We're Returning to Farming that Regenerates the Earth

Written by Jesse Solomon

There are a lot of buzz words out there when it comes to food. A Nielsen report I once read listed over 75 health and wellness claims by food manufacturers, including: low carb, all-natural, hormone free, cage free, free range, humane, and farm fresh. The majority of these terms can only be defined by the words themselves. “What does farm fresh mean?” “Oh you know, it’s a farm that produces food that’s really fresh!” That might sound laughable, but many food companies rely on unclear terms like these to hide the reality of their practices from consumers. They don’t want you to see behind their curtain.

We talk a lot about our chickens, their slow growth rate, and why raising birds entirely on pasture results in the healthiest meat, the best animal welfare, and most amazing flavor. Equally important is the way we raise our birds.

We practice a method called holistic management. Before the industrialization of agriculture, this was just called “farming.” If a farmer didn’t farm holistically with the environment, they would degrade their soil, harm their animals, and wouldn’t be able to grow any food.  This practice is all about balance: we ensure that we never over-impact any part of the ecosystem where we raise our animals, and that we also improve the environment in a virtuous cycle. That means using no barns or permanent structures so that our chickens can live an active, entirely outdoor life year-round in the pastures. After flocks are processed, we rotate those pastures with no-till cover crops and other animals. Each species has a unique symbiotic relationship with the land. Cattle are one species included in the rotation; they graze on tall grasses which creates areas for the chickens to roam. The chickens help break-up and spread cattle manure through their scratching and foraging. And the rich chicken manure helps grow tall grasses for the cattle to eat - it all comes full circle!

The majority of our pastures are rested at any one time. When we rest our pasture it means no animals are on them so the soil has a chance to breathe and create a healthy microbial environment. This helps put carbon back in the earth and grows deeper root systems where water can soak into the ground. That resting allows perennial grasses to grow tall. If you don’t rest these pastures or if they’re overgrazed - especially by animals kept in barns - that soil will become like a hard-packed, barren moonscape. If you want to learn more about the science behind these practices, please check out our friends at: The Savory Institute and Kiss the Ground.

Our practices compared to the current industrial ag standards have immediate benefits. A couple months ago, Interstate 5 - one of the largest commerce arteries in Northern California - flooded and I barely made it across before it was shut down. But there was no river nearby. The massive rainfall that we’ve experienced this winter washed over the industrial farmed crop fields and couldn’t soak into the ground because the soil was like concrete. I got to the ranch and when I went into our pastures, the rainfall there was all absorbed and I could practically bounce on the ground it was so spongy. Sponge or concrete. What do you think is healthier?

We have an incredible opportunity here to actually improve the environment with business as usual. The more land we raise our birds on, the more we’re able to create healthier, nutrient-dense soil and build deeper root systems. The more that happens the more rainfall we soak up, the taller the grasses grow, and the more carbon we’re sequestering.

At Emmer & Co., one of our guiding principles is education, and with that comes total and unequivocal transparency and a “no curtain” policy from Day 1. I can’t force you to join us on our journey towards a better food system. But I can show you everything. And you can make your own choice. And one day, other food companies won’t be able to hide behind meaningless labels.

On April 22, we’ll be celebrating Earth Day. Now more than ever, we all have an opportunity to turn the tide. To find and support producers who are improving our planet by simply raising animals the way they used to be raised. The old timers where we raise our birds tell us stories about how every year the grasses used to grow so tall on their own that you could tie them in a bow over your horse’s saddle. I know the kind of world I want to leave to future generations, and it’s filled with bow-tied saddles.

In the near future, we'll be releasing an immersive virtual reality pasture experience so you can see exactly what our pastures look like and how our animals live. We have nothing to hide. Instead of hanging dark curtains, we believe in creating open spaces filled with amazing possibilities, where we have the power and ability to create a food system we’ll all be proud of. I think you’ll like it there.

SOURCE: Emmer & Co Blog