It’s been four years since we bought JulBud Ranch. We’ve put a lot of hard work into it and built what we currently have from the ground up. I don’t think it’s a coincidence then, that as we look to the future, we’re looking once again at the ground.
Last April I wrote a blog explaining some of the organic practices we use on our farm. Since then I’ve done a lot more research and have decided I want our ranch to use regenerative farming practices.
What does this mean?
Basically, it’s a holistic way of caring for the land and creating a symbiotic network between soil, plants, animals, and humans. And it all starts from the ground up.
For example, right now our field is growing alfalfa and weeds. A recent soil test showed us that our soil actually has a lot of nutrients in it, however it’s depleted of nitrogen, which makes it difficult for plants to take up those other nutrients.
Instead of using the traditional farming methods and dousing our field with expensive nitrogen fertilizer every year, we can instead find nitrogen fixing plants we can add to our field that will grow alongside the alfalfa. And since the hay we grow in our field is used to feed our goats, and our goats can eat a large variety of plants, we can take their nutritional needs into consideration when we decide what varieties we should add to our field.
So instead of growing just one thing in our field, we can grow multiple species of plants that work to improve the soil for all the varieties of plants, which will in turn make the hay we grow healthier for our goats. When our goats get the best hay possible, they produce healthy, nutrient rich manure that we can then add back to the soil to improve those conditions even more. But also, the healthier our goats are, the healthier their milk is for their babies and us humans to consume.
And in our gardens, the idea is the same. In order for us to be able to grow the most nutritious food, we need our soil to be healthier.
Our number one issue in the gardens right now is weeds. We can combat this by using various types of mulch to keep the soil covered. But mulch doesn’t just help keep weeds at bay. It also keeps the soil moist so we use less water. The plants aren’t competing for nutrients with the weeds, so they are healthier, and over time, the mulch will break down and add nutrients back into the soil as well.
And all of this will increase the biodiversity in the soil. Mold, fungus, beneficial bugs, worms, microorganisms, minerals, vitamins and so much more are fed and benefited through this process. And all of it equates to better, healthier soil.
And I haven’t forgotten our chickens either. We already utilize them in the gardens to eat bugs and loosen up and till the soil for us. I’m hoping to find ways to rotate the chickens through the field next year so they can put those chicken skills to use there as well.
And once we get our fences up, we will be able to rotate the goats in the field. This will save some work as they’ll be able to leave manure in the field instead of us hauling it and spreading it ourselves. Win-win! It also keeps them healthier as they won’t be in one little area where they will be more likely to pick up a large worm load.
This doesn’t mean we won’t still use organic fertilizers from time to time. As we get started with regenerative farming, we may need to supplement until we can get this biodiverse network kickstarted.
We still have quite a bit of work to do to get our ranch to where we want it to be, but we can see the path through the trees now and I’m excited to see this place continue to transform into a thriving oasis of biodiversity.