Regenerating our Farm While Producing Healthy Food

Regenerating our Farm While Producing Healthy Food

What if farmers could regenerate and improve their land while producing a healthy product? Well they can, and we do! Derek and I often write or talk about how we are regenerating our land while we produce healthy grass fed beef for you and we want to show you what we mean.

We have a gully area on our farm which was carved through our highly dispersive black soil years ago.  It happened because of a combination of land contouring that was done on neighbouring farms upstream, and a lack of perennial plants holding the soil together on our farm where we used to grow annual crops. These earthworks concentrated the water (unnaturally), which then flowed over our highly erodible black soil and created the gully. (This is not a criticism of our neighbours – they were only doing what was considered the best thing at the time and was actually compulsary for us all to take part in).

Holistic Management Planned Grazing

We decided to do something about this gully area using Holistic Management planned grazing techniques. This often involves grazing the cattle in fairly high concentration (though not always), and then moving the stock on (and importantly) not re-grazing until the grasses have recovered. The cows clamber up and down the steep sides of the gully (it’s like they’re playing) – tapering out the sides of the gully, creating hoof marks where water can pool and plants can grow which then stabilise the bank and prevent further erosion (see how the animals have disturbed the soil in the image below). We then take the cows out and allow the perennial grasses to germinate, grow and recover before re-grazing.


You can see the below image of what the gully used to look like in 2003. Clearly the photo below and the one at the top are in very different seasons, which exaggerates the difference, but the thing to note is the sides of the gully. Below, the gully sides have no plants growing to stabilise the soil. This photo is actually after we had started work by using animals – the sides are already somewhat tapered and there are some (although dry) perennial grasses in the base of the gully. Prior to this image, the sides used to be sheer and there were no perennial grasses growing, only annual weeds, but still a plant! (That’s the pre-digital images era!).  Perennial plants are important as their root system is generally deeper and is there all year to glue the soil together.


The YouTube clip below shows it a few weeks ago after rain and flooding and after 2 feet of water had passed through the gully. The sides have plants growing on them, which stabilise the soil and prevent more erosion and while you can’t see them here – there are perennial grasses that grow in summer. It is now a productive paddock for our cows, that was previously an unused, costly area of land on our farm. In the clip, you can see the hoof marks in the bank as our cows were grazing briefly in here only a couple of weeks prior.

Whilst the gully is still a bit troublesome and eroding at the head (because we can’t control the concentration of water coming onto our farm), we are doing our best to make sure any soil eroding at the head doesn’t leave our farm. The floor of the gully further down from the head is actually being raised in height as the water is slowed and the soil is caught in the vegetation and maintained on our farm. We would like to do more here such as natural sequence farming, however this shows that with only animals and plants as our tools, we can achieve great results in land regeneration.

Managing land in the extremes of weather while profitably producing food isn’t always easy, but we’re doing our best to leave things better than when we took over. This is just one example of how we are regenerating our farm while at the same time producing healthy, chemical free grass fed beef for you.  By making conscious choices with your food (and other) purchasing, this is an example of how you are helping to positively shape the world you live in. So from us, a big thank you!