This past Saturday Groundswell hosted a workshop on Multispecies Regenerative Grazing at the beautiful Shelterbelt Farm, led by farmer Erica Frenay. Shelterbelt’s “flerd” (a combination of a flock and a herd) of cows and sheep had just been put out to pasture for the season 2 days prior to the workshop, and it was the perfect spring day for exploring grazing practices. Erica has a huge wealth of knowledge on the topic and shared much of her farm journey with us, from being a vegan against animal farming to a dedicated producer who believes animals are extremely beneficial for land regeneration and health. She and her family witnessed this first hand as they transformed their acreage from brush covered, depleted soil into land rich with nutrients and plant diversity with the help of their grazers.
We began the day by learning about the four ecosystem processes and indicators of land health: the water cycle, the mineral cycle, biodiversity and energy flow. Regenerative grazing practices support these processes rather than hinder them, and by continuously monitoring the “state of the environment” your management decisions can improve the health of the land, the soil, flora and fauna, insects and more! Looking at about a square foot of pasture at Shelterbelt, we were able to find over 10 types of plants! This diversity in pasture provides a wide range of nutrients to the grazing animals, and allows them to select the food they want and need. The rich soil holds water very well and provides the home for these diverse plants, who take energy from the sun and feed it to the grazers, who in turn feed us in a massive energy flow through the land.
Walking around the Shelterbelt pastures, Erica shared lots of information on how to calculate how many animals it makes sense to have based on your “Standard Animal Units”, the basics of mapping pasture, creating “grazing wedges” so no one paddock gets overgrazed, and so much more! The most exciting part of the workshop was heading out to meet the flerd, helping to move their fence over to the next paddock, and watching the cows and sheep happily make the transition to the new, fresh pasture!
We are grateful to Erica for sharing her knowledge and vast experience supporting healthy land and happy animals! Check out their website for more information about what they’re up to at Shelterbelt Farm!
Grazing Books Recommended by Erica:
- Grass Fed Cattle by Julius Ruechel
- The Art and Science of Grazing by Sarah Flack
- The New Livestock Farmer by Rebecca Thistlehwaite
- Guide to Direct Marketing Livestock and Poultry published by Cornell Small Farms
This workshop was sponsored in part by the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.