Letter to the editor: re “keeping up with trends in beef”
I must state how much I appreciate the headline and the essence of the message; that changing trends in the beef market require those who farm cattle to be ever aware of opportunities to improve their profitability, and that food trends, however “fad driven” they may seem, are opportunities ripe for growth. I would add that the the modern farmer or rancher has to also be aware of many other trends, such as rising input costs, diminishing returns in soil fertility and in crop profitability, as well as heightened health and environmental consciousness in consumers. There is another trend you may not yet have heard of. Restoration Agriculture. Similar to silviculture, (or perhaps better called “silviculture on steroids”,) Restoration Agriculture is a farming practice which uses perennial, woody, crop bearing plants as hedgerows between mob stocked, leader-follower management intensive grazing fields. Picture chestnut, hazelnut, apple, cherry, asparagus, mushrooms and grapes growing together beside grasses. There is a book by Mark Shepard called “Restoration Agriculture” which describes this system in far greater detail. The benefits of this technique are numerous, and include increasing soil fertility, conserving water, reducing input costs (potentially down to zero), improving the overall health of your herd and land, improving wildlife habitat and the environment, and all while producing more nutrition and food for man and cattle per acre than even corn. The best trend of all, is that costs are primarily initial, potentially less per acre than corn, with less risk, and the value and yield of these systems increases annually as the perennial crops mature. It’s not a get-rich-quick system like so many others… it’s a get-richer-slowly-but-surely one. I’m sure you’re intrigued by a system which could make your farm more profitable and sustainable, so I hope you enjoy your research as I did, and I look forward to your help improving the world, one farm at a time.