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Working with instead of fighting with nature, Biodiversity Part 2

August 3, 2022

In Part 1, I wrote about biodiversity, how important it is, and how complex the soil microbiome is when managed correctly. In this article, I want to share a bit on how we farm differently at Sparrow Hill Farm to promote biodiversity and life in nature and the soil. 

Are weeds a nuisance or beneficial to the pasture?

In the picture above, you'll find multiple varieties of grass, Queen Anne's lace, blue vervain, chicory, daisies, yarrow, multiple kinds of clover, and, of course, cattle.

In the industrial myopic, nonregenerative, monoculture style of farming, all but the grasses and clover are considered weeds. They are managed by tilling, spraying, and undertaking major pasture renovation.

Whether raising alfalfa, corn, beans or one type of livestock, this industrial monoculture approach ignores the benefits these weeds and the ecosystem provide. As a result, the farms are required to start fighting nature.

Trying to control nature's processes leads to a vicious cycle of increased intervention, carbon loss, soil loss, mineral loss, nutrition loss, and a loss of habitat. 

In contrast, here at Sparrow Hill Farm, we work with nature rather than fight it. We welcome these "weeds." Each one of these plants supports a slightly different profile of bacteria and fungi under the soil surface. They all have different lengths and sizes of root systems which bring different minerals to the surface.

For instance, the blue vervain is not actually eaten by the cows. It exists to provide the bees and butterflies nutrients, which it draws to the top from its deep taproot in the soil. 

We don't plow or till to manage weeds. If we did, we would inadvertently destroy the soil structure. This would lead to the runoff of precious topsoil during the next rain. We would destroy the mycelium structure. This structure connects plants roots to each other. And provides a highway of sorts that supports nutrient transfer and the overall health of the plants.

Plowing and tilling would also cause the soil to lose precious minerals. This loss would require us to burn more fuel, time, and money adding minerals and supplements to the soil.

In the process, we would also kill thousands of earthworms. Supporting a healthy earthworm population provides countless benefits including soil aeration and carbon cycling. They also eat thousands of parasite eggs from the animal excrement they find on the soil surface. Earthworms are nature's way of reducing the need for anti-parasitics. 

We don't spray our pastures with herbicides or insecticides. Spraying always leads to collateral damage. Most sprays are highly toxic to bacteria and other bugs such as dung beetles. Sprays also kill off many varieties of important plants and fungi. 

We support diverse habitats. ‚ÄčNature provides an intricate system of checks and balances that supports a healthy life and environment if we let it. And, when we try to control it, it leads to many of the problems we see today. We can see this clearly with the recent news that Monarch butterflies are endangered. They live off of milk weed. In our regenerative farming system, as opposed to the industrial farming system, milkweed is a welcome in our pastures and fields.

Just so you know, if you want to plant milkweed, contact us and let me know. I would be happy to send you some seed from our plants. It takes all of us to support a beautiful, healthy, and diverse world. 

As always, eat well and stay healthy!

Josiah Hertzler

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