Thank you veterans and all those who are serving our nation. By Del Ficke
First off, as Memorial Day approaches, thank you veterans and all those actively serving our nation for answering the call.
We live in a time when our freedoms are being threatened from every direction.
We also live in a time when we have a great opportunity to express the freedoms that we may have allowed to go dormant.
Thank you veterans for your sacrifice so that I can continue to have the freedom, like we all do, to make changes on the land my forefathers settled.
It's not too late to hearken the freedoms that so many who came before us and who are without freedom today understand - freedom doesn't come without constant vigilance, constant change and not being afraid to pioneer amidst, and away from, the suppression of the status quo that may no longer have the best interest of our farms, ranches, families and communities in mind.
God bless you and your families. Thank you.
Envisioning and Implementing a Better Way
This newsletter is devoted to the themes of change, growth and working together.
We have some articles featuring others who are working on the cause of climate change and regenerative agriculture as well.
Never has there been a more critical time in the history of agriculture in this nation and the world.
As a "Glocal" community we can come together to envision an even better world.
Join Us for Soil Master School July 21-22 By Nate Belcher
They often say that a picture is worth a thousand words and that is a perfect description of this picture. Although you may see a cow simply standing in a mature field of pearl millet, the story is much deeper than that. This photo captures a practical application of building healthy soil through ultra-high-density-grazing practices. We are excited about the group coming together for our Soil Master School to learn about the changes that have been made at Ficke Cattle Company, the research, the results and lessons learned.
At first glance, the forage in the picture may look like it’s slightly past its prime.However, it is exactly the opposite – it is a field of forage that is useful in providing feed for the cows above ground and the multitude of biological life within the soil structure itself. By allowing some of these cover crops to grow to a higher level of maturity, Del is increasing the carbon content, organic matter and nutrient levels within the soil profile faster than normal. He is doing this while also providing premium forage for the cows.
Central to all this life-giving process is water infiltration. It is truly a win-win situation when we can provide livestock with high quality feed and increase the health of our soil – all by simply planting seeds in the ground, ensuring the soil is fed at all times.We wouldn’t starve our livestock, why would we starve the soil that sustains life? Bare fields are starving fields.
If you are concerned that you may not have enough to do during the day when following these kinds of practices, fear not. You will have much more time to focus on what really matters: the health of your animals and the health of the land where those animals reside.These practices afford you an opportunity to step back and enjoy the bounty and beauty around you.Del has experienced this change and so have many others.So can you!
Below are some soil testing results from the field with the cow pictured in the pearl millet.
Communicating Climate Change A global adventure into the unknown By Becky Willson
Becky Willson, Nuffield Scholarship winner from the United Kingdom, traveled to Nebraska and the National Soil Survey Center on February 9-10. Becky works for an organization called the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit (http://farmcarbontoolkit.org.uk/about-us/people), a group that works closely with UK Extension. Her Nuffield Scholarship (http://www.nuffieldscholar.org/), awarded due to her work excellence, provided her an opportunity to learn more about U.S. and global agriculture, adaptation management, soil health, GHG mitigation, and reducing energy usage. UNITED KINGDOM - This year, I have been lucky enough to have been awarded a Nuffield scholarship, which gives me an opportunity to spend 18 months traveling and studying in-depth a topic that I am passionate about and that could potentially help to transform our industry for the future. My topic is intimately connected to what I do as a day job and has everything to do with how we communicate carbon reduction to farmers.
My research is exploring two main questions:
1. How do we effectively communicate the benefits to the farm business of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and get farmers interested and engaged in emissions reductions?
2. What can we learn from other countries about implementing an effective emissions reductions strategy that will inspire farmers to want to participate?
This journey has taken me on a global tour and allowed me to meet farmers, other people like me involved in running projects, research groups, organizations, government representatives and others to understand in more detail what we need to do to create genuinely sustainable farming systems that are profitable and resilient – and crucially, how to involve farmers in this process so that theory leads to on the ground, practical action.
As an organization, we can organize events, write articles, run campaigns on social media, and develop carbon foot-printing calculators, factsheets and case studies; and the material can all be based on cutting edge science and of excellent quality. However, if farmers aren’t interested or don’t view it as relevant to their business and don’t engage, we won’t achieve our goal and the problems remain.
Some things have really stood out to me and been echoed across the world:
Doing nothing isn’t an option any more. Without wishing to fall into the normal trap of predicting impending doom, the time is now upon us to champion farming systems that produce quality food, protect our most vital environmental resources, contribute to rural society and (potentially most importantly) are economically viable. However, what I have found, is that these things are always spoken about with negative connotations, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to engage the farming community by letting them tell their story, connect with the customer and champion the amazing things they are doing to address the multifunctional requirements of our food system.
It all starts with the soil. This was brought home to me by a few amazing visits, including two fantastic days in Nebraska meeting farmers (including Del Ficke) who are not just passionate about soil health, but are putting their money where their mouth is and changing their systems to make soil management central to decision making. None of the changes that we need in the future can happen without a functioning soil, and we need to (again) tell the positive stories of farmers who are dedicated to soil health. Improving soil health is a win-win for farmers, the environment and society.
Simplicity and Integration. We can’t get away from the fact that carbon and its management is complicated. This is all the more true when it comes to agriculture, which, as a biological system, generates a range of greenhouse gases and is a sector operating across a huge diversity of production systems, soil types, landscapes, and weather.
Although it’s complicated, we need to move from a mentality of “it’s complicated and difficult and as such I’m not going to do anything” to one of “well we haven’t got all the answers, but we’d better make a start.”
Our challenge as advisors and communicators is to try and make the complexity of issues and possible ways forward as relevant, simple and consistent as possible for the farmers. This is a challenge that I am now tackling head on.
What I found really interesting during my time in the US was the integration of carbon measures against existing environmental schemes, using the delivery mechanism that was set up to include carbon. This is something that I would be keen to try and pilot in the UK.
Consistency in everything, metrics, messages and methods. Agriculture and its environmental impact, as well as climate change, are issues that have been politicized, used in campaigns and misrepresented. As such, all farmers have preconceived ideas about what will be required of them and many of them are mistrustful of schemes and projects.
By delivering positive examples, consistent messages (that aren’t swayed by political campaigns), clear metrics that use the same methodology independent of country or system, we can start to work together to see what the true impact is and where opportunities are to change things. We need to all focus on what our sector can do to become more efficient in terms of its resource use and environmental impact and this will take a concerted effort for all of us who work in this fantastic industry.
I have been incredibly impressed by the sheer scale and diversity within agriculture that I have experienced on my travels. What has also become apparent is our determination and resilience.
We need to channel this “grit” into working together to develop solutions that are deliverable on-farm, demonstrate action to policy makers and inspire our consumers to champion farmers.
Farmers Will Lead Climate Mitigation Efforts Nebraska Farmers Union leader attends Paris conference
By Kerry Hoffschneider
Graham said the French do a great job of supporting the local farmer so that rural communities, such as this one in Beaune, have an amazing selection of local, nutritious food.
Oakland, Neb. – About a decade ago, Graham Christensen decided to join the Nebraska Farmers Union (NeFU) team, in part because he felt that farmers and ranchers had a great opportunity before them to help in the mitigation of climate change by reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs), “It seems clear that if farmers and ranchers embrace the effort to lead in the quest to reduce GHGs there will be great economic benefits for the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities – simply for doing the right thing.”
Recently, Christensen’s passion for battling climate change as farmers and ranchers led him to Paris, France where he attended a conference entitled, “Sequestering Carbon and Soil: Addressing the Climate Threat.” Christensen was selected to attend the conference through the Young Climate Leaders Network, a program that was sponsored by Breakthrough Solutions and Strategies – the group that put together the carbon and soil event under the direction of Betsy Taylor.
“At NeFU we worked very hard to aggregate farmers and ranchers who were implementing sustainability techniques that were scientifically proven to capture and store GHGs with the Carbon Credit Program,” Christensen said, explaining his background on the carbon issue. “As we expected, Nebraska farmers and ranchers stepped up and we helped enroll more than three million acres in Nebraska. But then politics got in the way when the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 did not pass and the Carbon Credit Program Farmers Union helped to get rolling was discontinued.”
Despite the challenges, Christensen pointed out the carbon sequestration conversation has come full circle and he said the Paris conference reflected this fact, “For the first time, as part of the global climate talks, a conference was held that put farmers at the focal point of solving the climate crisis through carbon sequestration and regenerative farming. The scientific community believes firmly that we cannot reduce GHGs to safe levels unless we adopt more regenerative farming practices such as cover cropping, improved grazing practices, conversion of degraded rangeland, agro-forestry, enhanced nutrient management, silvopasture and no-till.”
Christensen said because of his past work on climate and ag issues, and also that he is working to transition his own family farm into a regenerative farming operation, he was selected to attend as the only representative from Nebraska, “These regenerative practices provide a solution to the climate crisis and our growing water quality issues stemming from industrialized agriculture. Furthermore, these practices can create a better net per acre on the farm, in addition open up new market opportunities that will help us transfer our farms to the next generation of Nebraskans.”
He added, “Despite the current reality of low commodity prices and net losses on the farm, it is nice to know that adopting these practices can help improve our bottom line, as well as the environment.”
Christensen noted that research shows more farmers are open to adopting new practices; however, farmers could use some help to eliminate any risk during the transition. He is doubtful there will be ample funding through the Farm Bill to fully address transitioning farmers. That is why he, and others, believe that partnering with private industries would be a good place to seek out new opportunities.
“We are seeing growth in the renewable energy sector,” Christensen acknowledged. “However, at the conference, the scientific consensus was that farmers are the best hope to lead the way in reducing GHGs to more stable levels. I also believe farmers are the solution and there can be a great incentive for them in doing so – preserving their way of life and increasing the health of the soil at the same time.”
Ficke Cattle Company - Graze Master Genetics and Green Acres Cover Crops is looking forward to working with Graham on a continued vision for a better Nebraska and nation, beginning with the soil beneath our feet!
The Dawn of Change
" . . . change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality." Socrates
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