Is Animal Rotation The Solution?

            There are 2.3 billion acres of land in the United States of America, and two-fifths of that land is used America’s farmland; that’s a lot of land. 40% of something may seem like a lot, but if it is not used correctly and all the nutrients are taken out, that land is no longer any use to us. If we properly use our farmland and rotate our crops then we can help to maintain the land that we have.  Back in the 30’s when The Great Depression hit, the lack of crop rotation was a huge cause of the Dust Bowl that took place in the middle of the US. While I was not alive to be able to witness this I have had my own experience in seeing the causes of no crop rotation. A new solution to this problem has risen, this cause is not necessarily using crop rotation, rather animal rotation.

            On my way to Nationals, my tour bus stopped at Polyface Farms which is located in Virginia. The farm had cows, pigs, chickens, as well as some geese and turkeys. The farm had a garden, but there were lots of fields without any crops in them.  These fields were there for a purpose. The farm originally started out with less than 1% organic matter in their soil when they purchased the farm in 1961 and now their land has 8% organic matter in the soil. The reason they were able to put back the organic matter into their soil is they are both composting and rotating their animals. The cattle from Polyface is called “Salad Bar Beef”, because all they eat is the grass and plants that are in the particular part of land that they were on. There are certain posts in the ground and then they use electric wire which can be moved to create the new pens. While touring the Polyface Farm, I had the wonderful opportunity to see how they house their pigs as well as the chicken and turkey processing area. Polyface helped add nutrients to the soil in their garden by composting the turkey and chicken parts from the open air processing area. The pigs were in a similar set up as the cattle as the pigs went long areas of fencing that they were kept in for a short period of time. A pig can do a bit of damage to land if it stays in the area for too long so that’s why they rotate the pigs.

            Polyface Farms was started to help nurture the land and that’s what they’ve done. They’ve had a successful operation and have been successful with putting nutrients back into the land that wasn’t there when they originally purchased the land. During my trip, I attending this educational Agribusiness tour, and also got to see this inspiring and innovative Farm and Educational Center. Through this, I realized that if consumers truly watched and practiced some of the processes that we set as an example on their farm, each of us can incorporate some sort of sustainability into farming. Sustainable farming that we can implement at home could just be rotating our animals, composting the animals’ bi-product or feeding our animals with locally sourced food but if we do at least one of these things, we can all make a difference and help to make sure that the land has the resources to make food as long as we need the earth to.

 

To learn more information about Polyface Farms, please visit their website, http://www.polyfacefarms.com/, or read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan

Resources
“2012 Census of Agriculture- Farms and Farmland.” USDA. September 2014.