Pasture-raised farms promote biodiversity. Here's what I see on our farm.
It's a peaceful time on the farm right now. We're currently raising the last batch of chickens, we're done with pigs for the year, and the cool-season grass is growing quickly to nourish the cattle.
The change in the temperature - and subsequently, the reduction in crankiness in all living beings on the farm! - lends itself well to observation. I've been trying to take my time lately during the afternoon chores. It's important to not just watch, but to listen - to hear the grasshoppers and crickets, the cows munching, and the chickens fighting over a bug.
One of my favorite spots on the farm is a swampy area we call "the creek". It runs off from a pond in one of the pastures, and it's truly been a delight to see it come alive.
The first year we moved onto the farm (2017), the pasture with the creek was choked with thistle and invasive weeds. Joe spent days on the brush-hog that first winter.
Since then, we've seen an improvement each year as the cattle graze through. There's less and less thistle and invasive species to dig up. The grass stays greener longer - even into November. And the creek area has become a bustling home to wildlife of all kind.
Over the last two years, the diversity of plants and wildlife in the creek has exploded. We regularly see all kinds of birds - goldfinch, blue jays, cardinals, and sparrows - darting through and making homes in the trees that line the space. (I'm not the best birdwatcher yet - I'm sure there are many more types!)
Families of bunnies bound around and peek out amidst the shrubbery. Deers stop through to graze what the cattle don't eat. And there's a truly astonishing amount of pollinator plants for butterflies and bees - milkweed, goldenrod, hyssop, and climbing hydrangeas, just to name a few.
We haven't seeded this area, or planted anything. This is simply what happens when land is managed well and allowed to rest. Livestock and wildlife of all kinds work together to promote healthy soil, and native plants that flourish and nourish the land and community.
This is, in fact, directly oppositional to a critique I often hear from "experts" who dismiss pasture-raised practices. They claim that livestock diminish biodiversity, crowd out wildlife, and reduce native plants and species.
But all farms are not the same, nor are they managed the same way. Regenerative farming asks the farmer to observe her particular piece of land - and to manage it according to its particular needs. And when it's done right, you'll see what we see now - an abundance of diversity and species, rather than a diminishing.
Of course, there's a sadness, too, as I observe the creek, knowing that winter is coming, and with it, death for many of its inhabitants. But there's hope and joy, too, in the new and flourishing life we'll see in the years to come.