Tag: Shade Haven

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.”

Grazing: The Climate-Smartest Practice


A well-deserved amount of attention along with billions of dollars are being devoted to finding solutions to mitigate climate change. What is the most effective agricultural practice to capture carbon and battle climate change?

While cover crops are a way for farmers to prevent runoff and keep soil and nutrients on the field, recent studies show it may not be the silver bullet its hyped to be for combating climate change. In contrast, the ability of rotational grazing to sequester carbon is indisputable. In fact, grazing is the only agricultural method sure to put carbon in the ground.

The chart below, created by the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, compares ecosystem benefits of a managed pasture to fields with and without cover crops.

The study also looked at profitability of livestock systems that incorporated managed grazing. The conclusion:

“The single most effective agricultural practice for delivering an array of ecosystem services while returning a sustainable income to farmers is managed grazing of perennial pastures.”

Ready to graze?

Successful managed grazing requires three things: portable fencing, portable water, and portable shade. Shade Haven is proud to be part an agricultural practice that is truly climate-smart.

Protect your animals, your profits, and the planet, while your pasture breathes in carbon.

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.

Hayou Sheep Graze with Shade

First generation farmers, Adam and Allison Young purchased their Staunton, Virginia-based farm, Hayou Farm, in 2018. With minimal infrastructure in place, they started with fencing; then came the sheep. Today, 200 Katahdin sheep rotationally graze across 350 acres of pasture along with two SH1200 Shade Haven mobile shade systems.

“Our farm has a lot of pasture, and 98% of it is without trees. The Shade Haven has been a game changer. We wouldn’t be able to graze some of these fields all summer without it,” says Adam Young, who left his job as an airline pilot to farm full time in 2021.

The Youngs raise sheep in part because they are easy to handle, especially for Allison, who was the number one farmhand before Adam quit his other job. “There aren’t a lot of people raising sheep around here,” notes Young. “And we grow a lot of fruit here, too, so we can incorporate the sheep grazing around the fruit trees.”

Katahdin sheep are a hair sheep breed that originated in Maine. These hardy, low-maintenance sheep are known for their meaty carcass, though the Youngs don’t market the meat. Instead, they plan to sell breeding stock to small farms interested in raising sheep that do well on grass.

The Youngs typically run about 70 ewes, but the spring lambing season doubled their flock to just under 200. “We bred 57 this past year. Next year we will breed about 75,” says Young. “We are slowly growing.”

Grassfed and stress-free

The sheep at Hayou Farm are 100% grassfed. The Youngs use managed grazing practices, moving the sheep daily then letting that pasture rest for 30 to 40 days. The Shade Haven fits into the farm’s regenerative grazing methods, especially in areas of the pasture without ideal forage diversity – something Young hopes to improve.

“We like the mobility of the Shade Haven. If we need to focus on an area that has a lot of brambles and lack of fertility, we can put the Shade Haven there on a hot day and the sheep will congregate there,” says Young.

After just one grazing season with the Shade Havens, Young has already observed the impact on both the land and the sheep. “We can tell where we have had the Shade Haven months later. The regrowth there is good. But we really notice the impact in the health of the animals. They are putting on good weight…We are trying to get our breeding values up and meet certain weight goals, and the Shade Haven has been a valuable tool to help us do that.”

The SH1200 mobile shade system gives Young peace of mind that his flock is comfortable and healthy even on the hottest days. “Sheep are a bit more fragile than cows. You have to manage their stress load or they will get worms and have other health issues.”

“We’ve seen what happens when they get stressed out. They get hot and they are panting. They don’t gain weight or produce milk, so the babies don’t look as good,” adds Young. “The biggest benefit of the Shade Haven is being able to manage that stress in the sheep.”

The Youngs recently purchased ten bred beef cows. As the cattle herd grows, there may be a third Shade Haven in this farm couple’s future. For now, it’s the sheep who enjoy stress-free comfort under the Shade Haven. “They love it,” says Young. “They all pack under there. On a hot day, I know where they will be.”

Hayou Farm offers U-Pick organically grown raspberries, blackberries and blueberries beginning in June. In the process of growing an orchard, they hope to also offer apples, pears and peaches by 2025. Find more details on this Shade Haven customer at hayoufarm.com.

3 Golden Rules of Grazing

Grazing guru Dr. Allen Williams shares insight on adaptive grazing rules and how he uses Shade Havens in his own grazing practice.

Dr. Williams is a sixth-generation farmer and the founder of Grass Fed Insights, LLC, Understanding Ag, LLC, and Soil Health Academy. He helps farmers and ranchers graze successfully and profitably using the three rules of adaptive stewardship: compounding, diversity, and disruption.

Rule #1 – Compounding. The first rule is to understand that everything we do on a farm has compounding effects – either negative or positive. “Our job is to implement practices that create a series of positive compounding effects,” Williams stresses.

Rule #2 – Diversity. Increasing forage diversity is fundamental to successful grazing.

“Not only do your animals perform better, but you can get rid of your vet meds, your dewormers – you don’t need them anymore,” says Williams. “It saves you a lot in input costs. Your performance goes up, your profitability goes up.”

How do you achieve that high level of diversity? Mother Nature has already done most of the work.

“What we do is utilize the rules of adaptive stewardship and adaptive grazing to be able to access or tap the latent seed lines that everybody has in North America,” says Williams. “The latent seed lines are loaded with dozens even hundreds of different plant species that most people rarely see because of the way they graze.”

Williams has documented 140 different plant species growing in the pastures at his farm, BDA Farm in Uniontown, Alabama. “Our livestock eat all of it – all 140. And we planted none of it. They are a result of the latent seed lines.”

Since 2019, Williams has used four SH1200 mobile shade systems with multiple species that graze at BDA Farm. The Shade Havens protect the livestock from the hot Alabama sun. They also aid in achieving forage diversity. “When cattle or other livestock congregate underneath the portable shade, that creates a high-density impact,” says Williams.

“If you move the shade structure around frequently, you are creating a high-density impact wherever the shade was, and that applies a lot of fertility, a lot of biology to that soil. At the same time, it stimulates the latent seed lines, so you create greater diversity. Everywhere you put that shade and move it like you should, you are creating what we call biological hot spots, highly diverse hot spots.”

Increased plant diversity has positive compounding effects, including better animal health. “The reason we want diversity is because many, many plant species can also be medicinal and anti-parasitic in nature. That means our livestock can self-medicate, can self-deworm,” notes Williams. “We don’t have to give them pharmaceuticals, and we never have to deworm them. They’ve got everything they need.”

Higher plant diversity also leads to greater diversity in the soil microbial population, which leads to a greater array of phytonutrients in the plants themselves. The broad array of plants supports life above the soil, not just your livestock, but other wildlife, birds, insects, and pollinators.

“It benefits your livestock, it benefits your soil, it benefits the plants themselves,” reiterates Williams. “So you get restoration of fully functioning ecosystems. It’s a win-win-win all across the board.”

Rule #3 – Disruption.  Avoid stagnation with the final rule by adding disruption to your grazing plan. Williams suggests altering your stock density, altering rest periods, changing your paddock figuration and rotational patterns.

Portable Shade at BDA

BDA Farm is a 6,200-acre certified organic produce and livestock operation in Uniontown, Alabama. With a focus on regenerative agriculture, BDA produces more than 40 varieties of vegetables and herbs and moves 1,000 beef, 500 sheep and 3,000 laying hens across 4,000+ acres.

Like most grazing operations, BDA has fields without access to shade. The four SH1200 mobile shade systems at BDA Farm boost pasture health and protect the dairy cattle, beef, sheep, pigs, and chickens from the blazing sun. “We get extremely hot. Our livestock must have shade,” notes Williams. “Natural shade is a preference. You can plant it, but it takes a lifetime to grow it. So portable shade comes in extremely handy.”

The Shade Havens compliment BDA’s adaptive grazing strategy. “You want quality portable shade that holds up in all conditions, and it’s easy to move, because you don’t want to just park it in one place. You have to be able to move it around,” says Williams.

Williams appreciates the portability of the Shade Haven whether it’s for livestock or humans attending the many workshops held at the farm. “Because it is so portable, you don’t have to dedicate it to just one species, or just one spot. I can take it to wherever I need it at any time.”