Last week, I (Carly) worked on livestock with my classmate and friend Emma Spencer.
Right now on the farm, we have four goats, four pigs, and about 135 broiler (meat) chickens. Next week, we will be borrowing a dairy cow from a neighbor. It will graze on the property so we can sample what having a large ruminant might look like on our own future farms.
When I arrived at the Organic Farm School, I thought I had no interest in livestock.
Thanks to a couple inspiring classes about tillage and pasture management this week, Ethan and I could start to see how livestock can fit into a primarily vegetable farm.
Management Intensive Grazing
At OFS, we practice Management Intensive Grazing. The animals are moved to new ground every couple days. This ensures the animals have fresh food to forage and ground to roam all the time. It’s a lot of work moving the fences so frequently, but the benefits make it worthwhile.
These frequent moves prevent the animals from wearing down any given area and depleting soil quality. Instead, they contribute to soil health by stimulating plant growth (which sequesters carbon from the atmosphere) and adding fertility to the soil through manure. Their waste is dispersed, unlike at conventional farms where manure lagoons can create issues including runoff and excess nitrogen in our country’s most significant water ways.
Environmental benefits aside, the animals absolutely love moving to new ground all the time. They are excited to see us preparing new pens and always ready to move to the next one and see what they can find there!
I’m not sure what animals I’d like to have on a farm one day, but it’s so exciting to learn about the possibilities I had never before considered. I can’t wait to see what other dreams begin to take shape.
Speaking of dreaming taking shape, Ethan got to visit different farms last week! His rotation was deliveries to the grocery store, which is a fairly quick responsibility, so the person doing deliveries also gets to do two farm visits. Both use very different (but still organic) growing styles that helped him think about what we do/don’t want on our farm.
Ethan went to Foxtail Farm, a vegetable farm not farm away from OFS. This farm had a large number of tunnels that allow them to grow heat-loving crops like tomatoes, peppers, and ginger, which most farmers don’t grow in the Pacific Northwest.
He also worked for an afternoon at Good Cheer, a small, low-till farm that provides fresh veggies to the local food bank. This offered a good look at what farming looks like on a small but intensive scale using mainly hand tools. It was hard work, but it utilized the most conservation practices.
Both were wonderful experiences, but he was excited to get back to work at OFS where we had so many big projects going on from building another caterpillar tunnel to harvesting some of our most beautiful head lettuces for our CSA customers!
Every week when we write this newsletter, I can’t believe how long we’ve been in this program already and how few weeks we have left! (Next week will be week seven of 30!) Thank you so much for reading and following our journey.