoned with nitrates, phosphorus, and a godawful assortment of herbicides, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals.

Good trending

Regenerative agriculture is about cover crops, rotations, and diversity, but first and foremost it is about bringing back animals, grass, and grazing. The only agricultural practice that solves all the problems of polluted water runoff, groundwater contamination, soil erosion and depletion (while at the same time sequestering new carbon in the soil) is rotational grazing. Rotational grazing, with the simple mantra of move the water, move the fence, move the shade, is regenerating the health of our soils, water, animals, rural communities, and the health of our citizens. A recent Wall Street Journal article (excerpt below) indicates this idea is really sinking in deep. Personally, I am rotationally grazing and trending hopeful on the future.

Wall Street Journal. April 1, 2022

“This is not a boutique trend. In 2019, General Mills announced a commitment to advancing  regenerative practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030; PepsiCo followed suit in 2021 with a pledge to do the same across its entire 7-million-acre agricultural footprint. Nestle SA said recently that it would invest $1.3 billion over the next five years to help farmers transition to regenerative practices.”

What’s Your 2020 Regenerative Commitment?

Regenerative agriculture is creating a buzz throughout the food and agriculture world. It’s no longer enough to farm sustainably. We need to do more. As we head into a new decade, regenerative agriculture techniques should be the priority of everyone who cares about improving soils, producing healthy food and contributing to solving our climate change problem. Is Regenerative Agriculture among the values you prioritize in the new decade?

To identify farms embracing regenerative principles, look for the ones with the greenest pastures, greatest diversity, and animals on the land. Since grazing is a key component of regenerative agriculture, farmers need tools that allow them to keep their herds grazing even on the hottest days. If you drive through the countryside and see a Shade Haven mobile shade system it’s a clear sign of a farm’s commitment to regenerative agriculture. It’s a tool that enables the even distribution of nutrients to boost pasture health, while protecting livestock from heat stress to keep them grazing and productive.

“I’ve been rotationally grazing on my farm for 12 years, and I’ve used a Shade Haven for eight years,” says southwest Wisconsin farmer and Shade Haven founder Vince Hundt.

“It’s like an umbrella on an oasis – symbolizing healthy soil and healthy food,” adds Hundt. “This umbrella – this mobile shade system – along with rotational grazing practices builds organic matter, increases fertility and protects my farm from weather extremes.”

After experiencing record rainfall in 2018 and 2019, Hundt compared his farm to nearby farms utilizing conventional farming practices.

“My farm fared much better than others around me, because I rotationally graze,” says Hundt. “By grazing a paddock, then allowing a 30-40 day rest period before returning animals, we are building the soil’s capacity to hold water and withstand weather extremes. We have no exposed soil and a heavy, deep root system to soak up water and be there when you need it.”

Win, Win, Win

Regenerative agriculture is a win for farmers, human health and the planet – and grazing is a key component. By building soil, graziers are actually sequestering carbon and contributing to reversing climate change. And there is no denying the health benefits of grass-fed versus confinement-raised meat. Additionally studies have found that grass-based farms are economically competitive with their larger confinement counterparts.

“In the end, my revenues are the same or better than farms practicing confinement methods,” says Hundt . “I’m spending zero on fertilizer and weed control and , close to zero on veterinary costs.”

If you can farm in a way that is better for the environment, produces a healthier product and provides a bigger financial return, why wouldn’t you do it?

Tell us about your 2020 commitment to Regenerative Agriculture.