Pasture Management

The science is simple enough. Grass is a solar collector. It uses photosynthesis to transform the sun's rays into chlorophyll. When cows eat grass, they convert this energy into protein and fat. -- Douglas Gayeton

Joel Salatin raises chickens and cows at Polyface Farm near Swoope, Virginia, but if you ask what he does, he’ll tell you he’s a grass farmer. Walking the long, sloping fields of Joel’s farm, you pass a cluster of mildly curious cows. Before long, you come to two metal sheds, and you see that the sheds have wheels, like on a school bus. Then come the chickens. Thousands of them. The chickens are pasture-raised here, and lay their eggs in egg mobiles which Joel moves everyday.

Sustainable agriculture has no single figurehead—nor does this defiant, disparate movement have a center—but if it wants an able spokesperson, Joel Salatin would be a safe bet. He’s a professional contrarian, a knowledgeable agricultural apostate who not only practices what he preaches but has the rare capacity to explain it to others. While his summers are devoted to farming, his winters are spent literally barnstorming the country—from grange hall to farm to classroom—as he expounds on the joys of grass farming. The science of it is simple enough. Grass is a solar collector. It uses photosynthesis to transform the sun’s rays into chlorophyll. When cows eat grass, they convert this energy into protein and fat.

But what about the chickens? Unlike cage-free or free-range chickens, Joel’s chickens participate in the ecosystem, fertilizing the soil in which the grass grows, and keeping the cows free of bothersome bugs.

This week's terms

Pasture Management

Pasture managers view their field as a viable renewable resource. They use cattle and poultry to harvest the solar energy stored in the grasses, converting it into nutrient dense food, and maintaining the pasture's biodiversity.

Grass Farmer

Grass farmers know their cows are natural herbivores. They understand that grass plays an important role not only in providing cattle with a healthy diet, but also in capturing energy from the sun and cleaning the air. Grass is a solar collector. It uses photosynthesis to transform the sun’s rays into chlorophyll. When cows eat grass, they convert this energy into protein and fat.

Pasture Raised

Animals that have been raised on pasture with access to shelter. This term is being used by farmers who wish to distinguish themselves from the industrialized “free-range” term.

Pastured Poultry

The raising of pastured poultry embraces "humane, people-friendly, evironmentally enhancing" practices. After feathring out (and as the season permits), the poultry are given constant access to fresh growing palatable vegetation, with movable or stationary hours utilized for shelter.

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